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Midjack
Dec 24, 2007





A PC group wandering into a conflict between Sophia and Viridian would be amusing.

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Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





You left out a key element of Sophia's writeup: Izukanne is preparing the other apprentices, not as genuine members of the Legacy, but as a Logophagic feast for her and Sophia. Sophia found out about this, and was absolutely horrified - but decided to hide the memory rather than actually handle the fact that her girlfriend is far less well-intentioned than she claims to be.

The suggested plot hook is that Sophia hid the memory, rather than deleting it, because she's not quite far enough gone to let that go completely - so a player cabal could potentially convince her to turn on her lover, if they could bring that memory forward.

Unfortunately, as you note, Izukanne's stat block or at least a broad outline of one would be extremely valuable for making this plot work.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Joe Slowboat posted:

You left out a key element of Sophia's writeup: Izukanne is preparing the other apprentices, not as genuine members of the Legacy, but as a Logophagic feast for her and Sophia. Sophia found out about this, and was absolutely horrified - but decided to hide the memory rather than actually handle the fact that her girlfriend is far less well-intentioned than she claims to be.

The suggested plot hook is that Sophia hid the memory, rather than deleting it, because she's not quite far enough gone to let that go completely - so a player cabal could potentially convince her to turn on her lover, if they could bring that memory forward.

Unfortunately, as you note, Izukanne's stat block or at least a broad outline of one would be extremely valuable for making this plot work.

Oof, so I did - I missed that paragraph entirely and will fix that.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

I'm finding this last batch of antagonists far more sympathetic than any give WoD character party.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Banisters are often sympathetic, their main problem is solving all of their problems with murder.

Josef bugman
Nov 17, 2011

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


Mors Rattus posted:

Banisters are often sympathetic, their main problem is solving all of their problems with murder.

Banisters are never sympathetic!



YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID!

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Sophia is sympathetic, sort of. She’s lying to herself constantly about the actual nature of her work and Legacy - editing her own mind to paper over moral qualms.

Izukanne is a monster who trains apprentices to eat their minds and represents the Logophages much more clearly than Sophia’s self-enforced innocence. She’s not sympathetic at all.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Josef bugman posted:

Banisters are never sympathetic!



YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID!

Did you know my work computer has autocorrect installed in all browsers?

Josef bugman
Nov 17, 2011

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


Mors Rattus posted:

Did you know my work computer has autocorrect installed in all browsers?

I did not.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!



Chapter 5: Gods and Faiths


This is the big chapter on religious beliefs in Zakhara, Enlightened and otherwise. Society recognizes three major groupings of deities, which is more of a cultural designator than an objective cosmic fact: Major or Great Deities, who are universally (or near-universally in the case of the Pantheist League) worshiped in the Caliphate; Local or Common Deities, who are those considered legitimate by the Law of the Loregiver but have smaller followings; and Savage or Heathen Deities, a catch-all term for foreign gods who do not recognize the Law.

Religion in the Caliphate functions differently than in other D&D settings; people often pray to the gods as a whole, choosing specific deities as favorites based on their circumstances, occupation, and other factors. Divine spellcasters of organized churches often, but not always, give the majority of their devotion to a single deity. Furthermore, the eight Major deities have no alignment; alignment is instead based on the priest kit* rather than one’s patron deity, and instead they reflect universal archetypes which can be found in both the noblest hero and foulest villain. Local and Savage Deities are closer to basic D&D where they have specific alignments which the majority of worshipers belong to.

*2nd Edition terminology for a subclass.

Beyond the gods themselves, the aspects of the Caliphate’s religion speak a lot about Fate. Fate is not a god or entity (although she’s portrayed as a personified woman in some tales) so much as a universal force of nature which affects all things. The Loregiver was a long-ago mortal woman who served as an interpreter of Fate’s cosmic threads. She penned the Law which would serve as the building blocks for moral society, and the gods who saw its wisdom came to be known as the Major Deities, with later-comers known as Local and Common Deities.

Zakharan religion has some Islamic influences, as you might imagine. It is customary to kneel to the ground during prayer, although in some cases bowing one’s head silently is accepted. Prayer itself which is held at different times of day based on the position of the sun and moon. Worshipers pray in the direction of the capital city of Huzuz, and much like the pilgrimage to Mecca it is customary for the Enlightened to visit the Golden Mosque there at least once in their lives. There’s nothing in the Law which mandates that prayer and sermons be held at temples; barring centers of supernatural power, centers of worship are a more practical affair constructed to strengthen community bonds as well as have a common point of reference in a settlement.

Note: The text makes reference to class kits from the Arabian Adventures sourcebook, which I’ll discuss here. Clerics are grouped by the same faith rather than individual gods, and there are no “specialty priests.” Specialty priest is an AD&D term for clerics with their own Spheres which were not unlike later Edition cleric domains. Priests of Order were part of a hierarchical church and grouped into Pragmatists (most liberal and tolerant, in touch with the common folk), Ethoists (more conservative, the ‘baseline/mainstream’ religion in Zakhara), and Moralists (preach the supremacy of their individual deity over all others). The differences between Order Priest Kits are political in nature; they all have access to the same kinds of cleric spheres even if they favor a particular Enlightened god, and ethoist and moralist priests are able to get various social boons such as safe havens, room and board in temples, monetary loans, hired help and special assistants, all in exchange for being bound by the bureaucracy and hierarchies of their church. Moralist priests get more political boons in exchange for more restrictions. Pragmatists may be any alignment, ethoists any non-chaotic, and moralists have to be lawful.

Free Priests do not belong to an organized faith and whose kits include Hakima (women with second sight and truth-telling abilities), Kahins (idol-worshipers who believe in a universal divine force), and Mystics (ascetics who gain divine insight through trance, meditation, and introspective activities over rote prayer and learning).

Great Gods are the eight major deities of Zakhara. Each entry (including the following Local and Savage Gods) has formulaic listings of holy symbols, special abilities only their priests gain if any (usually +1 to a certain ability score), permitted weapons beyond basic cleric proficiencies, as well as where their centers of worship are most common.

Hajama the Courageous represents courage in all its forms, and not just the kind in battle. He is popular in areas of harsh terrain and where conflict is common. Hakiyah of the Sea Breezes is associated more with wisdom and truth than the sea, viewed as a wise mentor figure. She encourages the faithful to be skeptical and to never be certain or content with how things are, but also to not act rashly or with immediateness. Haku, Master of the Desert Wind, is closely associated with nomadic culture and preaches a doctrine of self-reliance. Jauhar the Gemmed is only considered a Great God in the League of the Pantheon, a goddess of industry who encourages the accumulation of wealth as the ultimate means of bettering oneself and the community. Jisan of the Floods is a goddess of fertility and agriculture, who is theorized to have once been a storm goddess in pre-Enlightenment times. Kor the Venerable is a god of wisdom, order, and stability and is thus often portrayed as a wizened old man who uses a hatchet to metaphorically attack “the root of the problem.” Najm the Adventurous is a deity of uncertain gender who is associated with curiosity and daring deeds, and whose priesthood are the most likely to travel the world to experience its wonders and to bring word of the Law to foreign cultures. Selan the Beautiful Moon is a goddess of beauty and joy, patron of the night sky. Her chariot pulls the moon across the horizon, followed by her mainy suitors who take the form of stars. Finally, Zann the Learned encourages learning and the written word, for knowledge is best utilized when spread far and wide. His followers are heavily involved in the creation of libraries and centers of learning, although they have a bias against texts from heathen cultures and presume them to be works of fiction. Which seems like a pretty huge hurdle in their ideology.

Gods of the Pantheon is novel in that it gets its own entry not as a deity, but as a religious movement. Holding sway over a group of cities collectively known as the League of the Pantheon (aka Pantheist League), they recognize only five deities out of eight as being Enlightened. Pantheist teachings view Hakiyah, Haku, Jisan, and Zann as being less than sincere, merely wishing to join the winning side, and consider one of their local gods Jauhar to be a Great God instead. This is of course disputed by other political and religious factions, although as of now they coexist in a tense peace. Only Pantheon-approved deities are allowed to be worshiped in their mosques, and members of even other Enlightened deities face heapings of legal persecution which drive their faiths underground. The gods themselves have not weighed in as to the correctness of the Pantheon one way or the other.

Local Gods are highly numerous in the Land of Fate, although this boxed set only details 4 entries. They usually have strong ties to a tribe, holy site, or other geo-political center. They include the regular priest kits of al-Qadim plus the specialized idol-worshipers known as Kahins. Kahins are Zakhara’s equivalent to druids, who share an animist-like belief that divine power is present in all things. Kahins are believed to belong to some of the oldest religions in Zakhara, and are known to worship physical objects in addition to deities in order to gain their powers. Their practices encourage moderation and balance, and have no organized churches or hierarchy.

Bala of the Tidings is a goddess of music, whose worshipers suffered major losses in a war with the League of the Pantheon. Their religious center was the city of Mahabba, and small groups of holy slayers avenge themselves on Pantheist officials. Bala’s faith encourages the use of song and music to make people strive towards good works, but now most people know of her through violence and thus call her Bala of Ill Tidings.

The Temple of Ten Thousand Gods is a religious movement that recognizes all deities, both Enlightened and heathen, to be various faces of a single god whose presence manifests in different ways to different people. The movement is tolerated in the Caliphate, although moralists insist that they’re a false religion or a mere philosophy without a god (but they receive cleric spells all the same). Priests of the Temple of Ten Thousand Gods are a small, decentralized religion whose few tenets include universal tolerance (“all are touched by holy radiance) and to learn as much about as many gods as possible.

Vataqatal the Warrior-Slave is common among the northern mamluk-ruled city-states, hailed as a martial paragon who encourages enlightenment through self-betterment through conflict. His status as a slave, a servant in defense of the Enlightened, makes him popular among mamluks and soldiers in general who admire self-sacrifice in favor of a cause.



Savage Gods covers those gods who come from beyond the reaches of the Land of Fate. Ignorant or willfully defiant of the Law of the Loregiver, their faithful are usually only encountered as lone foreigner priests visiting Zakhara or as isolated tribes and cults. Some are merely forgotten, legacies of long-ago civilizations whose people died off or converted to Enlightenment. For the dead faiths we have five entries, although one you may recognize is Lotha, a spider goddess worshiped by evil elves who were burned at pyres for their sinful ways long ago.

