The Skin of Naranpelo 6

There is magic, and it is feared.

There is magic, and it is feared.

Alchemy is well-known, and expected within any civilized city. Light, when not mined from the Teimoto or Sole sources (the vanity of the rich) is more often from alchemical processes than the unpredictability of flame. Globes of glass surrounding chemicals that produce symbiotic energies that produce light line the roads from Erza Placa‘s capital of Camarao south to Espera in Matanouse and north to Koel in Teimoto.

Alchemists are required by Empire law to display their Guild affiliation, but Guilds pretty much police their own. Gang… I mean Guild Wars get pretty nasty. A famous play (“The Scarlet Talisman,”) was written about the stealing of a formulae from one guild and how it nearly brought down a King’s court. You usually can’t find thieves so foolish to try.

Alchemists in the Naranpelo game will have a number of formula they know and can produce depending on the reagents and other components they have at hand. They can always try combinations outside the “recipes” they know, and with appropriate skill they may manage to not poison themselves.

The counterpart to alchemy is generally found with the artificers of the city of Aurn. The Golden City in Sole is said to show such meticulous attention to detail that even the stool left behind the flying clockwork birds is fashioned by its artificers.

Artificers are a non-player class. It just takes too long, but if someone wants to spend some of their Aspect options on artificer training I’ll build more into it.

And then there’s magic.

The sorcerors of Teimoto know there are many worlds to open, and they have little compunction about doing so, stepping from place to time to place in time with no concern but the cost to their selves.

[There are two types of inborn talents with sorcerors that change this: “Nodes,” who can draw power from places, magical items, and people, and “Sources,” who can be used by any sorceror as an additional battery. These would be chosen as Aspects.]

Any deviation, any break in concentration can send a spell awry. Obviously, laboratory conditions are hard to come by in combat. Mishaps are dangerous and unpredictable. People are right to fear magic.

Sorcerors in-game will belong to one of two opposing schools, and various countries at various times have banned one then the other then rescinded the laws. Right now they are in the “legal but suspect” phase, primarily. Each opposing school has a different form of advancement and governing within the schools.

Chelonia alone allows them in government.

There are no “levels” to the spells one might know – the “apprentice” will just have less access to power, and attempting some forces might kill them. All mages can create some form of “mage globe” to contain the forces they have to bear. All mages can activate portals, although the ability to create them is becoming more rare. All mages can detect if something is enchanted, but one school is better at enchanting than the other. All mages can set wards.

Sorcerors in the game will be able to choose their focus, ranking, and reliable abilities pre-game, and then develop further within the game.

There are no demons, no extraplanar deal-makers to anyone’s knowledge… well, except maybe the gods.

The Skin of Naranpelo 5

So, I was thinking about statistics.

So, I was thinking about statistics.

I don’t think I really want to have any. Not only do I consider Rob Donoghue’s advice in Not Amber: Stats where he says,

As marginal bonuses in arbitrary categories, they can add unnecessary complication, and if they’re just really broad skills, that calls into question the need for them at all.

but I thought for a while of breaking them down and kept running into a few contrary points.

Let’s start with the Strength/Body statistic:

Most body statistics seem to be invented for a few purposes that do not relate to the game I want to run (because they don’t relate to the game I want to play…)

The first is to suggesting the chance that the characters are not in peak physical condition, e.g., puny magic users using it as a dump stat for low rolls, characters that are smaller than regular humans, and any flavour to gain “disadvantage points,” that usually make up for it.

The second purpose is to add to your bookkeeping. These are things like measuring how much you can carry (encumbrance), how long you can go without needing rest (endurance), and even your ability to be put to peril (hit points … which will be dealt with later).

The third is to add challenges related to this statistic, like lifting heavy things, bending bars, breaking through walls when you can’t pick the door lock… that sort of thing. The kinds of things that people in dungeons needed to do. (How many campaigns have I played in where the rule really was, “Take everything that isn’t nailed down, and, oh by the way, I have a crowbar?”)

On the other hand, I want people to be able to make calls on their aspects that apply specifically to their physical form. The net zero situation is like I said about age – you’re presumed to be in peak physical condition.

