In the Roman model, if you weren't part of a core group of 14 families (if I recall correctly), you weren't really a Roman citizen. You could have something similar, so that the Dokoren wouldn't really be nobility, but those without the right social class/ancestry would be excluded from certain government positions. Go to Comment
Historically speaking, the only really effective way to keep the barbarians out was by draining your coffers in tribute, & waiting for them to get lazy from your hard-earned wealth being given to them. Over sufficient time (decades to several generations), the barbarians grow accustomed to the material wealth of civilised lands, lose their strength as warriors (as they no longer have to constantly fight), and are either integrated into the society giving tribute, or are the first slain (as they are on the borders and thus in the way) when a new and even more barbarous group invades. This has happened in eastern and southern Asia, eastern Europe (several times), and in north and western Africa. It seems to be the nature of things that more civilised societies are destroyed by barbaric invaders. This has happened quite often throughout history. Other methods of trying to stop the barbarians just don't seem to work, at least not in the long term. Hiring other barbarians as mercenaries only means you have opened up your borders freely to that group, and informed them in no uncertain terms that you not only have wealth, but are unable to defend it... and you invited them in... Trying to get into a war of attrition with barbaric invaders is usually foolish, as their lifestyle is more cost-effective, they can better withstand a prolonged onslaught. By taking the battle to them, instead of waiting for them to invade, you are now fighting on their soil, they can convince other tribes to stop your invasion, can easily just keep running away from your armies, armies which need to be kept paid and fed, which grows ever more difficult when you are deep into the wilderness fighting an enemy that seems to just dissappear. Go to Comment
That sounds like the Mongols, EchoMirage, or the Romans.
The idea of using horses as status is interesting. It's similar to feudalism, but with steeds rather than land, which makes more sense for a semi-nomadic people. Once upon a time in what is now India, cattle were used as important status symbols. Remnants of this still echo today. Even the English word "daughter" derives from a Sanskrit word meaning "milk-maid." Go to Comment
Wet could be a disparaging remark for someone who was slovenly and wasteful, i.e. a LowLander. The term implies that the person is so wasteful with a basic necessity of life--water--that he or she would just bathe in it.
Usages: "You're all wet." "Your horse can't carry so much; don't be wet."
Poki means "thief," specifically, an Orcen who steals from his or her own people instead of taking something in a valid raid. Litterally, this referrs to a small bag, such as what a thief would use to cart away stolen goods. Usage of the term has been broadened over the past few generations to mean "sneaky," and the like. Poki can be used as either a noun, verb, or descriptor (adjective/adverb).
Usages: "I can't find my skinning knife, did someone poki it?" "You can't trust what she says, she's too poki." Go to Comment
Actual copies of an old pc are an integral part of my current story arc. One was identical, even down to attack style, dress, & personality, another was seen wandering about in a near-catatonic daze, a third dead & faceless on a train station platform (recognisable by the distinctive outfit), and a final one (thus far) having taken on a completely different persona & sharing only physical features with the original. The scary part for the current pc's is that the original was a nearly unstoppable martial artist, and far more experienced/powerful than the current crop of characters. At the close of the previous campaign "chapter," this character & her beau went off on an extended romantic cruise around the world. As immortal Elves, this trip may last for months or millenia, and no one has heard from her since she left... until the copies started showing up. I've hinted in previous campaigns that cloning (at least of mortals such as Humans) was possible, and may be found far to the south in the country within which they are currently residing. The pc's also have evidence that at least the first copy was a variety of Undead, and this could explain all of the rest save for the last one encountered.
Mirroring pc's is one of my favourite lazy GM tricks. I started by creating an NPC nemesis for a Deathmask (female assassin in Darkurthe Legends). Deathmask's need to be close to their home base to gain level advancements, so I needed some way to allow her to advance without uprooting the campaign for her roadtrip. Thus the rogue Deathmask was born from the original pc's stats, plus a few levels.
Since then I have created a number or NPC's based upon the pc's they opposed. Some were nearly verbatim from the pc's character sheet, some were created to be dark opposites. One, for example, turned his great intelligence towards technology, whereas his brother (the pc) turned his intelligence towards magic. This particular NPC far outlived the original pc, and became a staple of the Midian game world until his untimely demise.