Those with living faiths are common in the islands of the Crowded Sea, and can range from mortal heroes whose tales elevated them to divine status or merely very powerful monsters and genies playing godhood. One of the more detailed island-gods listed includes the Lost One, an elephant god of the Isle of Afyal, whose influence makes his favored animals more intelligent than usual in that realm. Other entries include Kar’r’rga, a crab-headed giant whose protects several coastal villages from attacks, the Drummer who when summoned to the world by music tears through a tribe’s enemies as an invisible force, and Pag a nature god whose spirit is said to inhabit every bit of flora on an island and thus whose worshipers eat only meat and seaweed. I do like how Kar’r’rga and the Drummer can be divine interpretations of existing monsters and spells; the idea of bards shooting sonic blasts with their music they believe is their god helping them is a rather cool mental image.

The Hill Tribes are heathen people who live in Zakhara’s highest altitudes, and whose gods are considered to be particularly wild and violent. Legends teach that their gods ruled as lords in far-off lands, but were exiled for their crimes to the wilds of Zakhara. Two of the most well-known Hill gods include the Beast, a catlike being who hunts children far from home, and the Faceless God of the yak-men who teaches his people the art of civilization but only so that they can dominate others.

Cold Gods of the Elements are the very same four elemental deities from the baseline Forgotten Realms setting: Akadi (air), Grumbar (earth), Istishia (water), and Kossuth (fire). They are dubbed ‘cold’ more to their aloof attitude towards mortal worship than an association with ice, and are commonly known in Zakhara more due to their spellcasters’ affinity for genies and elemental magic than having any significant batch of worshipers. The Brotherhood of the True Flame, an evil organization of fire elementalists are particularly interested in theories and rituals which could possibly enslave one of these gods. All such attempts resulted in said Brotherhood member’s destruction at the hands of raw elemental power.

Finally, there are a few gods from the continent of Faerûn known in the Land of Fate, although their names are transliterated differently and the in-game text has a clear bias (such as confusion when a culture or pantheon has “two gods doing the same thing”). Gond is known to be worshiped by foreign traders, while Helam (aka Helm) is viewed as the warrior god of all northern barbarians due to his worshipers once assaulting the city of Qudra in an organized force. Overall, Zakharans view Faerûnian deities as being inordinately selfish for demanding exclusive worship even for small areas of influence, and find the concept of racially separate pantheons, or a god who can claim to speak for an entire race or species, to be a bizarre concept.

Thoughts on the Chapter: I’ve never really been a fan of D&D’s standard monolatrism, where they have a pantheon styled in the Greco-Egyptian manner but then have clerics exclusively worship one god. Although there are still some holdovers, al-Qadim posits game mechanics as well as a society which can house a more typical ‘worship the pantheon’ style. I am a bit amused at how the setting kind of wants to borrow inferences from Islam but doesn’t go full monotheism, and while I appreciate that there’s diversity of thought even among believers it does stretch credibility a bit. Why is the Temple of Ten Thousand Gods not viewed as heathens in disguise beyond just the League of the Pantheon, if they view all deities as equally legitimate? And why are the gods tight-lipped about the whole contention thing regarding the Pantheon’s religious interpretations? I can see this playing out in one of two ways:

1. The Great Gods are united and truly devout, and the Pantheon’s suspicions are a bunch of huey but their political power and latent zealotry can very well cause civil war to break out with the wrong words. So the gods end up saying nothing to preserve an uneasy peace.

2. There may be division and suspicion among the gods both Great and Common regarding purported devotion to Enlightenment, but do not proclaim things one way or the other to avoid civil war in the Caliphate and among their own divine number.

Both options are logical, although given the Caliphate is a centuries-long institution it begs the question of why such issues haven’t been resolved or what’s tying the gods’ hands that they can’t just say an ultimatum to be accessed via the Commune spell. Granted, in the appendix we learn that there are some questions on other subjects the gods refuse to answer, so the Zakharan pantheon may be more tight-lipped than usual.

Another thing I’ve noticed that is tangential to the setting but raises questions due to its connectivity to Forgotten Realms: there was an event known as the Time of Troubles where every god save one was demoted to mortal status, and their clerics lost their powers unless they were in close proximity to their patron deity. The al-Qadim setting takes place nearly 10 years after this event (1367 DR, where the ToT happened in 1358). The boxed set makes no reference to any sort of loss of divine power in Zakhara in recent memory, which suggests to me one of several possibilities: that otherwise planar-wide events are confined entirely to Faerûn, that al-Qadim was originally meant to be its own setting but got stapled to the Forgotten Realms (the one I believe), or the gods of Zakhara are not gods in the traditional sense but something else.

Chapter 6: Cities of the Heart


Note: Although technically in a separate book, Secrets of Zakhara details the hidden goings-on in the respective cities of this region and following chapters. I’ll highlight said secrets as part of these entries as a sort of “all in one” coverage.

The relative geographic center of Zakhara, the Heart is home to the capital city of Huzuz and is thus a sort of melting pot of the rest of the Caliphate. Four major cities dominate the Heart, three of them lined up against the shores of Suq Bay with Halwa deep in the deserts to the east.

Halwa, City of Solitude: Located inland on a bluff deep in the deserts, Halwa is far from other major population centers. Its wadi* turns into a muddy torrent roughly for a month around springtime. It serves as a trading center between city-dwellers of the Heart and the nomadic tribes of the Haunted Lands. Caliph Hava al-Gatil rules lightly in most affairs, and the city’s a center for adventuring parties mounting expeditions into the Haunted Land’s many fabled ruins. Chief Vizier Zarad is the power behind the throne, often misusing his position to levy heavy taxes and gain various personal favors. He has a bound dao (earth genie) at his side he refers to as his “pet” who acts as a very powerful servant.

*Arabic for a valley or channel that becomes a riverbed during heavy rainfall.

Secrets: Zarad seeks the hand of one of the caliph’s daughters, who resents the vizier but does not act openly against him due to the watchful eye of his dao servant. Zarad also seeks immortality to live as long and pleasant a life as possible, and is not above delving into dark magic to achieve this ideal.



Hiyal, City of Intrigue: The closest thing al-Qadim has to an “evil city,” Hiyal is a miserable industrial hell with an ever-present cloud of pitch-black soot. Its streets are winding and haphazard, and where the tyrannical sultana’s court cannot hold sway, organized crime does. Although the people of Hiyal are no more evil than anyone else in the Caliphate, the city’s unpleasant reputation causes many outsiders to distrust them, and evil-doers in general are attracted to the land in hopes of being better able to ply their wicked ways there. Sultana Alurah bint Ashra is getting up in age and has ill health, and her immediate family endlessly fights among themselves in hopes of claiming the throne. A few even made deals with other evil factions, such as Prince Omar who joined the Brotherhood of the True Flame. There are interesting figures beyond the court in the city itself, such as a rumored ‘Shadow Marketplace’ of magical wonders which can only be entered by entering the right number of gateways in the city.

Secrets: Bulad the Steelmaker was once the finest weaponsmith in the Land of Fate, and his daughter still follows in his footsteps. Her father was murdered, and there’s suspicion that Prince Omar is the culprit given that he recently purchased most of the city’s steelworks. He seeks to use their great resources to build iron golems, whose construction was learned from savage foreigners beyond Zakhara.



This is the ideal Lawful Good government. You may not like it, but this is what a 20th-level ruler looks like.

Huzuz, City of Delights: Sitting at the edge of Suq Bay’s south and thus within easy reach of both western and eastern Zakhara, Huzuz is considered by many to be the Caliphate’s most beautiful and wondrous of cities. It was here that the First Caliph unearthed the Loregiver’s scrolls and learned of the Law. Ever since it has been the most important political and religious center of the Land of Fate, and during certain holidays its population of 800,000 can nearly double. Its gilded architecture has given the city the nickname of Huzuz the Golden, and its residents bear influences from the rest of the continent. In addition to mortal forces of warriors, mages, and cavalry both conventional and monstrous (griffons and hippogryphs as favored aerial steeds), Huzuz employs a veritable army of genie servants bound by sha’ir to defend its walls from invasion and to provide magical aid in day-to-day life. Mages cast continual light spells upon lamps at night to allow for vision even after sundown, and nine mosques arranged in a half-moon shape are keyed to each of the Eight Great Gods. The ninth mosque, the Golden Mosque, is built around the ruins of a house believed to be where the Loregiver buried her writings of the Law.

A fair portion of this section is devoted to the Grand Caliph and his court. Khalil al-Assad al-Zahir bears many titles, all suitably appropriate for the most politically powerful man in Zakhara. A mighty warrior possessed of genuine care for the welfare of his people, there is no ‘mad, tyrannical emperor’ trope in al-Qadim nor an incompetent and out-of-touch ruler kept in the dark.

The Grand Caliph has not produced any heirs yet, to the worry of many. His uncle, Prince Tannous, oversees an expansive network of spies and would assume the throne if he dies childless. The Grand Vizier is a moralist sorceress who serves as an advisor and is often the more serious foil to Jiraad, a marid genie ambassador who oversees the genie soldiers of the city and believes that the Grand Caliph should listen to his heart in more affairs. The Keeper of the Mosques is an elderly elven priest in charge of the upkeep of the nine mosques in town and for learning of the needs of the faithful at large. He is tasked with presenting disputes and quandaries of a religious nature to the Grand Caliph’s attention.

The city’s other important figures include a barber by the name of Gorar al-Aksar who often hears many rumors of interest to adventuring types, while a senior member of the Brotherhood of the True Flame lives in a mansion which serves as a base of operations for the organization in the region.

The section on Huzuz ends with a short tale of its history which virtually anyone in the city knows: 600 years ago the land was but a small village. The man who would become the first Grand Caliph received a vision from Fate at the house claimed to be the Loregiver’s dwelling, who back then was a figure of legend. The vision told of how disaster would befall his tribe, but that they would rise to greatness if he placed his trust in Fate. The prophecy came true when a sandstorm of epic proportions hit his tribe, seemingly never-ending nor weakening in strength. The man chose to ride in a random direction on his horse, trusting Fate to protect him. He awoke later in a cave and discovered a set of ancient scrolls written by the Loregiver herself.* He shared its teachings with as many people as he could, and soon the words of the Law spread far and wide. The scattered members of his tribe miraculously survived, and re-established their ties by following the tales of the one among their number who made this grand discovery. Soon the collection of tribes following the Law grew into a collection of cities, and eventually a Caliphate, the title of Grand Caliph passed from father to son.

