Friday, January 15, 2021

The Crown of the Sun, Part II

Cultures and Factions

Iramarr

Passing through the city gates, you find yourselves surrounded by a tremendous racket- a smith

hammers away at his forge, an old woman haggles over the price of melons, and some guards play

dice in the shadow of an awning, among a hundred other noises.  People's homes seem to be stacked

atop one another like the adobe bricks they're built from, connected with wooden ladders and 

stairways.  A pictorial sign proclaims the Public Baths to dusty travellers, and above the city, a grand

palace rises on a hill. 

From Under Mountains

Art: Marian Churchland 

Located in the hot, dry central band of the ring-world, these people are settled, agricultural, and reliant

on elaborate irrigation setups.  Most of their population consists of small-scale farmers.

One of the more technologically advanced peoples of the Crown- they've rediscovered indoor plumbing,

for one thing.  Their main city, Kukkutarma, is the region's center of trade.

Their society is ruled by two co-monarchs, the Sun King and the Water Queen.  The Sun King is really

more of a high priest, responsible for spiritual matters and considered a link between the mortal world

and the gods.  The Water Queen holds power over secular affairs- her title comes from the fact that

her primary duty is to ensure that systems like the canals that provide water for irrigation stay operational.

 

Zhailin

A lone rider approaches you, atop a strange beast- some sort of furred biped.  As she comes closer,

she holds her hands up, signalling for a peaceful parley.  She wears embroidered woolen garments

and intricately beaded leather boots, with a shortbow strapped to her back.

marian churchland | Explore Tumblr Posts and Blogs | Tumgir

One of their steeds, known as a boose (Marion Churchland, again).

Nomadic herders of giant goats, indigenous to the grassy highlands.  They continually move about

so as not to wear out any one patch of grazing land.  Their weavers produce exquisite cloaks and

carpets, which they trade with more settled folk.

Ridiculously skilled at archery- they train as hunters from childhood, and these skills carry over

eminently well into warfare.

Each band is governed by a shaman (treat as druid).  These holy individuals are never seen without

their ritual masks from their initiation until their death. 

Their culture has a deep-seated taboo against exploring or scavenging from the "dead mounds", as they

call the ancient ruins that litter the landscape.  This is reinforced by the fact that every so often, 

someone decides to do so anyway, and gets mauled by constructs for their trouble.

Their funerary customs typically consist of leaving the dead in an isolated location, to be consumed

by crows and vultures.  They believe that the soul can only reincarnate when the flesh is gone, so the

scavengers hasten the passage to the next life.

 

Delvers

Outside the ruins, you come across an encampment of colorful tents, painted with sigils to ward off

the evils below the earth.  Two young men are sparring with staves, and an archery target has been

chalked onto a nearby tree.  On a patch of barren ground, a person wrapped in heavy protective

garments is disassembling the remains of a steel-beast.

More of a proto-trade guild than a tribe/nation/etc., these people make their living by scrounging in

ancient ruins.  They're not particularly organized, but an experienced and charismatic delver can

often assemble a band of ten or twenty souls for expeditions.  Because of the high rate of occupational

fatalities, they're always recruiting fresh meat.

In terms of gameplay, these are the people who are willing to work as hirelings for the party.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Crown of the Sun

 A Shameless Ripoff of Larry Niven

 

Orion's Arm - Encyclopedia Galactica - Ringworlds

 

This region of the Starsail setting was something I introduced in the last campaign I ran before

quarantine started.  I'm expanding on the concept here, since I wasn't able to flesh it out as fully

as I would have liked.

 

The Forerunners built on a truly grand scale.

Their creations were brought into the worlds not only to serve their needs, but to feed their pride.

The Crown of the Sun was the greatest of these- a hoop of earth and metal, set in orbit around a star

as a vast ribbon of habitable land.   Its ecosystem was created from scratch, with flora and fauna

imported from a hundred worlds, and vast panels of arcane shadow set in motion across its skies

to create a day/night cycle.

 

Horizon Zero Dawn's first patch fixes some crashes | Rock Paper Shotgun


What was once a beacon of near-godlike technology and magic has fallen into a dark age.

The descendants of the people who built gates between the stars are illiterate subsistence farmers and

hunter-gatherers, with no memory of what came before.  A few groups are rediscovering things like

running water and the windmill, but they're few and far between.

 

The biggest problem keeping the locals from advancing technologically is the lack of usable metal.

Their ancestors preferred harvesting asteroids to tunneling into the ground, and they didn't create

any deposits of ore on their artificial world.  What metal exists is mainly part of various ruined

buildings or mechanical constructs, and the latter actively resist being scrapped for parts.

