Adept Spell casting Mechanic

So, the Adept’s spellcasting mechanic was spell points but I found that this was too tedious and required far too much book-keeping, since it was pretty well expected that an Adept’s spell points amy go up and down pretty much constantly. The idea of this isn’t what I want to change; the frequency and scope of the changes is really does push it over the edge into tediousness, I feel. What I want is unity-scale addition and subtraction, where losing or gaining a “spell point” is actually noteworthy. The points will still approximately measure how much power the Adept is basically capable of using, but instead of being currency in the traditional sense, it will more likely represent exhaustion, depletion, etc. throughout the day. I’m going to call this system the Stratum power mechanic, since again the points are representing the level of the Adept’s current power.

I’m thinking I’ll balance this around the number 5 as a fairly stiff upper limit against which Adepts will have to run. Incidentally, this solves one of the more cumbersome issues I was dealing with in the old system- spell level. In this system, Adept spells will also have a Stratum level which will also be their “Circle” (spell level) if they need conversion for use by wizards, or vice-versa.

The Five Maximum Strata also keeps Adepts on the intended power curve of most classes- fifth level is when most of them drop off gainin

This may seem like the Adepts only get access to fifth level spells maximum. While general usage will basically limit them to that, there will be ways to inflate Strata temporarily (and dangerously) for casting big spells. In general, however, the casting of spells greater than 5th with any reliability is left to the Wizard and possibly Sorcerer (more on them later).

Core Rules

Adepts now have a depletable resource called Strata, representing approximately their present magical ability. Spells also have associated Strata, analogous to Spell Level or Spell Circle, which represents the magical power needed to perform the spell. The Adept can not cast a spell unless they are at or above the Stratum of the spell.

  • This is meant to make the Adept run out of juice faster than the Wizard does. In the Wizard rewrite I’m working on, they will be able to cast any Circle/level spell with any slot (with a corresponding bonus or penalty), have access to spell recall, and thus presumably keep up their spell casting a very long time at moderate risk to themselves. The Adept can’t even take this risk but won’t have any mishaps to worry about, just the loss of their powers as the day goes on.

The Adept must beat 10+Spell Stratum on the spell casting roll to successfully cast the spell. The Adept adds their current Stratum to all their spell casting rolls.

  • Having them add their Stratum to the roll AND having the roll based on Spell Stratum may seem needlessly complex, but I feel like the reliability of their lower level spells should also decrease throughout the day.

Strata is regained at the rate of 1 Stratum per night’s rest, back to maximum.

  • Another limit on their power- a lot of fighting can severely hamper an Adept’s spell casting for longer periods of time. The wizard just needs a night’s rest and is ready to go. Strata can even go negative, in certain situations.

Some Adept classes will be able to meditate during a watch to try and gain 1 Stratum, temporarily exceeding their normal limit above. There are other ways to gain Strata temporarily.

  • See: drugs, observances.

I think the roll breakdown will look like this:

Target or Greater: Successful Cast
Target-5 or Greater: Cast, loss of 1 Stratum
Target-5 or Less: Failure, loss of 1 Stratum
Target-10 Natural 1 : Failure, loss of Stratum equal to Stratum Level

Corollaries and Scaling Powers

Many of my Adept spells as written have variable costs based on the size of the magic at hand. For example, the Purify spell may purify X man-days of food, where the cost is Triangle Number X. I can adapt this by making the Strata of the spell X and purify Tr X man-days of food, for example. The power increases, but because the Adept can only go to Tr 5 = 15 which enforces a natural limit.

Corollaries will still exist, I think, but manifest as negative modifiers to the spell casting roll or an upfront Strata cost. In fact, I think the can range from mechanical stuff to obscure rites or materials. I think it fits the notion of Adept spells as accumulated ritual and religious practice, as opposed to the rigid formulae of wizard spells.

