I am shocked: this is really heads and shoulders better than most of the RPG stuff I have ever read. The item is what it is and so what, as Lagantha might say, but the prose just flows so easily and your tone is so conversational that it draws us in. A good read.
I would like to link this to the fantasy fabrics codex if you don't mind.
There is just so much good to say about this one, ships are already romantic things and very personal things. I have been working on a ship scrap yard like the ones in Alang India. But after reading this I realize what I had left out. Each of these ships could be post, the plots could be a post but instead you give this whole thing all intertwined.
The Golitsyn (SECRET SUNKEN STEAM SHIP FROM CZARIST RUSSIA!) (try saying that three times)
In 1863, during the height of the American Civil War the Russian Atlantic and Pacific Fleets wintered in the Union Ports on the North America. Like all things Russian, the gesture was significant but the exact meaning was enigmatic. The Lincoln administration spun it as a sign of support for the Union cause and as counter weight to the threat of French and English intervention on the Confederate behalf. Others have suggested that Russia believed itself to be on the brink of war with England and France over the question of Polish sovereignty and wanted to prevent their fleets from becoming ice bound or blockaded. While most of the Russian Atlantic fleet laid anchor in New York, one ship, the Steam frigate Aleksandr Mikhailovich Golitsyn, arrived in Philadelphia. Whether the Golitsyn had an official mission to Philadelphia or was “separated” from the fleet during the crossing will never be known. Confederate spies had learned of the Golistyn’s approach and decided not to let Russian influence go uncontested. Considering what the Golitsyn was carrying it is also possible and likely that other parties had found a way to influence the Confederate agents towards their own end.
The day after he (According to the author's memory of Tom Clancy novels, Russian ships are always male) set anchor, Confederate saboteurs boarded and blew the boiler on the Golitsyn. The ship, most of her crew and all of her cargo sank in less than a quarter hour. The Golitsyn’s presence and its sinking was kept a secret and never officially acknowledged by either the Union government or the Russian Admiralty. The Lincoln administration did not wish to advertise the success Confederate saboteurs. The Russian Admiralty was not truly interested or capable of becoming involved in an American Civil War and did not wish to deal with the consequences of acknowledging an isolated act of aggression against their forces by the Confederacy. Today the half buried wreckage of the Golitsyn sits under the decaying remains of the Philadelphia Shipyard’s “younger” retirees. But thanks to his cargo, the Golitsyn has not entirely been forgotten.
In the 1800s pogroms against Jews in Russia and Eastern Europe had been on the rise. Immigration of Eastern European Jews to the United States had also been on the rise. The USA of the 1860s presented an interesting problem for the Jews, true there had been a rise of anti-Semitism manifested by General Order Number 11 and wide spread scapegoating of their communities all over the North. But there was also hope, Lincoln had over turned Order Number 11, they allowed Jewish Chaplains into the military and there was always the promise of the American Constitution that a man was free to have his religion. It seemed clear that even after centuries of living side by side the Russian masses were never going to accept Jews as true countrymen. It was decided that one of greatest treasure of the Eastern European Jewish Communities would be smuggled out of Europe and into the United States. The captain of the Golitsyn agreed to carry the treasure to the United States and this treasure is still with the Golitsyn’s wreckage.
The Golitsyn was carrying the Golem. After the Golem’s creation in Prague it was moved secretly around Europe, staying mostly dormant (met), only occasionally be reanimated to protect communities but he was always a power too great to be wielded by flawed mortal men (maybe if they had let women study…). If the Golem is brought up from the wreckage he can be animated by changing the inscription on his head from met to emet. After that he will serve to protect his master and his family from any perceived threats. Let us hope the calligrapher speaks Hebrew.
There was also a survivor of the Golitsyn, a Russian-Jew, who hid his identity and settled in Philadelphia. His family has quietly passed the story of the Golitsyn and the Golem down for generations. Plus there are still rumors (in circles that gossip about Jewish mysticism) that the Golem was smuggled to Philadelphia in the 1860s, but these rumors have forgotten the Golitsyn.