*So is the Golden Mosque built around a cave? Is the Loregiver’s house sitting on top of a cavern entrance? There are some contradictions, but given the nature of stories it’s likely told more for dramatic effect than historical accuracy.

Secrets: The Grand Caliph’s seeming infertility has no definite canon answer, but there are several possibilities listed: he is naturally interfile, a djinn-enchanted gem which radiates an aura preventing conception was placed in the chandelier by a courtesan who fell out of favor, he is actually fertile but his children are being raised in hiding by the Soft Whisper.*

*an all-female order of Holy Slayers who act in the interests of the Grand Caliph, although it’s uncertain whether or not they function with his approval.

Wasat, the Middle City: This city has the shortest entry by far, roughly under a page. It serves as a major trade port between Huzuz and Hiyal, but has a “sleepy and quaint” vibe of an easy-going place. Interestingly the proximity to more wondrous locations like Huzuz, its populace is rather nonplussed to all manner of crazy and epic happenings as long as it doesn’t cause too great harm. It is home to a great archmage by the name of Azuah al-Jawwaf who is a whopping 20th level, but doesn’t seem to do anything beyond conduct research in an old monastery-turned-home and serves as an advisor to the city’s ruling Caliph. The closest the city has to conflict is various spies and agents of Hiyal and Huzuz monitoring the local court in hopes of gaining political and economic advantages.

Secrets: None, surprisingly.

Thoughts So Far: Barring Hiyal, the Cities of the Heart are not exactly the most “adventure-worthy” places. Huzuz is thematic and reflective of a wondrous high-magic imperial capital, but the emphasis on its powerful rulers and being a bright shiny beacon of goodness makes it more the type of place PCs defend from outside threats than the kind in which you find homegrown threats. Wasat is kind of boring, although Hiyal has a fun vibe as a “hub of scum and villainy.” Halwa’s treacherous vizier and proximity to the Haunted Lands can make it a good base of operations for wilderness adventure, although there are other cities later on (particularly in the Ruined Kingdoms) which can serve this function better in my opinion.

Join us next time as we cover the Cities of the North and the Cities of the Pearl!

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007



Bieeanshee posted:

I'm finding this last batch of antagonists far more sympathetic than any give WoD character party.

I find Sophia incredibly unsympathetic. She wants to be a kind good person but also not make any effort towards it or change anything about her behaviour, so she just hides her memories so she doesn't have to face any contradictions.
She knows she does evil but doing anything about that fact would be haaaaaaard so she just buries it. It's only other people getting hurt, what do they matter?

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

I think it's more a measure of how much derision I hold for the average WoD player party.

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Sophia would... I mean my player cabal would inevitably end up gunning for her, potentially offering her a chance to reform but more likely she ends up dead. But one of them would also fall in love with her and it would be a huge mess. Given that this has happened twice already and Sophia fits the profile.

So I'd have a lot of fun with that.

She is definitely a terrible person, though, much like the Minotaur - I just can see how they got to where they are, and I think that talking them down would be a goal for my players. Honestly I think the Minotaur is more likely than Sophia, not because he's not completely driven and terrifying, but because he's not actively pruning his own mind to ensure he can't stray from his ideology. An Oneiros dive into his mind could be a really fascinating session, and trying to prove to him that there is Truth and there are mages who will protect the weak, that could be very cool.

I don't really have any opinions on the Dark Passenger, he seems fine but Harrowed are less interesting to me than ideological Banishers.

Robindaybird
Aug 21, 2007

Neat. Sweet. Petite.



Yeah, Minotaur and Sophia are kind of the 'I can get where they're coming from' - and frankly, in Sophia's case, love really does make one stupid and it's really the extreme take of how people can convince themselves that bad things don't exist, that if they just keep trucking on the bad things will disappear.

Loxbourne
Apr 6, 2011

Tomorrow, doom!
But now, tea.

Libertad! posted:

Barring Hiyal, the Cities of the Heart are not exactly the most “adventure-worthy” places.

I think you could have some fun with Wasat as a terribly jaded place where the populace have seen it all before. Firey djinn with whirling swords? That's nice dearie, put him in the corner with the rest.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


I like Al-Qadim's take on the gods and religions of the region, absolutely a step up over standard D&D fare, I agree.

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





PurpleXVI posted:

I like Al-Qadim's take on the gods and religions of the region, absolutely a step up over standard D&D fare, I agree.

I agree - though I think I missed something, since one goddess is noted to have maybe been a storm goddess before Enlightenment and it’s not clear to me why the Great Gods changed their focuses after Enlightenment since some of them still have their less human-specific and abstract domains as well as the Enlightened philosophical domains.

I really like the idea of gods having shifted and developed over time as an element of a fantasy setting, so this stood out to me and I’m wondering if I just overlooked something?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
Is A Man Not Entitled To The Sweat Of His Own Brow

The Rapt are what happens when a mage loses all Wisdom. Most mages are certain it could never happen to them - they'd never fall completely to hubris and obsession. However, while rare, it can happen to anyone. An Enraptured mage is a bleeding wound in the world, a hole through which Supernal power directly enters reality. This makes them dangerous, potent and practically invisible to most Sleepers, who mentally edit their worlds to remove the Rapt the moment they are able to do so. Strange events follow in their wake thanks to their power, and their entire being is focused on their Fault, the compulsive obsession that dictates their thoughts, behavior and power.

Becoming Rapt is a gradual process. Wisdom loss is rarely all at once, after all - it generally requires repeated abuse of magical power, reckless disregard for the harm you cause in pursuit of your Obsessions and an acceptance that even atrocity or negligent behavior is acceptable if it reveals Truth. Rapture pulls a mage's soul away from the collective unconscious of humanity as their Fault cracks the world and drags their soul through it. They focus only on their own magic, with little connection to the Temenos that unites all of humanity in the Astral Realm. Generally speaking, Rapture is the fault of the mage it consumes - it is extremely rare that a Rapt mage is not directly at fault for their own suffering, having prioritized their own understanding of magic over the health, lives and souls of other people. However, it is possible for a mage to become Rapt through no fault of their own. This typically happens only due to strange, dangerous mysteries, rare magical disasters or horrific injuries of the spirit and soul. These are rare among the Rapt and a great tragedy. The rarest of all, however, are the Rapt known as Walkers. They were Enraptured during the process of Awakening, their souls unable to withstand the strains. Their bodies are generally catatonic or comatose, but their souls travel the world through possession of their own Greater Tulpa. What's a Tulpa? We'll get there.

No matter what, the Rapt are not safe to have around. They pursue their Fault with monomaniacal focus and even less regard for others than they had before. Even those whose Faults are not inherently dangerous to pursue or which simply trap them in harmless obsessive loops leak raw magic into the world, warping everything around them by their very nature. They need not put any effort into spreading their magical power - it happens without them even noticing. Those that actively choose to wield that power are worse, going to any length to fuel their research or compulsively performing horrific acts. They typically are unable to understand that what they're doing is wrong, and tend to be confused and upset when people try to get them to stop.

Despite all this, some mages actually want the Rapt around. They are almost always experts on whatever magical subject their Fault focuses on, after all, and their Tulpas are worthy topics of research in their own right. They are often capable of great feats of magical understanding, their intuition and research unfettered by ethics or concerns for personal safety. However, working with an Enraptured mage is dangerous. They don't see other mages as people, but as tools or obstacles to their research. They aren't idiots, either, just obsessed. Some of them deliberately prey on other mages to further their research, and anyone who thinks their obvious focus makes them easy to deal with may well be manipulated by a far more cunning mind than they expected, then cast aside or turned into an experiment when no longer useful. The most notable group researching Rapture is the Bellerophon Group, a network of primarily Arrow mages who were founded in 1945. They watch out for signs of Rapt mages, share information on Rapture, and keep watch for disasters caused by the Rapt. Typically, they're only able to find Rapt mages once the disaster already happens, so they're most often playing cleanup and containment, plus studying the aftermath, rather than making deals with the Rapt directly. They hope to find ways to predict and contain future disasters or find evidence usable to capture the Rapt that cause them.

Many mages never know they've met one of the Rapt. An Enraptured mage isn't something obvious, and they rarely seem to have changed much from the person they were before Rapture. That's what led them down the path, after all - they were already acting that way. If they're careful and hide what they do, they can often go a long time before even their friends notice the change, though these friends will almost always by the first to discover it by noticing the subtle behavioral shifts and changes to their magic. Dealing with an Enraptured friend or ally isn't easy. The Orders and Consilia in general are not averse to ordering death sentences due to the dangers of Rapt mages, after all, and many mages may fear they were related to causing the Rapture of a friend or apprentice and will want to avoid suspicion. This allows the Rapt to hide within magical society for extended periods, often helped by those close to them trying to cover up their deeds. Eventually, however, that will fail - the Rapt, generally, will end up doing something that they can't or don't want to hide, and that risks revealing the entire game. Some Rapt do recognize that being discovered will deny them freedom to research their Faults, though. They are often the most dangerous, because they will suppress their Fault for a time to avoid suspicion. This causes a buildup of pressure, referred to as Stress, which leads to explosive and uncontrolled manifestation of magic from their soul. This is a Tulpa, an uncontrolled piece of raw magic that acts where the Rapt cannot, furthering their Fault.

The Rapt are powerful, but it's not a power you should want. Their Fault directly connects them to the Supernal, giving them extreme amounts of magical power in relation to it and deep insight into whatever their focus is, but the only reason it works is because of their broken, bleeding souls. They can't really control most of their power, with the vast majority of it just spilling out of their Nimbus as Tulpas. Their magic is not controlled by their will - just their Fault. The longer they try to hold it back, the more Stress builds up and the worse the eventual explosion gets. A Tulpa always reflects the Nimbus and Fault of the mage that spawns it, with the strongest Tulpas being literal Supernal entities that enter the world as living avatars of the Fault. These beings have immense power and no restraint whatsoever. Even when a Rapt indulges their Fault enough to avoid these greater Tulpas, however, they constantly emanate magic. This naturally hides them from Sleepers, who erase their existence from the world mentally in the same way they edit their memories of Awakened magic. The Lie hides the Rapt from notice, especially as their Stress builds up and widens the wound of their Fault.