 

Because of the sheer amount of living space available (the Crown has thousands of times the surface

area of most inhabited planets), there's a great deal of cultural diversity.  News travels at the speed

of a fast horse, at best, and many groups are separated by living on remote islands or in isolated

river valleys.


Why Horizon Zero Dawn Doesn't Let You Control The Machines - GameSpot


The creatures built as pets, or weapons, or living works of art have gone feral, creating a strange, but

stable ecosystem over the millenia of isolation.  Some are chimeras created by biomancers, while

others are self-replicating machines.  Many are ridiculously dangerous.

 

The artificial intelligence built to maintain the megastructure made a great sacrifice in the last days of

the war, as the Mindplague drove its siblings to insanity.  It voluntarily, permanently reduced itself to

the bare minimum of thought needed to keep essential functions running.  In human terms, the heart

was still beating and the lungs still drawing breath, but the consciousness gone for good.


Biomes

Burned Lands

Areas of magical wasteland created by war or accidents.  More details in this post.

City Ruins

The remains of ancient settlements show that the people of the Crown must have been far more 

numerous in the distant past.  These areas tend to be home to the most dangerous constructs, some

of which behave like they're guarding something precious. 

Useful for scavenging materials, and the primary source of metal for many of the local tribes.

Civilized Lands

Farmlands and inhabited cities.  Some are just collections of wooden huts, while others have indoor

plumbing and a code of law.  Feudalism is widespread, but not universal.

Forests

In ancient times, these were manicured, park-like preserves.  Now, they're seas of foliage with a

tendency to drown adventurers.  Some patches have ruins at their hearts.

Grasslands

Huge stretches of prairie and steppe, home to nomadic tribes of Altered.  Many of the grasses are

actually food crops, now growing wild.

Mountains

Concentrated along the ring's edges, stretching up for kilometers.  A wide variety of flying animals.

Some areas have networks of ancient tunnels, built for reasons unclear.

Ocean

Rarely more than 100 meters deep, dotted with islands.  A wide variety of showy marine life-

forests of bioluminescent kelp, iridescent fish- you get the idea.


How To Get Here

The gate network beyond known space is notoriously unreliable, so most captains outright refuse to

take their ships beyond the well-maintained areas.  Most people willing to venture out into the true

unknown are either explorers financed by one of the Great Powers, or on the run from something.

Once you've got your ship to the system, the main obstacle to landing on the Crown of the Sun is

its asteroid-defense system.  The fragile structure is protected by a network of satellites, which 

automatically destroy any object coming in at too high a speed.  Their radiant weaponry puts modern-day

cannons to shame, so taking them out is both unlikely and inadvisable.  However, if you can manage

to bring your ship towards the structure slowly enough, the network won't register a threat.

(Of course, there's also the option of simply stranding the PCs there- open your story with everyone

huddled in a lifeboat, and an unknown land seen from the portholes.)

Because of the difficulty of landing a ship without it being shot down, very few vessels have landed

since the Forerunners' society fell apart.

 

Image Sources: Orion's Arm, Horizon Zero Dawn


Monday, December 28, 2020

1d100 Storage Crate Contents

At various times in games, I've been annoyed when the crates placed around the map as strategic

cover or to give an area some texture turned out not to be openable for my magpie-like looting

tendencies.  In order to prevent this issue, have a table.

 

1- Old clothes

2- Canned peaches

3- Geological samples

4- Horrible MREs

5- Obsolete electronics

6- Fertilizer

7- Common medications (analgesics, antacids, etc.)

8- Plush toys

9- Bar soap

10- Towels

11- Nuts and bolts

12- Lacy undergarments

13- Copper ingots

14- Safety goggles

15- Hats

16- A suit of combat armor, sized for someone much larger/smaller than you

17- Duct tape 

18- Expired medications

19- Blankets

20- Ammunition

21- Batteries

22- Sewing supplies

23- Cleaning rags

24- Scientific glassware

25- Candy

26- Flowerpots

27- Rock salt

28- Cosmetics

29- Sports equipment

30- Pots and pans

31- Assorted power cables

32- Books

33- Rubber gloves

34- Yarn

35- Incense

36- A tablecloth

37- Rice

38- Dried fish

39- Socks

40- Instrument strings

42- Cheap perfume

43- Bandages

44- Pet food

45- Teacups

46- Hand tools (hammers, wrenches, etc.)