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There is also another connection to present time in the form of an hourglass. The Golitsyn still used watch hourglasses and when the boiler blew the mid-shipman in command of the deck watched his life and the sands of the watch hourglass drain the simultaneously. That glass survives to this day and still has air in it. If it ever comes free from the wood and rot binding it, the hourglass will float to the surface. The Mid-shipman’s spirit or psionic shadow is linked to the glass. Whoever, finds it will be haunted until at least some piece (the hour glass counts) of the Mid-shipman and his young lover (who was also a sailor on the ship) are brought up and returned to their home city of Perm (third class mail would be fine).
I like this a lot, I think you could post it as is, but as for advice, I think some of the spells are a little redundant-the slave map, sibiling maps, signal charts all seem to be variations on the exact same power. But maybe writing it up this way is clearer than describing in general the powers a cartogramancer will have over the maps he or she creates. As trade items that adventures might equip themselves with while not themselves practing cartogramancy,slave maps and signal charts and the items that go with them are all useful descriptions.
I like the mount weazel concept, could a powerful enough cartogramancer use this to make islands at sea or streams or lakes in the desert? Could he put a forest over a road or a bridge over a river?
Another area of power you might explore are small scale maps. Could he/she make a map of door or gate to find the weak point? Could he make a blueprint of a puzzle box to find the traps? Could he use his maps like voodoo dolls, if he has a map of a person: there is plot idea the evil cartogramancer is kidnapping important people, drugging them, carefully mapping their body then sending them back in the world. If they fail to obey to he removes their eyes or cuts off circulation to their brain for awhile.
Can he use his power over maps to travel back in time, or at least age the map? Looking at an over grown jungle valley could he map the city that was there 400 years ago? Would this map include who lived where and what buidling were used for what?
Finally I can see having cartogramancer player as being challenege for game planning. You will have to have bunch of hand outs, you can forget the maze or traps you drew up...unless you really want to frustrate your PC by muting his powers so you can drop him in a pit or something.
But I think the idea is great, I had an order or map making clerics once, but they were no where as developed as this. Well done sir.
This is fantastic. I don't have enough praise for it, but I find it interesting, complete and inspiring, I going to vote for it as often as I can.
However, the "articles of note" section seemed to be poorly edited. I am not faulting you for this, it is no small task to get all the errors out of piece of prose. This is why "editor" and "proof reader" are still paying jobs. I hate it when I read one of my old posts and find errors. One of the greatest things I ever got from this website was detailed edit by Moonlake. I am not nearly as strong as she, but I have these notes
I don’t like the subheading “articles of note”, it is too vague, I know we want headings to be general but this is a little much. Famous Examples of Cartiomancy or , while less dramatic would be clearer.
structured conjured-should be “structure”
chose land-should read “chosen land”
and connecting the land to the map-should read “connected”
Abyss of Yaksha-I am unclear on what her goal was, was it to create a metaphysically isolated patch of land that exisisted only on the map (I like that idea) or to build a giant moat?
I hope this doesn't distract from praise for this piece. It really is wonderful, I wish I had written it.
Really good stuff. A great corner stone to a plot or a even better yet an unavoidable red herring where these to be worked into plot. The reason I suggest these would make great red herrings, is because for all their fluff, chrome and power, they are not villains, at best they are victims and worst they are forces of nature at this point (or slave to their nature). Ultimately, unless you were develop the roles of the gods or the lost priests order, these are not roleplaying tools. These knights are tactical challenges or puzzles, but their is nothing innately character driving or developing in this for the PCs that will interact with them.
I like this one, yet at the same time acknowledge everyone critiques as accurate and valid. I agree this write up makes no sense and relies so much on the suggestion of information as to be almost devoid of information, yet I think it tells a story and sets a tone. The contradictions (though some them may be typos) and the gaps only help to set that tone and they tell you about what is unknown and as well as known.
Many world views ascribe to the forces of nature personalities. Indeed, some world view personify everything, now that is not the way the actual universe works, but what if it was? <b> What if thought was indeed to the core of existence? Then nothing could exist without thought? </b> If that was the case then everything that is or was could be traced back to a thinking being. I think, and maybe I have it wrong, this is the type of the universe describe here. And if this is the case then the human form is not just a product of evolution (or not at all a product of evolution) but a product of an intellect (in this case existence and the universe that was), and this would explain the human centric nature of the universe and why it is personified as an old man.
I think I understand it I think it is daring and interesting take on roleplaying.