In addition to these, I have re-used old pc's I created but never used. These recycled pc's are already fully completed, with full mechanics, skills, personality, etc. If I need something a bit more powerful, then I use an old experienced pc of mine. If this character was used previously--or the players would already know of it--then I change the name & possibly (but not often) whatever other minor details are needed to obfuscate the identity. The key here is to remember that this is not the actual pc. It is simply a collection of mechanics, equipment, personality, & history, that you are using as an NPC--if the character is killed, then it's no greater loss than any other NPC's demise.
The greatest threat to all pc's is other pc's. If you cannot enlist someone in the group (or another group), then reuse their own old characters against them as fully-fleshed NPC's. While it's just as easy for me (if not more so) to drop in an undefeatably powerful NPC as a common shopkeep or peasant, such is not enjoyable for the players or myself. It's a much greater challenge for all involved if the foe is completely within the confines of the rules, created & experienced legitimately, and played to the fullest extent. The players won't know what hit them.
Another option is a sort of reverse mirror. In that same Darkurthe game mentioned previously, there was a powerful & mysterious mage who, though he occassionally proved helpful, often opposed the party--his true aims were never theirs to discover. I later created a much younger & less-powerful version to be a companion NPC to the party & sidekick of one of the pc's. (This was the acutal mage when he was younger; I had a time-jump major story arc planned but the game stopped before then due to scheduling conflicts.) Go to Comment
I admit that I like lots of little magics (or other genre specifics), even though I agree that cart-loads of powerful magic items can lower the enjoyment of a game, as it can devolve into an arms race. With the pixie example, I would not see that as a bad thing. In this instance, the player was using his or her mind, rather than dully pulling out the magical equivalent to a BFG.
One option to use, is an idea created by Chris Magoun for Runebearer. Magic items' powers are based in part on the abilities and experience of their wielder. Thus, the players may have found the Sword of the Ubermensch, but it's a rather low-powered item in their hands. This not only serves to reduce the arms race issue, but adds to the history of each item (Runebearer magic items are unique), and encourages characters to keep items with personal history (can you imagine Elric ditching Stormbringer because he found a sword with one more "plus" on it?), which serves to further limit the number of magic items in a campaign--the GM doesn't need to upgrade the players' equipment with newer & ever-more powerful items.
I run a rather low magic world. In Midian, there are two types of magic items. There are more common & utilitarian items, and unique magic items. The former are rather limited in scope, and some of these would likely not be considered magical in our world. For example, the Vicious Claives found in the Farreaches & Heldannic lands is simply a basket-handled jagged knife, magicked so that the wounds it causes heal more slowly. In another example, a self-lighting & self-trimming lamp is bronze-age technology to us, but is a wondrous technomantic item for the people of Midian. Unique magic items are much more fun. I have found that a well-written history (especially one well-integrated into the campaign) can more than make up for a lack of powerful magic. For example, the Lotax's Armour (properly called the "Meteoric Plate Mail of Chaos") was essentially just a very thick breastplate with spiked shoulder pieces. However, it was highly sought following Lotax's death, in more than one campaign. This was due less to the actual utility of the armour, than it was to the "coolness" factor given by the item's history, description, and integration into the campaign. Go to Comment
I knew a lady who had her own "kitchen god," the Turnpike Goddess. This diety supposedly watched out for her while driving along turnpikes/highways/freeways. As long as she always did the right thing--use turn signals when changing lanes, etc.--then she would arrive safely at her destination on time. One of the Turnpike Goddess's rules was that no matter how fast you drove, someone would always pass you. By failing to placate the TG, this speeding person would zoom ahead into a line at the toll booth, which would then slow down so that whomever gave proper propriations would then get into the faster lane, and be further ahead than the speedster. While the TG's abilities extended only to open roads on long-distance journeys, she could supposedly always hear what was said about her, so it was ill-advised to make fun of someone professing belief in her. Go to Comment
He relies more on personal reputation (of the seller) and documentation that may accompany a piece than by closely examining them himself (which his colourblindness effects less than one might suppose). He also keeps tabs on major art dealings, and where important pieces are held, thus is likely to be aware if one of them was sold or stolen. If he can honestly assure a potential buyer that a painting is genuine--and back this up if needed--then Gregory doesn't really care if it's real or not.