So I see two choices I like. One, I can specify that you get one or two “free” dice-based aspects for the statistics. For example, I could break it down to, “You have 8 potential stats, and 10 dice, but each of these dice actually relate to a special detail about these statistics.”

Or two, drop stats entirely and let the players spend regular “Aspect” dice on stats only if they want to use them.

I’ve got mixed feelings about both.

I’m still looking for elegant names for the eight potential stats, and for the stats themselves (I just pulled the number 8 out of the air), brainstorming gives me these:

  1. Endure/Lift/Carry & Overcome (Physical)

  2. Endure/Overcome (Mental/Magical)

  3. Grace (Social)

  4. Agility/Grace (Physical)

  5. Lore (Mental/Magical)

  6. Muscle Memory (Physical)

  7. …and I’m kind of out of ideas.

OK, maybe 8 isn’t the right number. I thought of “Luck,” but I don’t see that as a reasonable statistic – I am already using dice.

I also note that I’m already using the same couplets for different perspectives that could use the aspect dice (d6) to specify.

The idea would be that you could, say, put an aspect on your Grace (Social) die that says, “All the ladies love me…anyway.”

The preliminary poll of potential players says they like the attribute idea, but I’ll need to work on better attributes.

The Skin of Naranpelo 4

My mental energy has been going into other projects recently, so I’m not handling aspects yet. Instead, I have decided to discuss religion and astrology.

The Empire has three Priesthoods. The Priests of the One, the Two, and the Three. It is said that the Three, which only allows women priests, consists of the One and the Two. The Two, which only allows male priests, deny that the One is necessarily part of the Two, but the One, the strangest sect, says it contains both the Two and the Three. Those of the One do not build any Temples, although you will often find altars to the One in the wilderness.

The Erza and the Teimoto have the most Temples of the Two. Arancimar and the Mata mostly have Temples to the Three. The Sole are mostly followers of the One.

There are many songs and stories about men and women who have gone to one or another of the Temples and changing gender. There’s even a popular series of books about a Priest of the Two who becomes a Priestess of the Three. (“The Merrill Cycle.”) As popular as they are, they are considered heretical in some more conservative areas.

Priests of the Two and Three have sacred robes and the creation of them is a highly profitable enterprise of a Placa Erza family. So much so that the Empress has agreed that impersonating a Priest is a hanging offense, if caught by the Servants of the Law. If caught by the Priests, the Law doesn’t ask anything except for the belongings to be sent to the nearest Mother of the family.

The rules of War are a concern of the Three although all struggles are included, from disease to hard childbirth. The rules of Hospitality are the concern of the Two, including the rules of ownership and property. The rules of the natural world are the concern of the One. Relationship problems? Go to a Priest of the Two. Need a field blessed? Leave an offering for a Priest of the One. Looking to heal a summer fever? The Priests of the Three will come around. Only the Priest of the One will do it for free – the Two and Three may charge to improve the Temples.

As no PCs will be Priests, I’ll leave the esoteric pieces alone. Most people will know Priestesses as it is considered good luck for a Second Daughter (a “Little Mother”) to join the Church. Miracles are less common than magic.


Continue reading “The Skin of Naranpelo 4”

The Skin of Naranpelo 3

So, we have the racial background of the character handled. (Don’t forget to check out the comment that says what Earth region the GM will be lightly mimicking in naming things for each region.) The world is fairly established so except when dealing with nobility, crossbreeding is fairly common, and I’d like players to choose the look of their character. This is the part that’s supposed to soothe the player’s dress-up needs, after all. I don’t think we need a “description” box. If players want to make their characters have physical ailments, they will need to choose aspects for that.

So, now we know a little about who the character is based on the world. Except, what exactly does the character do?

Well, as a profession idea, I had a set of different roles I wanted for the characters’ “team.”

  1. Monster Hunter (a la The Witcher)

  2. Diplomat and/or Knight

  3. Sorceror

  4. Alchemist

  5. Assassin and/or Courtesan

I am, of course, willing to extend and overlap these slightly – a bard/diplomat. A herald-assassin. (I’d even give you a white horse… from Chelonia.)