There are broadly, four types of Rapt. Savants are the most common, and also the hardest to spot. They are Rapt whose Faults emerged from one of their Obsessions as a normal mage. They pursue that over all else, yes, but a lot of mages do that. The difference is that the Rapt are completely and utterly controlled by their Fault. Typically, they become Enraptured by pursuing Acts of Hubris in pursuit of an Obsession. They are the Rapt most often approached by other mages for insight and knowledge. Most often, their fall is related to some horrific soul-related crime, often on an Awakened victim, in pursuit of their Obsession. It may not be someone else - self-experimentation on the soul can be just as big an Act of Hubris, especially if you push yourself too far and too fast. Others obliterate or taint Supernal Truths as part of their experiments or fall as part of studying the Abyss...though perhaps fortunately for everyone, powerful Scelesti can't become Rapt.

Malefactors are the second kind of Rapt, with Faults developed not necessarily by their Obsessions but their actions. The reason is because the Act of Hubris that drove them to Rapture was, generally, a non-magical crime committed in pursuit of Obsession that they used magic for. While a Savant likely fell due to directly performing a soul-based experiment, a Malefactor is, say, someone who murders someone as a tool to get where they wanted. The murder isn't directly related to their experiments. Most commonly, they are formed by a murder in a sudden and impulsive fury, but torture or other dark acts can also produce them. Their Faults focus around loss of control and repetition of their act over and over. While the common stereotype among mages is that a Malefactor is a sadist and serial killer, most do not enjoy their acts at all. They are convinced that they have to do this. They must obey their compulsions or the world will end - their magic will burst forth from them and do it instead. It is even possible that they feel intense guilt and remorse even as they perform the act, knowing it is wrong but unable to stop. The original act that doomed them may have seemed necessary, but their Fault doesn't give them any ability to rationalize why they must keep doing it. It just makes them do it, without regard to context. Malefactors are rarer than Savants, but their actions are typically more mundane and less focused on the rarefied, arcane mysteries. They also are easier to spot - Savants aren't that weird by mage standards, most of the time, but a Malefactor stands out.

Walkers are the rarest and least understood of the three common categories of Rapt. Their soul and mind inhabit their Tulpa, leaving their body behind. That body is usually in a coma, the mind trapped in their Oneiros dream-world until they accumulate enough Stress to release a Tulpa. In that Tulpa, they are able to indulge their Fault and act through the magic they release. In the past, Walkers rarely survived long after their Rapture due to the inability to keep someone in a coma alive very long. Today, medical science can keep their body alive, though, and the doctors are rarely aware of the fact that their patient is the source of the dangerous and bizarre events that will begin to surround them. Walkers are typically Rapt through no fault of their own, with most being formed by the events of their Awakening. A few suffer Rapture through self-inflicted soul wounds or through magic that removes them from their body for an extended period, but that's rare even by Walker standards. Most form when their Awakening shatters their mind but gets interrupted before they can achieve transcendental epiphany. Walkers have been studied for centuries, but the Pentacle still has no idea why they happen every so often. They've noted it often happens due to possession mid-Awakening, Abyssal intrusion or having the soul tampered with during the act of Awakening...but more often these events form Harrowed Banishers or just prevent Awakening. It's not clear what determines that. Some say that there are specific entities that have to be involved, but they are as yet totally unpredictable and unstoppable, should they exist at all. Sleepers typically interpret the acts of a Walker Tulpa as a haunting, as their infrequent episodes of activity usually involve poltergeist activity, hallucinations and strange figures appearing as the Walker revels in finally being able to do things.

The fourth type of Rapt is 'Other.' A Rapt may not fit any of the three above categories and instead manifest their Tulpas in weirder ways. These are usually made by unique circumstances - maybe an Abyssal entity eats your entire Wisdom bar at once, or you use a magic item that slowly erodes it, or you get caught up in some weird Supernal time war that retroactively fucks up your Wisdom or whatever. Weird-rear end poo poo can make weird-rear end Rapt. Their Faults tend to be extremely weird, singular and unpredictable.

Next time: How Am Rapture Work

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
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Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
No, Says The Mysterium, It Belongs In A Museum

So, what does becoming Rapt entail? When you hit Wisdom 0, you lose your Virtue. In its place, you gain a Fault. If you hit Wisdom 0 due to direct pursuit of an Obsession, your Fault is either that Obsession itself or a magical act related to it. This is most Savants, and examples might include destroying mage souls, casting a specific spell related to your Rapture over and over, or attempting to develop and iterate on the techniques used in your moment of Rapture without limit. If you hit Wisdom due to a mundane action, your Fault must involve using magic to repeat that action indefinitely, usually with certain requirements based on the context of the original action. This is most Malefactors, and examples might include killing trespassers (of anywhere), setting people on fire, or murdering people in a specific location - all drawn from the same act, killing a trespasser to your Sanctum by setting them on fire. Walkers and other more unique Rapt tend to gain Faults that are strange or unpredictable, possibly connected to important aspects of their lives or to key symbols from their Awakening or to whatever event destroyed their Wisdom. Regardless of what they are, all Faults also get linked to one of the Arcana that is most related to its nature in the moment of Rapture. This Arcanum is the focus for how the Rapt mage attempts to pursue their Fault and what the key aspect of the Fault is for them.

Mechanically, this means:
1. You can't regain Willpower from Virtue any more; you keep your Vice still.
2. Your Fault is an Obsession that cannot be changed, no matter how often you fulfill it and which doesn't take up any of your limit on how many Obsessions you can have.
3. Your Fault also functions as a second Vice. Fulfilling your Fault gives you Willpower, in other words. If you fulfill both Vice and Fault at once, you regain all Willpower.
4. If your Fault's linked Arcanum wasn't a Ruling Arcanum for you, it is now.

Your Nimbus becomes a wound in the world that spills out Supernal power constantly. You can't contain it, and your Long-Term Nimbus is more of a magic disease than anything else; it spreads at random rather than through meaningful connections. Mechanically:
1. Your Long-Term Nimbus does not spread along sympathetic ties. Instead, it spreads at the ST's whim to reflect your influence tainting the world around you as a narrative way to draw wizards in to investigate it.
2. You get a huge bonus when flaring your Nimbus to contest supernatural auras, but doing so generates a Lesser Tulpa.

Every Rapt also gains a single magical savant ability. Examples are listed, but the ST is given express permission to make ones besides these:
  • Your Fault is tied to a specific Magical Practice, and you can cast spells using that Practice with any Arcanum, even if you lack that Arcanum entirely.
  • Your Fault is focused on a specific skill or dicepool; all rolls of that skill or pool gain the rote quality.
  • You never need to spend Mana if casting spells while fulfilling your Fault.
  • Your Fault is focused on a specific spell factor, and you get a bonus to using that factor or reduced Reach cost to use the advanced form of it.
  • You get the rote quality on all Clash of Wills rolls related to your Fault.
  • You can reflexively cast spells related to your Fault without spending Reach.
  • You can combine a specific spell related to your Fault with any other spell, even if you can't normally combine that many spells - or combine them at all - and you get a reduced penalty when doing so.
  • You always count as a useful member of a ritual team even if you don't normally meet the requirements, and get a further bonus if leading the ritual.
  • Your Fault is focused on a specific Yantra, and you either get a bonus when using that Yantra or can use it without it counting as a Yantra use towards your maximum.
  • Your Fault is related to a Condition or Tilt, and whenever you cast a spell the target suffers that Condition or Tilt.
  • Your Praxes become Attainments, even if you aren't part of a Legacy, and thus no longer cause any Paradox whatsoever.
  • You become significantly harder to detect, track or learn about using the Arcanum linked to your Fault, and when you use magic only of that Arcanum, it doesn't trigger Peripheral Mage Sight.

Rapt mages are also resistant to Paradox in several ways that normal mages aren't...and vulnerable in a few ways that others aren't.
1. Paradox anomalies caused by a Rapt releasing Paradox last either a year or a full chronicle, whichever comes first.
2. Paradox conditions a Rapt suffers go away after only a single turn.
3. When trying to contain Paradox, Rapt roll a chance die because they have no Wisdom at all, but they can spend WP to add dice to the roll or spend Mana to use their current Stress as the pool - but not both at once.
4. Rapt can magically heal themselves of damage taken absorbing Paradox or scouring Paradox conditions rather than that damage being resistant.

Rapt are cut off from the Temenos, the part of the Astral that taps into humanity's collective soul. They just can't get there. Ever. They go straight from their personal Oneiros to the Anima Mundi, the greater world-soul. Further, the mystical protections of their soul are stronger in the Anima Mundi if they are pursuing their Fault. It is difficult for other people to get into the Oneiros of a Rapt mage, but it's possible by use of Mind magic or similar...though doing so is extremely dangerous, as the Oneiros is awash in Supernal energy. It encourages unwise use of magic while there, and the Goetia within the dreams of the Rapt can be tied to the Tulpa that rules their Fault. The lack of Temenos connection makes it hard for Rapt mages to relate to other humans, and they have severely deficient empathy except when it involves fulfilling their Fault. Even those that understand they may harm others alter their actions only because they have convinced themselves in the abstract, rather than any true empathic connection. It makes social interaction really difficult, but also means it's very hard to convince a Rapt mage to change their actions, and makes it very easy for them to commit acts of shocking viciousness if they feel the need.

Mechanically, the Rapt cannot have their Doors forced open in social maneuvering - which has a lot of implications. Forcing doors is how you do things like intimidating someone into letting you by or bribing them into looking the other way when you don't have time for a full-on charm offensive. You just can't do that with the Rapt, and supernatural powers cannot alter how easy it is to convince them of stuff. They also calculate Defense as if they were animals, using the higher of Wits or Dexterity, as they lack any instinctive compunctions about violence. They also need not spend Willpower to attack a surrendered foe and they cannot gain the Beaten Down Tilt, which means that when they fight, they're not going to back down easily. Also, they gain greater protection in the Anima Mundi. Anyone inside the Oneiros of a Rapt who works against any scene, Goetia or person that is aligned with the Rapt's Fault inflicts Stress on the Rapt, and if this causes a Tulpa manifestation, their Greater Tulpa also shows up in the Oneiros to get rid of the problem. Also, it's easier to suffer Wisdom loss when in the Oneiros of a Rapt.