I found this character rather fun to play, and is useful either for comedic value or as a delaying/nuisance encounter. Go to Comment
If only this thread was started in another year or so, when this idea was more developed... but I've been sitting on it for about 12 years now, so I might as well start working on it now... MoonHunter, you made me search for hours through my ooooold notes to find this.
By coincidence, the Way of the Night was meant to be the rogue "shake 'em up" style of magic for the Conquest book, as opposed to the other "new" traditions which would only be the published release of older (to the game world's inhabitants) established styles. What's posted here is still far from being ready for inclusion in Midian, and the final version may be quite different. However, this is a Strolen exclusive, not even found on the Midian forums. You read it here first, folks.
Quote from: "Scrasamax"
One of the core concepts that I have found is that most settings have only one form of magic, and nothing else.
Indeed, one of the core concepts of Midian was that there should be a plenitude of different types of magic, with many different theories--each equally valid--for why magic works, or at least why that particular variety of magic works.
At first glance Rax, the Way of the Night, seems to have much in common with Demon cults. However, there doesn't seem to be a Greater Demon named "Rax," nor is there any religious or pseudo-religious aspect to this magic. The core of Rax is that its practitioners gain dark knowledge which allows them to replicate other spells, or create new ones. (I have yet to establish how these practitioners initially gain this ability.) Rather than study a particular magical skill, or read an established ritual, these mages simply "know" how to perform a given feat. However, the steps to perform these dark knowledge rituals doesn't match any other tradition, and cannot be taught or duplicated by someone without being a Rax practitioner. For example, while a necromancer needs to create a protection circle to animate a zombie, and utilise candles on the corpse during an hours-long ritual, someone using the Way of the Night might only write a magical symbol on the chest of the corpse in blood. Anyone who carefully observes this act, and tries to duplicate it--whether or not he or she already knows the normal means of animation--would be unable to do more than bloody up a dead body.
The bulk of the dark knowledge gained via Rax is in the form of dark glyphs and words of power. However, thes mystic symbols and terms do not match any previous system of runes, glyphs, circles, or other mystic symbols, nor do they have any sort of internal methodology. A practitioner of Rax may create an entirely different symbol to evoke the same magical effect at a different time. However, another Rax practitioner may use a very similar symbol for a completely different effect. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason to it at all.
This method of magic is viewed by some loremasters as an odd form of insanity, perhaps coupled with some form of as-yet-unknown psychic gift. This view is contradicted by three facts: one, it works--quite well, two, the followers of the Way of the Night can identify one another instinctively, and three, they are quite insightful in matters Demonic. For example, one using Rax may know the name of a Demon that he or she has never before met. This knowledge, as with their other knowledge, is "just known" without study, deduction, or experience.
In addition to the time-savings of not having to study magic, learn from a teacher, read from a scroll, or research a ritual, the Way of the Night is typically much faster than a comperable rite would normall be. By only having to create a dark glyph for an effect, instead of a lengthy ritual, Rax's speed is nearly that of most sorceries.
Another facinating aspect of Rax is that it's followers do not seem to be subject to soul-stealing magics. That is, one sacrificed by a necromancer is still dead, but the spirit cannot be trapped inside an object to be tortured later. It is as though some other force has already claimed the soul as its own. Perhaps this is why some followers of Rax simply disappear without a trace, never to be seen again...
How this affects the game world
This is not an art practiced by old mages. Instead, a teenage practitioner may be wielding power that a centuries-experienced spellcaster would never be able to match. Some wizards master several traditions, or at least add some knowledge from them as part of a vast magical repertoire. However, as a practitioner of Rax doesn't need such--nor see the need for it--this is likely the only form of magic that its followers will learn. Even an apprentice wizard who later gains the "gift" of dark knowledge may never again learn other magics.