As you can see, these are all roles that require a great deal of training. This suggests that I should make a rule on age; no child characters. While I like a “minor who has great natural aptitude” story as much as the next guy, that’s a background item. (You can always choose it as an aspect.) I don’t necessarily want to put in an upper limit on this one (hey, kind of like my OKCupid profile! [snort]) but if someone wanted to run someone more vulnerable (not just venerable) we could definitely work something in… and not just because I’m a fan of Cohen the Barbarian. I don’t think “age” needs to be on the sheet, though.

When I say, “team,” I do want to have something that shows that they’ve worked together before, so I may offer some free relationship dice or something. (Bonuses – a +1 for any claimed relationship on a roll, a +2 for any actively described relationship! Or not.)

So, I think the next step is defining how we’re using aspects, how many you get, and how far they go…

The Skin of Naranpelo 2

In the world “Skin” takes place, there are many diverse ethnic groups. As the game begins in Arancimar, a city-state to the east of the Margato Expanse (should be a sea, but the Arancimar traders irritated a Sole magistrate who changed the official records) we will start there.

Arancimar. The “Marid” (as they self-style themselves – the epithet is “Rancid”) are dark of eye, olive-skinned, and dark-haired. The royal family line has the light eyes of the elf blood that once intermingled, and once in a while a Matriarch has hints of gold or red in their hair from the same source. Elves are not unknown in Arancimar, but while they are less feared than they are in the rest of the Empire, they’re still a source of awe and concern. There is a Half-elven faction within the Arancimar Alchemical Institute known as “The Gilded Irios” whose works compete with the best in the Empire. Marid are stereotyped as being foppish and slightly anti-technology.

The Erza live just west and north of the Margato Expanse and are historically likely the progenitors of the Marid, They are split between the Quilha and Placa districts, or island or continent. Quilha are more likely to ruddy hair and skin colours, with eyes just as dark as the Marid’s common folk, while Placa tend to lighter skin and hair. It is said that Elves avoided the small islands of the Erza’s outer Quilha (the split between the continental mass and the strange islands separated by deep canals) and thus Elves travelling in that region are regarded with suspicion. Erza are stereotyped as being sneaky bureaucrats, with the general thought of, “They can hide anything in those deep straits…and probably do.” Western (Placa) Erza tend to think of their Eastern Quilha brethren as fast-talking thieves, whereas the Quilha think of the Placa as slow to speak but likely to have generation-long schemes.

North of Erza are the Teimoto, and home of the Empire’s Palaces. The Teimoto live in a land covered with beautiful ghost-lit vistas and the world’s most dangerous weather. Proverbs from Teimoto often reflect that if it isn’t hurricane season, it must be time for blizzards. Teimoto tend to be taller, light-skinned folk, with red eyes and a trace of epicanthic fold. They’re somewhat protected from the light that comes from both sky and stone. Only in Teimoto is the rare glowing Urhante stone mined. (And it’s non-radioactive! Awesome pebbles of continuous light!) [Sole’s Aubril crystal is the closest cousin, and makes up Sole’s (Sol-ay)’s (and thus the Empire’s) most lucrative currency.] Teimoto are considered stubborn and large (therefore often clumsy) but often given the backhanded compliment (from those who have been there) that the view is worth it, when, you know, not covered in rain or snow. Or fog. Or ash. Or… well, you get the picture. The First Palace of Teimoto was an Elven city, but while Elves still wander the land after the War of Teimoto Rule, they say it is not time to return.

The large deserts of the Sole and their beautiful dark-skinned people (mostly brown or darker with purple sheen) are to the South of Arancimar. Sole are categorized as extremely hard working, tough, and fair, but somewhat greedy for all that. (“Why would they work so hard if they didn’t want…things?” the Erza ask.) Many Sole act as judges and arbitrators for the Empire. There are rumours of “dark elves” that intermingle with Sole, but the land is parched of anything the Elves tend to claim of value. The gentle climate of Northern Sole has the largest population, but new routes to the mostly unexplored and uninhabited Southern Island (really a continent) are the hope of the Empire’s Tradesmistress. Sole’s many northern states go to ceremonial war with each other regularly – few are killed, much is bet on the results, and each of the states vie for honor points. It is quite a phenomenon for the tourist.

South of Sole it is said there be Dragons.