Stress is a new healthbar that Rapt gain, with length based on Gnosis. Whenever a Rapt goes a full chapter without fulfilling their Fault, they gain 1 Stress automatically. On top of this, whenever the Rapt has a chance to pursue their Fault and doesn't, or whenever anyone else actively prevents them from doing so, they roll half their Gnosis and take the successes in Stress. At the start of any scene the Rapt is in, they roll their Stress. Any success means they generate a Lesser Tulpa and heal 1 Stress, while exceptional success releases their Greater Tulpa and heals 3 Stress. If their entire Stress bar is full, the Stress roll has rote quality and gets exceptional success easier than normal, so it is almost certain to happen. The Rapt can spend 1 WP to not roll for a scene, as long as the Stress track is not full. However, any time they would take Stress while their Stress is full, they must immediately roll.

A Tulpa's range is based on how full the Stress track is. At half or less, a Tulpa manifests within the Immediate Nimbus of its Rapt creator. More than half makes it manifest in both the Immediate and Signature Nimbus. Full means all three. Also, the ST may choose, if the Stress track is over half full, the ST may choose to roll for Tulpas whenever anyone uses Mage Sight to study the Rapt's magic or Signature Nimbus, even if the Rapt themself is not actually present. More on Tulpa next post.

The Stress of a Rapt increases the amount of magic leaking out of them. The more Stress they have, the greater their sorcerous occultation, which makes it harder to use sympathetic magic on them or track them with magic. A Rapt also loses their sympathetic name - it no longer has any power over them whatsoever, so knowing it doesn't help you do magic on them. This is because they are more a magical being than a person at this point. They may still answer to the name, but it has no magical potency and cannot be used for any kind of name-based supernatural stuff. Their Nimbus also triggers Quiescence in Sleepers that meet them, even if they don't actually do any magic. Sleepers just forget their existence entirely after the end of any scene in which the Rapt was present, as if they were an obvious spell, and cannot recall much about the encounter. If the Rapt has more than half their Stress track full, the Sleeper forgets a few minutes after any interaction rather than the scene after, and a full track means they forget the turn after any interaction. At least there is one mercy - a Rapt's presence doesn't trigger breaking points in Sleepers, though their magic continues to do so as any magic would.

Next time: A Tulpa is neither a deliberately made estoric Buddhist thoughtform being nor a magical dream pony that wants to gently caress you

Ego Trip
Aug 28, 2012


Mors Rattus posted:

Next time: A Tulpa is neither a deliberately made estoric Buddhist thoughtform being nor a magical dream pony that wants to gently caress you

Any relation to sets of magical armor?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
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Nope, though I've never heard the word being used that way. My only experiences with it are in the context of its origins in Tibetan Buddhism, the weirdo internet version of it where it makes magical gently caress ponies if you wish hard enough, and this book.

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Mors Rattus posted:

Nope, though I've never heard the word being used that way. My only experiences with it are in the context of its origins in Tibetan Buddhism, the weirdo internet version of it where it makes magical gently caress ponies if you wish hard enough, and this book.

‘Tulpa’ was also the monster in an early fantasy/horror story in which it was a malevolent invisible force like a poltergeist, if I remember correctly. Which has led to its usage as a monster. I think that that usage derived from the Buddhist esoteric practice, but the involuntary or autonomous version in horror fiction has a pretty long history.

E: I may just have remembered wrong since I can’t find evidence of this story; however, a Theosophist did popularize the concept of Tulpas as esoteric Buddhist practice in a very specific Theosophical way in European occultism, which explicitly has them taking on independent lives and needing to be put down, so... that’s probably the root source of Mage Tulpas.

Joe Slowboat fucked around with this message at 21:18 on Mar 19, 2020

Ego Trip
Aug 28, 2012


It's a bit of a deep cut.

Ronin Warriors

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




You go to some weird places, Mors.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Little bit. It's what you get when one of your hobbies is Weird Internet Tourism and you decide to learn what the bronies have been up to since they sank into the depths of nerd obscurity.

By popular demand
Jul 17, 2007

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




To be fair though, bronies will eventually get into everything.
Worse infestation than brainworms.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

I think the bronies picked it up from the 4channers. Not that there isn't a huge overlap to begin with.

Midjack
Dec 24, 2007





Mors Rattus posted:

Little bit. It's what you get when one of your hobbies is Weird Internet Tourism and you decide to learn what the bronies have been up to since they sank into the depths of nerd obscurity.

I got your back on this one, if you brush up against bronies anywhere you’ll hear about tulpas pretty quickly.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!



Chapter 7: Cities of the North


Northwest Zakhara is the region which sees the most contact with the lands beyond the Caliphate. There are three major political blocs here: the militaristic city of Qudra ruled over by mamluks; the Corsair Domains which are a loose conglomeration of abolitionist pirates and enemies of Qudra; and finally the Free Cities, six city-states who pledge loyalty to the Grand Caliph but are more likely to be self-governing the farther they are from Qudra. A minor yet no less persistent group are the Hill Tribes to the south, Unenlightened holdovers who refuse to acknowledge the Caliphate’s authority and pantheon. They are both a common target for mamluk raids looking for children to ‘civilize’ as the next generation of slave-soldiers, and also attack settlements and outposts under the authority of Qudra and the Free Cities. Unsurprisingly it’s more common for commoners to own weapons due to the martial attitude of the region. Just about every city has an unofficial color associated with it as well.

Hafayah, City of Secrets: Recent political uprisings have left a sense of unease among the populace: its legitimate heir Princes Saba is only 8 years old, whose older siblings and parents met tragic ends at the hand of mysterious assassins. He was only put on the throne when it seemed like Qudra would invade to “restore order,” and a gnome advisor by the name of Uqban min Najm rules temporarily. Uqban has close ties to local religious institutions to aid his spy network, which spends most time turning local factions against each other in order to prevent any one group from seizing power.

The city color is black, reflecting somber attitudes and mourning.

Secrets: The young prince has a fixation with abandoning politics in favor of being a classic “traveling hero righting wrongs.” Various tutors tried dispelling him of such fantasies to no success. The gnoll scribe and tutor Jamalia is responsible for his flights of fancy due to tales from her childhood. An adventure hook includes the Prince running away to live with desert nomads, and the PCs must rescue him given he has no idea how tough and dangerous this life truly is.

Hawa, City of Chaos: This is the only true city among the Corsair Domains. Half of its buildings rest upon stilts directly over the water, and the closest thing it has to a ruler is a “pirate king” who inevitably gets deposed every few years. The city council more or less rubber-stamps the pirate-king’s decisions. Much of Hawa’s local industry revolves around servicing the seabound trade, although various council members extract taxes from the population which are little more than protection rockets. Razor-sharp coral reefs capable of being terraformed by sea elf mages give Hawa a natural defense, and while wealthy members have their own private guards roughly half the populace will take up arms in the event of an invasion.

Three notable political figures in Hawa include the legendary pirate Jayan ai-Jasir who once used a zaratan as a mobile island-ship; Grima al-Auni min Kor, a hill giant priest of Kor who is an evangelist hoping to bring proper values to the Corsair Domains and protects street children from the city’s many dangers; and Akura al-Hiyali, a sha’ir pirate captain fond of using genie servants in naval battles and seeks to depose Jayani as Pirate King.

Hawa has no official color.

Secrets: A cult dedicated to Istishia (elemental god of water) is believed to be behind the disappearances of young people in the city. Grima hires the PCs to track down the missing youths and drive the cult off the island.

Liham, City of Soldiers: Liham is in close proximity to Qudra, and its standing army is supplemented by mamluks from said city. This has earned some unsavory insults among other courts of Liham being ruled by a spineless lapdog. Various rumors claim that it won’t be long before Qudra will outright move in and take over Liham, while others believe that the ruling caliph will petition the aid of other cities to make a show of force against Qudra and become truly independent. Some even believe that an illegitimate son of Liham’s caliph is in hiding, waiting for the day to come in and lead a popular revolt.

The official color is red, garments often accented with black and white.

Secrets: Both Liham and Qudra prefer the current status quo, and there are no current plans for invasion or revolt. As to the caliph’s heir, their identity is left up to the DM and may even be a PC!

Muluk, City of Kings: This city’s ruling noble families trace an unbroken lineage to pre-Enlightenment times, earning Muluk its nickname. Prior sumptuary laws have been overturned by a Grand Caliph, and all can wear purple clothes freely. This has only added to the city’s reputation, and arrogance of its population. Even commoner citizens of Muluk view their city as being uniquely civilized in Zakhara due to their long and stable history. Its current rulers often play the other cities against each other, and this tradition dates back even to the First Caliph. Its ruler back then, Aswa al-Mutiq, chose an audience with the Caliphates’ messengers after hearing how other cities were overthrown for resisting the rising empire. He accepted the Law after five days and five nights. Stepping down, Aswa became an evangelist to spread the teachings to even more lands and was succeeded by his son.

The official color is purple, the rare dye a favorite of nobility across Zakhara and beyond due to its rarity.

Secrets: Aswar al-Mutiq was said to be given great treasures and relics of Muluk’s pre-Enlightenment past to take with him on his journeys as a missionary. It is believed that said wonders reside in a legendary final resting place in the Furrowed Mountains.

Qadib, City of Wands: Qadib is home to the most numerous arcane spellcasters in northern Zakhara, beaten only by Huzuz and Rog’osto in the Ruined Kingdoms. Its sultan is an ancient elf whose majority of offspring are powerful elementalists like himself, and his court is home to many jann ambassadors and servants. Qadib’s many universities are dedicated to mundane as well as magical pursuits, making it a favorite destination for scribes and scholars, and its magical and military academies can field junior cadets and apprentices in times of war.

Further adding to Qadib’s wondrous reputation is a literal undecity of catacombs dating to pre-Enlightenment times, holding caches of ancient magic and portals to realms far beyond the Land of Fate.

The city’s official color is Uther, a yellow-orange pigment.

Secrets: Adventurers with rare items and tales can find themselves a warm audience in Qadib’s universities should they need to make use of their facilities. Qadib’s under-city has no canon ‘origin story,’ left instead to be filled in by the DM. Most of the better-explored areas have been previously looted by adventurers, where the lower levels are more lucrative and dangerous. There are rumors of a “mother lode” of treasure waiting to be found.