Loremasters will be flummoxed by this. They won't be able to make any sense of this new art. There will inevitably be theories put forth to explain it, but the truth may never be revealed. This is a strange, powerful, and rather creepy form of magic. Even such entities as seemingly knowledgeable as Greater Demons or Dragons don't know what this is all about, or if they do know, they aren't telling.
Areas that ban congress with Demons will readily prohibit the Way of the Night. Even those areas where such is not illegal may consider making this magic an unlawful act.
Other traditions--even such as neithermancers, summoners, and necromancers--will disavow Rax. For some, this will be jealosy--they had to study & practice for years to gain their level of magic, only to have someone "just know" how to perform the same and greater spells. For other mages, this is just fear--they are as confused and frightened by this new form of magic as a non-spellcaster. For yet others, this is only a public-relations issue--they don't want to confuse their identity with the followers of Rax, nor do they want to be associated with anything that might go wrong with respect to those practitioners.
Depending on how easy I decide to make this "gift" be found, there may be Rax followers popping up all over. I expect this to be readily used & abused by players. However, they may be sadly disappointed when their GM simply takes their character away--he or she just disappeared--without any explanation given.
Regardless of the ease or difficulty in following the Way of the Night, it will be sought after by many as a quick and easy road to power, as compared to other traditions. Even though some cultists gain spell knowledge readily from Demons, such doesn't allow them to instantly and instinctively know how to create magic that wasn't expressly taught by their unholy masters. Also, as there doesn't seem to be an overseeing sentient entity there wouldn't be the same attachments and obligations associated with serving a Demon. Failed wizards apprentices, lazy would-be spellcasters, socially inept youth, wannabe cultists, and the disenfranchised of all sorts will seek this out, usually for such petty reasons as revenge, attention, quick power, or a misguided belief that everything in their life will fall into place once they have this power. Go to Comment
Magic in Midian is rather low powered, but not difficult to learn--and spells are handled as skills. Thus, most pc's will have some degree of mystical skill, even if the average NPC has no need to learn any magic, and does not even encounter any on a regular basis.
As science, technology, and psionics, are viewed as forms of magic, the complete removal of all magic would only be the result of a complete breakdown of the laws of physics. If those supernatural elements that a modern worldly person might consider magic are removed (as well as ultra-tech indistinguishable from magic), then there would not be major changes to the world. Indeed, the average peasant farmer might only learn of the world's loss of magic through rumour.
Dragons would completely cease to exist. Most extrinsics would die or be spontaneously banished. A few communities would be devastated, as they rely upon magic or their ruling class does at least. These however would be the exception instead of the rule. As magic is not used extensively for food, travel, communication, war, or government, life will continue largely without interruption. There will be some minor shake-ups--especially from a 'trickle down' effect--and most pc's would have a difficult time adjusting, though. Go to Comment
While in most worlds, anagathics would cause widespread social chaos and necessitate many changes, in Midian this probably wouldn't be the case. Elves and other Fae (with the notable exception of Hobgoblins) are already immortal. Their societies have never had mortality as an issue, so there would not be any changes, even if the rest of the world stopped aging. There is a rumour that some mutant Firps aren't showing any signs of aging. However, the mutants are banished from their city-state, and have more of a problem with surviving other obstacles than those associated with advanced age. If it were readily available, the faster breeding races (Humans & Orcks) would slowly gain even more of a numeric advantage, but that is occurring regardless of their lifespan. For Orcks, their lifespan is a century or two, biologically speaking, but due to their cultural and environmental pressures the practical average lifespan is reduced to about 30 years. As most of the major Human nations--along with the Killian Empire--are hereditary monarchies (and currently in capable hands), there would be an elimination of the typical minor chaos that surrounds a new ruler taking the throne. There is a chance that Formour will become an informal geriatocracy, as that culture favours experience and wisdom. Byzant would be the nation with the greatest changes, regardless of the availability of agathics, with the gap between the wealthy (and now near immortal) and the poor widening. However, this condition already strongly exists there, the only real change would be that money will change hands less. For some, the cost of immortality would never be too high, but these are likely to seek out Undeath as a viable option. For others, immortality would not necessarily be seen as a good thing--such as the Human who worries that he and his countrymen would become as strange and aloof as the already-immortal Elves.