South of Erza are the jungles of Matanouse. The Mata people gave homes to the Elves and other nonhuman species, which have made them a fairly liberal society of crossbreeds. Mata are smaller folk, skin the color of Sole’s sands, with eye and hair colors all over the spectrum due to the large concentration of wild magics there. Many Mata have slightly animal features. The Marid have their rivals in the Mata College for Alchemical Artistry, and the natural bounty of the Matanouse foliage often makes for interesting reagents. The ruling Mata family have a genetic anomaly showing in their four-fingered hands and prehensile tails, and it is said that no Matriarch can rule without these traits. This leads many skeptical of their financial success to say they lie with beasts to preserve their sense of beauty. Mata are often considered promiscuous, and they treat their men as equals, so they are often discriminated against in northern territories. The Empire counts the Matanouse as part of its territory. The Mata do not always agree. The freehold pirates off their eastern coast in Adrazar claim to be Mata, and often the Mata’s First Family pays ridiculous fines for their acts. If the Adrazar suffer any retribution for this, northerners do not know.

East of Matanouse is Adrazar, and the boundaries of the Empire. Not much is known of the areas past that, for too much further East lies Southern Sole Isle, and, well, Dragons.

West of Matanouse is the mountainous region of Chelonia, and those of the Chelon are not part of the civilized world. Chelonians are grey-skinned to deathly pale, and their eyes are grey to pure white, said to be the result of black alchemy they practiced in the past. Most Chelons are blind, although they may have compensated through other means. The Empire is officially at war with Chelonia, but not individual Chelon (although they can be arrested at any time.) Chelons are mostly descended from exiled prisoners of the War for Teimoto Rule, but the land has changed them.

South of Chelonia is Takatakastag which is the “place that nothing flies.” Not much is known about this place, and if there are native folk here, they must look like some other group. Beware anyone who says they are from anywhere in Takatakastag. They are likely liars.

The Skin of Naranpelo 1

So, I finally decided that I’d hack to death a few systems to get the kind of characters I wanted for this game. I figured I’d kind of document the process here.

The first thing I should do is at least pin a title on the game so we know what we’re talking about… in this case, it’s called “Skin of the Naranpelo.” We’ll call it “Skin” for short, and perhaps humourous opportunities. (The Naranpelo is an alchemical fruit that’s very important to the Arancimar royal family, and thus, the characters.)

OK, what do we start with on every character sheet? Ah yes, Player Name. Why? I mean, I’ll know people by character name quickly enough… Is there any other reason than when we pass the sheets back out between games we want to know who has what?

I’ve slowly grown into the “take them back at the end of the game, pass them out in the beginning” for three main reasons.

  1. It allows me to review and revise against my information when I have a chance to look at it. This also provides the option to see, “Oh, X has a specialty in wine tasting. I so need to get that into play.”

  2. It is a central location where it goes with the rest of the “game stuff” and is less likely to be lost in-between sessions. I mean, if my notes are gone, everything’s gone. The players don’t have to leave it in the car, or accidentally turn it in with their homework or that sales report…

  3. It prevents any temptation for player fraud. This is a low-priority item for me, but maybe your group isn’t quite as liberal.

So maybe we’ll start with Character Name instead. And I’ll let the players choose that… I’ve been tempted otherwise at times, and I should probably give them some guidelines as to the “feel” or cultural style to names. In this case, Arancimar could have kind of a Mediterranean feel (at least, that’s the climate I’m picking for it.) So I’ll make some kinds of suggestions along those lines.

Character Gender will actually have an importance in this game – most of the people in power are women. Men are having a bit of a renaissance in authority, and that’s a political point the characters could influence, but all the economic influence are in families noted by their matriarchal lineages.

If I want to include Character Race I need to have some differentiation. It’s not about attribute bonuses – everyone’s human (I might accept a half-elf) but it’d be a cultural designation. I think this is something I might want to tilt towards the aspect side of things, because otherwise it starts to be more pre-game study for the players and, well, PCs are (IMO) exceptional individuals so they might not fall into the various stereotypes of their races anyway. They’ll learn in-game about the stereotypes for sure.

Physical characteristics? Hmmm. Maybe in the next segment.