To a foreign observer he may seem like just a dwarf with a sword, but this lone mamluk is but one of many building blocks in the wall of the Caliphate’s army.

Qudra, City of Power: This is the most militarized city in the Land of Fate. Many generations ago a corrupt emir oppressed his populace to the point that the locals rebelled. As he was already on poor terms with the eighth Grand Caliph, it did not take long for the stationed mamluks to join the populace in overthrowing him. In recognition for their deeds, the mamluks were allowed to choose among themselves who shall be emir. This spawned a tradition of Qudra’s mamluk rulers, who traditionally rule for 20 year terms. The book notes that the position used to be for life, but there’s no mention of what caused the change. The emir’s court has representatives of the Caliphate’s different mamluk organizations, and include such icons as General Okin, an elf who worships Zann instead of Vataqatal which sets him apart from his peers. There;s also General Kalin, a human woman with a notable streak of white in her hair much like a legendary mamluk of old. Kalin has trouble cultivating this into a proper reputation on account of her brashness. Admiral Dus is a goblin whose mamluks are in charge of providing safe passage to ships, but the officer is rather slothful in his duties.* The mamluk naval units have a rather poor morale on account of a failed attempt at conquering the Corsair Domains five years ago.

*Dus is also one of the few low-level authority NPCs, being a mere 5th level Mamluk Fighter.

Much of Qudran architecture tends towards practical blocky stone buildings, with a giant chain in the harbor which can be raised to protect from naval invasion and outer walls carved out of granite to protect from landbound threats. Interestingly, much of the populace are civilians who support the elite mamluk units that act as both standing army and city watch. An authorized slave market holds Hill Tribe and northern barbarians along with criminals, and a group of spellcasters oversee the market to ensure that the innocent are not enslaved and that existing slaves are not mistreated (aka no law-abiding Enlightened, no physical torture). Over the past years the mamluks have had more difficulties gaining newer generations of slave-soldiers, so there are plans to rectify this: recruit from voluntary townspeople, or hunt for slaves farther afield.

The local god Vataqatal has a mosque of his own: the Mosque of Blood is painted red with henna, while an Open Mosque which honors the various other Enlightened gods is blue.

Strangely, I couldn’t find an official color for Qudra.

Secrets: General Adun was very boastful of his many military victories, which caused him to be overlooked in favor of a more humble leader while also placing him under the curse of the evil eye. He still bears a grudge for this, and is looking for ways to delegitimize the other generals in an attempt to elevate his own position.

A sha’ir by the title of Mad Asham, once thought lost during a scouting mission in the Haunted Lands, appeared back in the city with a bout of amnesia that cannot be cured even by a genie’s wish. He speaks of a Whispering Doom, although there’s little specific details that can be coaxed out of him as to the specifics of this threat.

Umara, City of Knights: In recent times the unthinkable happened: the Astok clan, one of the Unenlightened Hill Tribes, laid a successful siege against the Free City of Umara. Its Khan, Ubar khel Muhif, took advantage of Umara’s previous failed war with Muluk to depose the ruling caliph and marry his daughter. But instead of burning down the city or leaving, he took over as the new caliph. The local mamluks recognized his legitimacy, and Ubar khel Muhif used his power to help rebuild the city. There is an uneasy peace in Umara, where the former nobles and merchant families are kept in place, while the Astok people are permitted to worship their own ancestor god Botu’Astok as a Common God while the Enlightened mosques are still allowed to attend to their flocks.

The city’s official color is blue, although cobalt and turquoise are just as popular for textiles.

Secrets: There are rumors that the former caliph was exiled instead of executed after Khan Muhif listened to his wife’s pleas for mercy. But the truth is that the old caliph is indeed dead, slain in private by the Khan as a means of ‘keeping the peace’ with his new wife. He may very well send the PCs on a wild goose chase to find a man who no longer lives if it will keep troubling adventurers away from the truth.

Utaqa, City of Free Men: The northernmost city in the Caliphate is 200 miles away from the nearest city of Hafayah, which causes both visitors and inhabitants to feel that Utaqa is in a world of its own. Caliph al-Gandar was installed as a puppet-prince by Qudran mamluks, although he realized that he’d need to delegate much of his power to the citizenry and merchant houses to keep the wheels of government turning. As long as Utaqa maintains an effective border shield of the empire’s north, neither Qudra nor Huzuz have much reason to interfere.

One council member, Chawus al-Rark, helps Corsair Domain pirates smuggle goods in exchange for immunity from their raids; Allena al-Ajami, a foreigner mage, serves as vizier and updates the court on all matters pertaining to barbarian outsiders; and On-Basi al-Garn is a scribe who helps “pretty up” reports on state affairs. He landed in hot water for claiming that Utaqan soldiers secured victory against a raiding party of yak-men. The foul monsters in the World Pillar Mountains heard of this insolence, and sent a warning by summoning a dao genie right into al-Garn’s bedchambers.

Utaqa has a diverse mixture of Enlightened Zakharans and various foreigners, which results in a more pragmatic view on things: most of their priests are Pragmatists, and the city outlawed slavery to make it a safer travel destination for Unenlightened people. Foreign merchants who own slaves have their prisoners temporarily liberated while in town, and must pay their slaves as though they were employees while in town. Given that said merchants still hold all the money, this system can be easily abused. There’s also worry that inspectors from Qudra plan to arrive and judge the city’s ability to serve as the Caliphate’s shield.

The city’s official color is white, representing purity.

Secrets: The yak-men’s agents are upping their ante in Utaqa, both via magic jar-bound bodies of their servants and even showing up themselves in heavy clothes. In the latter case, they disguise their horns as being part of a “horned helmet” and only travel the streets at night.

Chapter 8: Cities of the Pearl


If the previous chapters’ cities were the rough, martial frontier theme, the Cities of the Pearl’s theme would be wealth and trade. Six cities line the western shores of the Golden Gulf, where wares from all over the Land of Fate and beyond are for sale. Some of the richest people live here, but so do the poorest due to a lack of social safety nets and usurious debtor’s prisons. In fact, the Cities of the Pearl rely on slavery less for labor and protection due to this practice, and the rich often hold bread and circus style feasts and celebrations to keep the lower classes from growing too despondent and resentful. The Cities of the Pearl have a regional rivalry with the Pantheist League sitting on the eastern shores, who regard the laissez-faire merchants as decadent ‘peacocks’* who strayed from the Law of the Loregiver.

*An insult in regards to the Pearl Cities’ more colorful array of clothes; only black fabrics are permitted in the Pantheist League.

Ajayib, City of Wonders: This city is famous for its rich coffee, as well as being on the Caliphate’s western border. The al-Suqut Mountains stretch out to the sea, populated by monsters, outcasts, and Unenlightened tribes. The city in fact came to Enlightenment only recently, the current warrior-queen caliph being the second ruler to follow the Law.

Secrets: The nearby mountains and cliffs descend deep into the Underdark, and communities of duergar and drow are hostile to foreigners. The rumors of both races gave rise to tales of an old ruined city whose inhabitants seek revenge on the civilized men who destroyed them long ago. This kind of contradicts the claim that Lotha/Lolth is a dead god if the drow are indeed still alive.

Gana, City of Riches: One of the two cities which gave the region its name, Gana’s economy revolves around the pearl-diving industry. Some of the more well-to-do captains of diving ships utilize magic to allow divers to breath underwater for long periods. During the months where their primary luxuries are not in season, the people harvest frankincense from trees. The reigning Sultan, Yusef the Just, is not fond of concentrating power in any one set of hands for too long, and as such regularly rotates his court with many advisors with a high turnover rate. What’s notable is that the city’s chief judge can be ‘rented’ for a short term and readily dismissed if they prove too unpopular; perhaps not unexpectedly the current judge doesn’t always seek the heart of the matter in cases even if she is aware of it.

The city holds a 3 day Festival of the Pearl, a time of riotous feasts and celebrations. Fireworks, known as skyrockets, are particularly loved for their stunning explosions at night. The sultan presents a Great Task of the Pearl, where between now and the next pearl season people bring the most wondrous things they can find and present to a group of judges. The contestants give their items to the Sultan for ownership regardless of the results (such is the risk of partaking), but the winner gains land, monetary reward, magic items, or some other great favor from the city.

Secrets: There are rumors that the sea mage, Al’ia bint Hazir, secretly bore the Sultan’s children. They are true, and four of them are being raised in seclusion in a monastery. They all have mixed feelings on their current predicament, and there are three scrolls with proof of their lineage. One is in Al’ia’s possession, a second in the library of the Grand Caliph, and a third was sent to Qudra but whose messenger never made it for unknown reasons. The Sultan has borne several children from concubines, although he does not recognize them as heirs, which is actually a large faux pas in Zakharan culture.

I’m a bit unsure as to why the Sultan is going to great lengths to hide his children. There’s no indication of an uneasy political situation or assassination attempts on previous heirs; if it’s for ideological reasons it seems a bit far-fetched as he could theoretically pass a law to impose term limits or something similar to the temporary judges. And Al’ia does not sound like she’s a noblewoman, so I don’t know why he’s hiding only their children and not that of his concubine’s as well.

Many divers have started disappearing as of late. People figure that the mysterious monster plaguing the city of Jumlat is responsible, although some believe this tale to be a ruse by a rival city who is in fact killing the pearl-divers. The Sultan promised 50,000 gold dinars* as a reward to whoever can unearth the truth.

*Gold and silver pieces in the Land of Fate are based on real-world currency used in the ancient Arab world. Dinars are gold, dirhams are silver, and copper pieces are known as bits.

[

Jumlat, City of Multitudes: The other “true pearl city,” Jumlat has a rivalry with Gana. One it is winning, for it has a more lucrative pearl harvest. Its ruler Kara al-Zalim is known as the Fierce Sword of the Sea, and led many fleets against Gana’s own forces in raids before he was granted the throne (a departure from the normal ancestral heir). His court has two rather unsavory individuals. The first is Agat amir-Doth, an elven sorcerer who has a fetish for human women. He sets plans into motion to cut off particular women from their friends and family until they have little choice but to become his concubine out of economic necessity. The other figure is Ragi al-Makruh, a spoiled heir to a merchant empire whose assets are the only thing that make up for his lack of brains and charm. This is in spite of the fact that he’s a 19th-level Thief with the Merchant-Rogue class-kit.