For the record, the life expectancies in Midian (without agathics) are as follows:
Dwarf: 200-350 years
Elf (or other Fae): Immortal
Firp: 40-60 years (legends talk of much older Firps)
Ghoul: unknown; estimated to be at least 100 years outside of hibernation
Hobgoblin: 50-80 years
Human (all varieties): 50-110 years
Killian: 50-800 years (upper end reputed from antiquity)
Ogre: 150-300 years (estimated)
Orck: 100-200 years (cut them in-two and count the rings)
Troll: 40-400 years Go to Comment
One of the things I do as a multi-classed game designer/Game Master/PbP moderator is to incorporate the theme of the upcoming supplement to Midian into big story arcs. This not only aids in the Immersive Game World idea, but helps prepare the players/fans for the upcoming book.
Thus, with Famine--Wild Wastes--The Dark Horse, there was a reduction in the global food supply caused by a change in the weather. It is believed that warring elementalists of great power may have disrupted the natural order. Excessive rains in northwestern Formour & the western half of the Heldannic Confederation caused localised flooding, washing away of topsoil, and a corruption of the water supply. These areas were sparsely inhabited, but the effects of the climate change were far more widespread than were those changes themselves.
In addition to crops being destroyed by floods, many fields were damaged by soil erosion, limiting or even preventing replacement crops being grown after the floodwaters subsided. The groundwater was affected by bacterial infection, which spread rapidly as the diseased population (and animals both domestic and wild) had no option but to evacuate into the waters. The floods also greatly hindered movement, both away from the aflicted area and bringing in emergency supplies. With the area being on the outskirts of civilization, local resources taxed beyond their limits, and the national government not being able to effectively send relief, many turned to banditry when their farms were lost... either to the floods or to other bandits. Of course, not a few of these bandits were not local, but rather opportunists who came there to make a bad situation worse. Further complications arose when the excessive rainfall of one season meant a drought followed, as the normal patterns were disrupted.
With the wild animals being driven out of their homes, and the sudden reduction in food, the animals fled the area. This not only made it more difficult for the surviving sentients, but caused wolves, Hobgoblins, and Changing Folk (Lycanthropes) to come down from the nearby Farreaches in search of prey. This even further caused animals to flee and sentients to die.
The population fled in droves: homes were flooded, food gone, bandits & predators increasing, and the growing sickness, brought the infant mortality rate close to 100%. This sudden influx of people into new areas strained the resources there, which had a shuffling effect of migrating & starving people, and further escalated the problem. As the Kingdom of Formour is very much an agricultural nation, it relies upon a dense network of small villages, roadways, and farms, for its very life. Formour exports grain, grain products, and other foods to most of the rest of Midian. This drove food prices up worldwide--as much as doubled in some areas--and similarly caused inflation in businesses peripherally related to food crops. That is, horses & cattle became more expensive outside of Formour (where prices dropped as they were slaughtered en masse to prevent the poor animals from starvation). Caravans became more expensive as both grains & horses increased in cost, and all major military expeditions worldwide temporarily stopped due to the expense.
The plains & forrests of Formour were the worst for flooding and the loss of grains & other food, but travel in or out was slightly easier than in their northern neighbours in the Heldannic Confederation. There the rougher terrain forced the water to runoff into streams becoming raging torrents, blocking all movement of Human, Dwarf, Troll, or animal. This water had to go somewhere... so it added to the flooding problems further south. The relative isolation and difficulty of travel caused the death rate amongst the Heldanns to be even greater than the Formourians. Only a few communities in the western half of the Heldannic Confederation survived.
To make the inhabitants of Midian suffer even more, I had another far reaching problem for them to face. While everyone was dying in northwestern Norditerre (the northern continent & home of Formour & the Confederation), a large volcano erupted in the Greatsea. This blanketed the upper atmosphere, and caused an unseasonable drop in temperatures worldwide. Couple this with the altered weather patterns (and the precipitating effects of high-atmoshperic ash), and deep snow fell over much of the globe. Some areas do not see snow at all save for a few times a century at best. These were the hardest hit, as they were the least equipped. This only further escalated the problems with a lack of food, an increase in cost, and mass death. (Note: this is player-info, none of the inhabitants of Midian know that the volcano caused the unseasonable and thick snowfall.)