47- Herbal supplements

48- Paintbrushes

49- Candles 

50- Tubes of caulking

51- Fine liquor

52- Firearms

53- Vehicle parts

54- Tea

55- Wigs

56- Shoes

57- T-shirts

58- A wetsuit and swim fins

59- Festive holiday decorations

60- Old books

61- Dozens of pairs of goggles

62- Art supplies

63- A rolled-up rug

64- Assorted toiletries

65- Spices

66- Medical equipment

67- Umbrellas

68- Tarps

69- Laundry detergent

70- Pamphlets

71- Jewelry (cheap)

72- Prosthetic limbs

73- Cans of spray paint

74- Gardening supplies

75- Rubber tubing

76- Disinfectant

77- Bottles of hair product

78- Formal wear

79- Foam-dart guns and ammunition

80- Crystals

81- Beer koozies

82- A Ship-Child's suit

83- Hundreds of glass marbles

84- Extremely stale baked goods

85- Iron-on patches, assorted

86- Containers of purified water

87- Foil emergency blankets

88- Gaming miniatures

89- Hand warmers

90- Yoga mats

91- An elaborate dancer's outfit

92- An incredibly complicated board game

93- A sleeping bag

94- An institutional-size can of vanilla pudding

95- A disassembled mannequin

96- Cleaning supplies

97- Power tools

98- Snack foods

99- Silverware

100- Nothing- it's empty

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Things To Do On Volny

 Castle In The Sky | Disney Movies

As I've mentioned before, Volny is a gas giant which inexplicably has a habitable zone in its upper

atmosphere littered with floating islands.  Their total land area is many times larger than any of the

rocky worlds.  Below the islands is a vast "sea" of methane and other toxic gases, unsurvivable for most

life-forms without special equipment.  This region is known as the Deep Sky, and is home to many 

strange beasts.


- The Guild of Biomancers are always looking for interesting flora and fauna for their research.  

Capture a rare beast for them, and bring it back alive. 

- A local orchard has a problem with pegasi.  Unfortunately, it's illegal to kill them, as many religions

consider them sacred.  Drive them off through non-lethal means.

-  Ancient ships occasionally rise up out of the Deep Sky, buoyed by atmospheric currents.  One's been

sighted, but it's heavily guarded by constructs.  Given that the security systems are intact, there's likely

to be valuable artifacts still inside.

-  The local sewers are infested with a rapidly-growing population of oozes.  The Biomancers deny all

involvement.

- A gang of kenku pickpockets and burglars have set up shop in the abandoned temple on the outskirts

 of town.  Bring their leader in to the Watch.

- A remote settlement is plagued by flying predators (gryphons, wyverns, etc.- adjust to the party's level.)

- The powers that be have placed a bounty on a gang of sky pirates who are harasssing shipping lanes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Giff

There's already a "playable race" version of giff here, so this post will focus on culture/biology details.

 

Some appropriate theme music for these folks. 

 

 The giff homeworld is the planet Falchester, notable for its wet climate (it ranges from sleet-soaked

moors to tropical swamps) and its mineral wealth.  They share this planet with the gnomes- more

about them later.

Being both very large and herbivorous, they eat unbelievable volumes of food.  It's a common party

trick for them to crush melons or pumpkins open in their jaws.  Because of their sheer size, they

can also drink most humanoids under the table.  It takes a lot to get people who average about two

or three times the weight of a human drunk.

It's hard for most outsiders to tell males and females of the species apart- the women tend to be a bit

smaller, but that's about all.  Their society doesn't put too much emphasis on gender distinctions,

in any case- the real dividing line is between soldiers and civilians, not men and women.

Giff are tremendously strong, which they take great pride in.  They may look more like barrels than

athletes, but they move faster than you would expect for something that large.

 

man being chased by hippo | Hungry hippos, Hippopotamus, Animals

 

The concept of the "indoor voice" is entirely foreign to them.  In more primitive times, they

would establish who was in charge through roaring and charging at each other, and this tendency

never entirely went away.  If they need to intimidate someone, they won't go for subtle threats-

lifting a twelve-foot dining table over your head and looming menacingly is more their style.

 Giff are just as bombastic when they're in a jovial mood as when they're angry.  Getting slapped on

the back by one can easily lead to cracked ribs.


Alex Louis Armstrong (Character) - Giant Bomb

Like this, but with grey skin and tusks.

 

They have a cultural obsession with tea, which they discovered from the elves, who were the first

to cultivate it.   Unlike the elves, who prefer delicate blends and practice the art of the tea ceremony,

they generally take it in liter-sized mugs, with so much cream and sugar that you can stand a spoon

up in the brew.  Having adequate supplies of the stuff is just as crucial on board one of their ships

as hardtack and gunpowder.  

Because their hands are rather large and blunt, they favour the kind of weapons that don't necessarily

require a great deal of dexterity.  With the rediscovery of gunpowder, they immediately set about 

creating the biggest hand-cannons possible, instead of aiming for things like "fine calibration".Pepper-box - Wikipedia  

The giff approach to pistols.