The past three years have been tough on pearl-divers, with many ships ending up destroyed or lost at sea. Jumlat blamed Gana for this, but before things escalated to war a diver missing his legs washed up on a beach, speaking of a tentacled shark-like creature who intelligently hunted and destroyed the rest of his crew. The city’s sultan offered a reward of 100,000 gold dinars to whoever can find and kill the creature. Additionally, a mysterious avenger of the city’s poor known as Zulmat (“the Darkness”) has been attacking the cruel and corrupt figures in power.

Secrets: Zulmat is a 14 year old girl inflicted with weretiger lycanthropy, whose older sister became the latest target of Agat amir-Doth’s twisted affections. Zulmat is recruiting a small but growing gathering of supporters among the populace, and has no knowledge of her altered form which acts on her desires for vengeful justice.

The tentacle-shark killing divers is in fact an aboleth who abducts sailors to enslave and mind-control them into expanding underwater caverns. There are either four such aboleths, who will avenge their kin if one is slain, or there is but one who will return as a ghost if killed.

Sikak, City of Coins: Sikak is more known for fishing, but I suppose City of Fish is not as catchy a title. Sultan Magar al-Azim’s gnomish family is known for working directly alongside fishermen, which makes him seem more of a “man of the people” and earns the commoner’s trust and respect. His concubines and female relatives are noted as being the most beautiful in all Zakhara, and he has a large family of children, cousins, and siblings who fill important roles in the city’s bureaucracy. Its artesian wells have begun to fail, and Sikak employed dao and marid genies to help repair them.

Secrets: Two things are on the minds of Sikak’s inhabitants. A holy slayer of the Grey Fire attempted to assassinate the Sultan in public but was killed by an ogre bodyguard. Two possible options are provided: one is that the Sultan is withholding tax tribute from the Grand Caliph, and one of his siblings arranged for the assassination to prevent a new ruler being appointed by Huzuz who will have no ties to the gnomish family. Another possibility is that the Grey Fire feels that the Sultan is not holding as good an example to their patron deity Najm, and feel that his heir would be a better fit.

The other major event is the discovery of a recent shipwreck off the coast of unknown age and origin. The shipwreck may be the result of a tragic calamity of fleets crashing into each other during a monsoon, or a downed experimental gnomish skyship holding treasure and monsters.

Tajar, City of Trade: Whereas the other Cities of the Pearl have some kind of specialized local resource, Tajar is a jack-of-all-trades in its wares. In spite of such abundance competition is strict, and the merchants here look down upon haggling. Musicians can be found on all corners, often going for volume over talent in hopes of being noticed. Almost every business is in need of hired hands, so unemployment is low. The numerous artesian wells mean that only the poorest have to rely upon the nearby al-Adib River for their drinking water.

The current ruler is Sheikh Ali al-Hadd, whose father was a tyrant that sought to enslave the nearby desert tribes. During a local rebellion the Grand Caliph sent investigators, not reinforcements, who discovered the ruler’s guilt. The son has proven to be a fairer leader, although his only son Afzal is spoiled and egotistical to the consternation of Ali and the court. His daughter Sheera is more rational and serves as a sha’ir in charge of all things genie-related in the city. Adding to this political assortment is a mysterious traveling bard by the name of Dulcet Riqqiyah. She quickly befriended Sheera, but is still rather guarded about her background. Dulcet even went so far to wear magical items that counter divination spells at all times.

Secrets: Dulcet is actually the granddaughter of the original tyrant sultan, and seeks to destroy the city from within. The dao that guards Prince Azfal is actually an assassin in waiting, and the only thing delaying this order is finding the perfect target to pin the blame. An alternative idea is that Dulcet is an adventuring bard unknowing of her true heritage, but a new sorcerer in the court hoping to kill the Prince hopes to pin the blame on her as the assassin.

I do feel that a secretive bard with anti-divination measures would be far too suspicious for a noble to befriend. Unless of course she had some means of leverage or favors that are too good to refuse. It’s a bit of a weak hook In my opinion.

A notable zookeeper known as Suelasta the Magnificent has come into town with a variety of fantastical creatures. The restraints in place are poor, so when they escape he’ll need to find suitable adventurers to track down the beasts and return them to him alive.

Thoughts So Far: Both chapters paint evocative, distinct cities overflowing with adventure. I like how the Cities of the North have very different themes, with different official colors providing obvious visual cues. It’s a great place for PCs to adventure, be it dungeon delves in Qadib or sailing the high seas in the Corsair Domains. Umara and Utaqa’s position as having a heavy foreigner/barbarian presence provides for good means of integrating PCs from lands beyond Zakhara.

The Cities of the Pearl are not as varied in my opinion, but they still have a good mixture of adventure hooks. I am quite fond of the unknowing weretiger vigilante and the “multiple choice” hooks for plots. I notice that Zakhara’s high-magic nature persists beyond just the heart of Zakhara’s empire; magic is used in commerce and summoned genies are treated as valued assets for personal guards and public works projects. I feel that it really brings out the wondrousness of Abeir-Toril’s ‘high magic’ while not being as arbitrary and extreme as the default Forgotten Realms.

Join us next time as we cover the final two regions in Zakhara: the conservative League of the Pantheon and the lands of the Ruined Kingdoms!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 22:00 on Mar 19, 2020

Dave Brookshaw
Jun 27, 2012

No Regrets


Joe Slowboat posted:

‘Tulpa’ was also the monster in an early fantasy/horror story in which it was a malevolent invisible force like a poltergeist, if I remember correctly. Which has led to its usage as a monster. I think that that usage derived from the Buddhist esoteric practice, but the involuntary or autonomous version in horror fiction has a pretty long history.

E: I may just have remembered wrong since I can’t find evidence of this story; however, a Theosophist did popularize the concept of Tulpas as esoteric Buddhist practice in a very specific Theosophical way in European occultism, which explicitly has them taking on independent lives and needing to be put down, so... that’s probably the root source of Mage Tulpas.

It's the Theosophist term for what they coopted from Buddhism as Thought Forms, yes - an apparition created by the mind.

And now I know more about pony fandom that I did. Or wanted to. So thanks for that.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Dave Brookshaw posted:

It's the Theosophist term for what they coopted from Buddhism as Thought Forms, yes - an apparition created by the mind.

And now I know more about pony fandom that I did. Or wanted to. So thanks for that.

Mine is the joy of sharing knowledge.

Froghammer
Sep 8, 2012





A Tulpa was also the monster of the week in that suburbs episode of the X-Files, so that's ruined too now I guess

Battle Mad Ronin
Aug 26, 2017


Al-Qadim really kicks rear end. I like that it has enough flavor to be interesting, while being independent enough to port over to any setting. All the important NPCs could be humans in a human only setting. Magic feels mostly down-played and folklore-ish rather than standard Forgotten Realms high magic. You could take most of the city stuff and put it into a historical campaign set in some poorly documented minor islamic kingdom.

Xiahou Dun
Jul 16, 2009
BUTTS





Froghammer posted:

A Tulpa was also the monster of the week in that suburbs episode of the X-Files, so that's ruined too now I guess

O god drat it. I really loved that episode. It was the absolute best for playing the X-Files Drinking Game.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Froghammer posted:

A Tulpa was also the monster of the week in that suburbs episode of the X-Files, so that's ruined too now I guess

I recall that there was a first season episode of Supernatural that also featured a tulpa.

Xiahou Dun
Jul 16, 2009
BUTTS





This is mostly at Mors but if anyone else wants to jump in, feel free.

So I'm reading Mors's archived Mage 2e review cause I'm sick and apparently this pissed off 4chan?

quote:

Once, she was Aasiya Ahmed, a woman from a decent Mogadishu family. She knew from youth where ot find shortcuts and safe places, hiding and reappearing at will. Her parents gave up on bringing her into 'proper' society when they realized they could never keep her out of anywhere. She found her way to the secret city, full of ghuls and ifrits, and now, she is Ichneumon, an apprentice of the Silver Ladder, and she knows that secret city is everywhere. Its predators an ddemons move between bodies and shortcuts in the endless city-of-the-mind, and Ichneumon follows, stopping them when she can and looking for their patterns.

I know the answer is going to make me very, very sad, but please tell me what's so terrible about this. My immediate reaction was "African person so we frame magic as ifrits (sic but I'm being really pedantic) is a little cultural appropriation adjacent but pretty mild by WW standards", which I'm gonna guess is definitely what got them pissed off and it's going to be some "delightful" blend of sexism and racism.

Someone care to "enlighten" me? It's just gonna be that she might be Muslim, isn't it. :(

Edit : I just got to reason #2 and... I was overthinking it and it's just cause they're black, right? Ugh. Ugh.

Xiahou Dun fucked around with this message at 11:23 on Mar 20, 2020

Dave Brookshaw
Jun 27, 2012

No Regrets


Xiahou Dun posted:

This is mostly at Mors but if anyone else wants to jump in, feel free.

So I'm reading Mors's archived Mage 2e review cause I'm sick and apparently this pissed off 4chan?


I know the answer is going to make me very, very sad, but please tell me what's so terrible about this. My immediate reaction was "African person so we frame magic as ifrits (sic but I'm being really pedantic) is a little cultural appropriation adjacent but pretty mild by WW standards", which I'm gonna guess is definitely what got them pissed off and it's going to be some "delightful" blend of sexism and racism.

Someone care to "enlighten" me? It's just gonna be that she might be Muslim, isn't it. :(

Edit : I just got to reason #2 and... I was overthinking it and it's just cause they're black, right? Ugh. Ugh.

Despite Khonsu being Awakening's closest thing to a main character (the way Amanda is for Ascension) and having been black since his first appearance, yes. I guess the 2e core was the first time they'd seen him depicted.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Night Horrors: Nameless and Accursed
No, Says The Guardian, And You're Being An Idiot

Lesser Tulpas, as mentioned before, are essentially wild spells that explode out of a Rapt mage's Nimbus when their Fault is ignored too long. Greater Tulpas are intelligent beings, Supernal entities that are drawn though to reality by the Fault. Every time a Rapt manifests their Greater Tulpa, it's the same entity, with the same goals and mind. Walkers, notably, have a special relationship with their Greater Tulpa. For most of their existence, a Walker is trapped in their own Oneiros and unable to do anything. Manifestations of their Greater Tulpa free them, as their soul fuses with the being and controls them. The Tulpa remains no less potent, but has a human mind in charge ratehr than a native of a Supernal Realm. Somehow, this doesn't actually help much.