This set the stage for the rest of the Books of the Apocalypse series. Mass graves & entire towns were animated into zombies. Bandits & now-homeless warrior/farmers were banded together into mercenary companies, and these were sent on campaigns resulting in more slaughter, and more corpses. Eventually, many of these were incorporated into a massive zombie army, which ruined cities on two continents. The zombies, increase in necromantic activity (and the interest therein assisting a school for necropolitans & mages), and the increase in numbers & influence of the Shadow Knights, set the stage for Death: The Pale Horse.
The climate changes in Osterre caused the Orckish tribes to be banded together under a single despot, whose pirating efforts further hampered travel. The wandering mercenary & national armies that moved into Osterre to stop him, the military efforts to regain the necropolises from the Undead, and new knightly organisations set the stage for the upcomming War--The Red Horse book.
The new civil changes, including the advent of two new nations, openning of the eastern continent (Osterre) to trade, increase in cetain magics, and sweeping economic changes, will set the stage for the final Book of the Apocalypse, Conquest--The White Horse. Go to Comment
Actually, China had several books that were printed in numbers, whereas Europe only initially had one. It was this number of classics that made it cost effective to continue wood-carving blocks for each page to be pressed. But on to the actual topic...
Midian is on the cusp of something quite similar to the Renaissance. The issue of printing is something to which I have given some thought. The printing press & personal firearm have been invented, but both are akin to nanotech for us: new & highly experimental, unreliable, and still more in the realm of science fiction than practical use. Movable type has not yet been invented--and may not be for many years. The culture that invented printing has a ideograph-based language, and so does not have an alphabet. The nearby cultures utilise a scripted language, which is even less practical for mobile type.
Magic won't be significantly changed. Midian is very skill-oriented. A spell is the same as a skill, and nearly anyone can learn a given spell. However, the concept of an instruction manual is still not really known, and learning a spell from a book is like learning a martial art from a book. As magic is a tricky thing at best--even if a ritual is performed correctly, it still might not function. Even if successful, it is likely that the mage won't know, as few magics in Midian have an obvious and immediate visual effect.
Those few learned people who know about the printing press tend to fall into two camps. Some feel that it will destroy the artistry and value of books--with the time & effort involved only quality books are copied, and these are often illuminated. The true reason is perhaps that they are concerned over the value of their own personal libraries. The other view, held by many loremasters, is that faster & cheaper printing can only be a good thing as it will help spread the exchange of ideas. Once Pandora's Box has been opened, then the expansion of printing is a matter of "when," not "if." This will certainly affect the game world.
Printing will spread much faster if it ever becomes used on the northern continent (Norditerre). There, the language is alphabetic, and most of the population follows a common language--with one specific holy book.
Currently, the government of the press-creating culture (Empire of Byzant) has offerred a grant of support to the inventors. The Empire is united primarily by only two things: a common currency, and a common form of writing. The refinement of the printing press will strengthen that nation as it will be able to more efficiently issue decrees, change tax codes, etc. Go to Comment
Maintaining a power base: In addition to the normal means by which a wealthy person can gain power, in a role-playing game one can hire adventurous types. This can range from investing in a fledgeling guild, hiring a spellcaster for a certain spell or three, or having high-level thugs, each bristling with magic weapons. Even founding your own guild can grant a strong amount of power. Go to Comment
Correspondence: Sending messages in a fantasy setting is both time consuming and expensive, barring magic. By constantly sending & receiving messenges, you can keep in contact with distant friends, keep up on news from afar, control distant holdings, and manitain important contacts. This also allows the wealthy and popular person to while away a great deal of time with writing and reading letters. Go to Comment
The Lord of the Flies, the Muscimancer has studied magics that summon, control and otherwise deal with flies. The Fly Mage is an unwholesome character, also likely to have magics of disease, rot and pestilence up his sleeves. After fighting through his swarms of flies and his loyal acolytes and slaves, the Muscimancer reveals his final power, transforming into a giant half man half fly hybrid. He can fly, acid vomit, as well as continue to use spells, wield weaponry and command his swarms.