 

Most giff aren't terribly religious, preferring to put their faith in their comrades and superior firepower.

However, some worship deities such as Kord and Moradin.  As for magic, they prefer to leave it to

the gnomes.  The rare giff who study the arcane arts tend to focus on the kind of spells that result

in massive amounts of fire damage.

Their culture puts a great deal of emphasis on propriety and obedience- to one's superiors in the chain

of command, to the law, and to more abstract responsibilities.  Relatively few of them turn pirate, but

plenty willingly follow unjust orders from a commander.  The best among them are deeply devoted

to justice, while the worst will bring suffering on countless others without ever technically breaking

a law. 


Sunday, December 13, 2020

Tieflings

St Peter's Basilica in Rome, Italian Renaissance architecture, and UNESCO  world heritage site. Interior views, of the domed ceiling with sacred  artwork and frescoes. - Stock Photo - Dissolve 

 

 The tieflings are the descendants of an empire that brought all the known world under its yoke,

making pacts with dark powers in order to fuel its endless expansion.  Eventually, it collapsed- 

a combination of internal strife, "barbarian" invasions, and the spread of subversive new ideas.

Its jagged black ruins still litter the landscape, but its power is broken forever.  The neighbouring

peoples are deeply thankful for this, as traders make much better neighbours than conquerors.

 

Tiefling society is divided up into a collection of city-states, which are continually involved in webs

of alliances, feuds, and betrayals.   It's rare for them to agree on anything- even when they unite in

the face of an outside threat, it's temporary.  The aristocratic class and the wealthier merchants

are continually involved in intrigues and conspiracies, which often end with someone being poisoned.


The overwhelming majority of tieflings are followers of the Martyred God, ranging in piety from 

mere lip service to the divine teachings to saintly devotion.  The faith is known for its emphasis on

self-sacrifice, its vast number of saints, and its followers' love of incense.

 

St Sebastian (Rubens) - Wikipedia


Ironically, their ancestors were the most fervent persecutors of the faith in its early days, but the new

ideas caught on too well with the common people to be stamped out, spreading to all levels of 

society.  The highest temple of the sect is situated in what was once the capital of their empire, 

and the arena where "heretical" clerics were once fed to chimeras is a short walk  

from a magnificent cathedral dedicated to the new religion.  ("New" being a relative term here- it's

been roughly a millenium since the change in state religions.)

 

The Martyrist church has an intricate bureaucracy, with a great many priests and monks keeping the

apparatus running.  Because of its sheer size, it's long been prone to corruption- even the most 

tireless reformers could never remove every last bad apple from the proverbial barrel.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

1d100 Town/Village Names

 All of these places really exist- make of that what you will.


1- East Hagbourne

2- Glemsford

3- Luntley

4- Yelling

5- Steeple Bumpstead

6- Fen Ditton

7- Bald Head

8- Dull

9- Long Melford

10- Three Chimneys

11- Chipping

12- Binsted

13- Easedale

14- Lone Tree

15- Salt Lick

16- Todendorf

17- Polperro

18- Lower Waddon

19- Selworthy

20- Chiselborough

21- Little Rollright

22- Grasmere

23- Shaftesbury

24- Matterdale

25- Clun

26- Great Bardfield

27- Ribchester

28- Quainton

29- Pluckley

30- Epperstone

31- Lund

32- Laxton

33- Hambledon

34- Grinshill

35- Godstone

36- Slippery Rock

37- Feckenham

38- Chillingham

39- Edzell

40- Eastleach

41- Doddington

42- Dent

43- Oare

44- Danby

45- Croston

46- Crayke

47- Colsterworth

48- Ham Lake

49- Pleshey

50- Waterfoot

51- Sparrowpit

52- Craster

53- Osmotherley

54- Deddington

55- Sapperton

56- Dunsfold

57- Ickleton

58- Plockton

59- Chelsworth

60- East Bilney

61- Brill

62- Hassop

63- Otterton

64- Landmark

65- Flamborough

66- Gnaton

67- Bryant's Puddle

68- Winster

68- Chollerton

69- Port Shrigley

70- Blanchland

71- Kettlewell

72- Warter

73- Tattingstone

74- Rendlesham

75- Smarden

76- Seale

77- Rabbit Hash

78- Axmouth

79- Beetham

80- Borth

81- Pebworth

82- Old Deer

83- Nunney

84- Minstead

85- Meavy 

86- Kippford

87- Horninghold

88- High Ham

89- Garvald

90- Dogtown 

91- Foyers

92- Helpston

93- Mousehole

94- Horseheads

95- Great Snoring

96- Giggleswick

97- Fittleworth

98- Biddenden

99- Dunster

100- Ickwell