Lesser Tulpa vary in power based on how much Stress the Rapt has when they are made. Those that can only access their Immediate Nimbus center on the Rapt and last for only a few turns, affecting out several yards based on how good the Rapt is with their Fault's Arcanum.
A Lesser Tulpa that manifests in a Rapt's Signature Nimbus does the same, but also does it centered on everything that has the Rapt's Signature Nimbus left on it, and it lasts for several scenes. The good news is, studying these manifestations with Mage Sight is pretty dang easy and lacks the normal (and uncontrollable) ability of the Rapt to hide their presence. However, because a Tulpa's manifestation is pretty much raw Supernal magic, it's really easy to be overwhelmed by the power of it.
A Lesser Tulpa that manifests in the Long-Term Nimbus will erupt anywhere that the Rapt's Nimbus is actively influencing anyone or anything at the time, for as long as the influence lasts (or until the ST wants them to stop). This also covers a wider area around each center, using the advanced scale chart based on the Rapt's power with the Fault's Arcanum.

A Lesser Tulpa's manifestation has Strength based on a roll of the Rapt's Gnosis. The better it rolls, the higher its Strength. Each Tulpa also matches one or more of the Practices of spellcasting, with more Strength using more powerful Practices or more Practices or both. What the Tulpa actually does is based on the Mage's Fault and Fault-linked Arcanum, and generally use spellcasting rules, but can ignore a lot of the restrictions because they're not controlled spells. They affect anything within the Tulpa's range, and can work in really weird ways, like using Knowing magic to cause everyone to hallucinate information related to the Arcanum. Tulpa eruptions like this are pretty powerful, can combine quite a few effects per Practice involved, and do not cause Paradox or weaken from Dissonance. However, they are always obvious supernatural effects, and they do trigger Quiescence in Sleepers, including the breaking point part, as the Lie forces their minds to reject what is happening. They also leave the Rapt's Signature Nimbus on the entire area. Every effect they cause must be resisted seperately for each effect and each scene, meaning it's possible for a character to suffer some of a Tulpa's effects but not all.

If the Tulpa rolls really badly when generated and gets a dramatic failure, it instead creates a local annullity - an area wherein the linked Arcanum of the Fault is temporarily suppressed. Annulities are normally created with soul stones and can only affect the creator's Inferior Arcanum, and even then they're not common. A Tulpa-made annullity is more potent than soul stone-made ones, too. Normally, an annullity just weakens magic. These still do, but they also have extra effects.
A Death annullity forces any undead creature - ghost, vampire, mummy, whatever - to spend Willpower to do any action that'd take a roll while in it.
A Fate annullity reduces all rolls in its area to chance dice, with no way to boost them at all.
A Forces annullity prevents any Environmental Tilt from happening within it (except Abyssal ones). Any created by magic or normal means just dissipates instantly and harmlessly.
A Life annullity causes small Bashing damage to every living being within it every turn, which absolutely is able to knock out or kill things that stay in it long enough, and causes penalties to all magical or mundane healing, even non-Supernal magic.
A Matter annullity reduces the durability of all inanimate objects within it; magical items can't be reduced to nothing, but mundane ones reduced to 0 Durability crumble the moment anything interacts with them.
A Mind annullity prevents all Willpower spending in its area; it is also impossible to have dreams within one.
A Prime annullity weakens all Supernal magic within its area and also causes Mana costs to rise within it.
A Space annullity reduces the strength of all sympathetic connections within it temporarily, and causes all keys to cease function while in it - both mundane door keys, supernaturally enchanted keys and mystical Keys to magical portals. Also, it is impossible to navigate within one by mundane means.
A Spirit annullity ends all potent spiritual resonance conditions within it and makes them harder to create by any means. Further, it is impossible to cross the Gauntlet within one, either personally or by casting magic through it (or at it).
A Time annullity weakens temporal sympathetic connections within its area, and within one, time ceases passing. You can take actions, but nothing within one ages or decays, and time passes faster outside it - when you leave, you effectively appear in the future, however far the ST feels like. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, years...anything is possible.

Greater Tulpas are worldshakingly potent entities, Supernal beings of the type associated with the Rapt's Fault-linked Arcanum. Their power is based on the Rapt's strength with that Arcanum, which is usually quite high. Its great and all-consuming purpose is to pursue the Fault, and its abilities and form are dictated by this. Once it manifests, it attempts to fulfill the Fault by any means necessary. This may mean it helps the Rapt by getting rid of obstacles or problems or arranging situations, or it may just enact the Fault itself, ignoring the Rapt entirely, if that's possible. Walkers merge with their Greater Tulpas during manifestations, directing them until the manifestation ends. Walker Greater Tulpas are more wide-ranging, as they always count as being in the presence of their Rapt's Nimbus.

A Greater Tulpa that loses all Corpus outside the presence of its Rapt's Nimbus is consumed and destroyed by the Abyss, as other Supernal entities would be. Despite this, the next time the Rapt generates a Greater Tulpa manifestation, an identical entity is summoned; it is unclear to anyone who has looked into it if these are the same entities as before, somehow escaping Abyssal degradation, or new ones. Killing the Rapt severs the Tulpa's connection to the Supernal, but this doesn't automatically get rid of one. It is, however, no longer able to draw power from the Rapt's Nimbus as it would a summoning circle, and so it will be consumed by the Abyss when it runs out of Corpus unless a mage 'summons' it properly first. Killing a Walker's body while their Greater Tulpa is active causes their soul to be consumed with the Tulpa when they eventually fall to the Abyss. It is a grievous Act of Hubris to destroy a Tulpa this way, and particularly a Walker Tulpa, as this actively destroys Supernal power and an Awakened soul.

Rapt souls, as a note, have no special protections, and if you stole their soul and implanted it in someone, Rapture would not be transferred. Giving the Rapt a new soul won't fix them, either. The Fault is an alteration of their soul-vessel, so to speak, in the same way Legacies are, except a Legacy is a careful alteration of your nature and the Fault is a big bloody crack. That said, a soul stone made from a Rapt is dangerous to Wisdom for those who try to make use of it, as it is tapped into their power and their Fault.

So, if a new soul won't fix Rapture...what will? It is curable, which I assume is why these rules are so complex - they can be player-facing, meaning that tracking all this information may be a constant thing rather than a thing only when the NPC is present. The Bellerophon Group is aware that Rapture is curable but have almost never had a chance to try to implement it, and it's difficult. Worse, it's all too easy to fall back into Rapture. A Rapt mage who has zero Stress can sacrifice a full dot of Willpower to be able to spend XP on raising their Wisdom to 1. This ends their Rapture...temporarily. An ex-Rapt is a normal mage in most ways, but does not regain their Virtue or lose their Fault. Their Fault continues to function as a second Vice and free Obsession. A Rapt also retains their savant power. However, any time they use their savant power or regain Willpower via their Fault by any means, they immediately lose all Wisdom again and fall back into Rapture, even if their Wisdom grew higher than 1. They can also still drop back into Rapture through normal Acts of Hubris, though presumably they stick to their old Fault rather than gaining a new one.

Next time: Who Reaches For The Depths

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Mors Rattus posted:

which I assume is why these rules are so complex - they can be player-facing, meaning that tracking all this information may be a constant thing rather than a thing only when the NPC is present.

Also, I get the impression they wanted to open the door to PCs going Rapt and the party dealing with that.

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Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

PurpleXVI posted:

"Enlightened slavery" seems to be an artifact of people being fascinated with certain societies that had slaves, so they tried to portray the slavery as "not that bad, really!" I think Egyptian slavery is probably the example of this that I remember most, and occasionally Greek slavery.

"ah yes but you see he can't simply shoot the slave, that would be illegal, therefore, the slaves have rights and this slavery is very just and proper."

I mean, if we assume that slavery has to exist, then sure, it's better than some forms of slavery. But no form of slavery is better than no slavery at all.

Tibalt posted:

I get the appeal of having Mamluks and Janissaries in your Arabian Nights inspired setting, and I appreciate not wanting slavery and it's accompanied baggage being a central element to your game.

I also understand that trying to minimize and sanitize slavery, even in a very different context from Western chattel slavery, is not going to be a acceptable choice for many players.

I don't think a perfect solution exists, but I do appreciate the intent behind Al-Qadim's choices.

Edit: also, unless there's a whammy coming down the road, I appreciate they stayed true to the historical harem as a feminine space within a home and not the nubile pleasure domes of Orietalist fantasy

Although an injustice of a different kind, the Pearl Cities use debtor's prisons which one could argue are a step up from slavery. I think slavery, along with some other things in the setting, looks very weird when juxtaposed against the more progressive Faerun. Faerun is derived from medieval European tropes (and some other cultures), but historical injustices like serfdom, witch-burning, and misogyny are more or less incredibly rare or confined to the dominion of nations ruled by EVUL governments. It feels like a bit of writers' bias in this regard.

Loxbourne posted:

I think you could have some fun with Wasat as a terribly jaded place where the populace have seen it all before. Firey djinn with whirling swords? That's nice dearie, put him in the corner with the rest.

I'm suddenly reminded of that time how Carl from ATHF is only surprised for a brief time when a robot of XMas Past bursts into his bedroom. He shifts from shock to resignation quite quickly.

PurpleXVI posted:

I like Al-Qadim's take on the gods and religions of the region, absolutely a step up over standard D&D fare, I agree.

Joe Slowboat posted:

I agree - though I think I missed something, since one goddess is noted to have maybe been a storm goddess before Enlightenment and it’s not clear to me why the Great Gods changed their focuses after Enlightenment since some of them still have their less human-specific and abstract domains as well as the Enlightened philosophical domains.

I really like the idea of gods having shifted and developed over time as an element of a fantasy setting, so this stood out to me and I’m wondering if I just overlooked something?

They don't really explain why Jisan switched gears. I suppose that part of it may involve becoming more involved in the affairs of mortalkind which in turn encourages emphasis on different values; and also the adoption of Enlightenment values did change some deities for the better. We talk about it later in the appendices, but the gods that were around during the Loregiver's time (Enlightened gods included) were definitely not very nice people.

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