Example of a re-worked class: The Dark Druid

Alternate Mechanic For Sorcerers: Strain

Strain functions similarly, except that Strain goes up through the day instead of down. To cast a spell of a certain Strata/Circle, you must have Strain equal to half the spell level, round up. Each point of Strain (past the first) also increases the range of critical failure by 1. So a Sorcerer with 4 strain can cast 8th level spells, but will have to roll on the Mishap table on a natural 1-4. Strain goes down 1d6+1 when resting (min. 1) and increases whenever an even number is rolled for a spell casting roll, excepting critical failures. Strain can increase indefinitely.

This, I think, is a fairly elegant way to adapt the Sorcerer. They now have to “rev up” to cast their more powerful spells and casting those spells is increasingly dangerous. Adding Strain to the spell casting roll also gives them a way to cast their highest level spells, which wasn’t always the case before.

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Academic Year AAR

Despite Advanced Lab’s best efforts, I have not yet died, and have now returned to blogging. This post really should’ve come little less than a month ago, around when we actually stopped playing, but what with finals, final projects, and just general end of semester malaise, it got pushed back a couple weeks. Then with my holiday of sleeping in 16 hours a day, followed by the traditional post-semester sickness (must be a stress thing) it got pushed back a bit further.

Edit: Just now remembered you might want to be able to see what it is I’m talking about: Google Drive Document Link

What Worked

Well, people wanted to play. I always take that as a good sign, so yippee.

At some point I moved away from 3d6 in order to 1d4-1d4 in order, with the score and modifier becoming functionally identical. The modifier distribution is much different now, with extreme scores far more common. It makes characters fun, but since I have no interest in making people play characters they don’t like I still let them mulligan if the sum of scores is less than 0.

I may also allow them to “normalize” scores by allowing them to move a negative score closer to 0 by reducing a positive score by the same amount (only to 0)

Character creation in general seems very straightforward to most players. After doing it once, on of my players was able to explain it to a new player. Though I credit most of that to my brother, since they’re a modified version of his rules. The only snag I hit regularly is the “roll one take the higher result, roll another tale the lower” which I added back into represent different human lineages.

Sorcerers are a riot, and probably the most popular caster class. It’s probably top three of all classes, which is pretty impressive considering it’s only a subclass. Unfortunately motifs and metamagic have yet to be thoroughly tested. The mishaps table was a lot of fun, but too harsh and in my mind a little too small. I’ve upgraded it to a percentile roll, with more focus on mutations and less on “immediately irradiated/kill everything around you.”

What Did Not Work

Oh boy. Here we go.

Armor class has proven a constant confusion for my players and equally constant annoyance for me. However, I suspect the confusion is a matter of communication, particularly with how the armor class is listed on the character sheet. The current setup simply has different scores listed for “base” AC or “touch” AC with no mention of what constitutes the scores. In future I’m going to redesign the character sheet so that the players list the contribution from dexterity, shield, armor, etc. This way I can just ask them to subtract contributions from their actual AC, based on the nature of the attack.

That issue is easily fixable. The rest isn’t. Spellcasters in particular seem to have issues. The adept is the better of the two, but suffers from really tedious bookkeeping o  the part of the players. I expected this to be a problem when I chose a spell-point system; however, with all the points they lose and gain over the course of an adventuring day and the fact that they don’t regain all their lost points after resting is pretty annoying to keep track of.

They also don’t really interact with the spellcasting roll. I’m not a fan of this, and I don’t want this already highly specialized mechanic used for only one class. So in the interest of tackling both issues at once, I’m going to revamp the spellcasting mechanic for adepts. It will still be a spell-point system, I think, but with a lot of changes to usability. The numbers involved will generally be a lot smaller, and the players won’t need to subtract off points every time they cast a spell. The class as a whole will be more oriented towards better reliability but more limited power than a wizard, which was my original goal. But I’m seriously cutting back on their ability to sustain themselves (magically speaking) throughout the day, especially the more martially based ones. Also, the adept will probably have their XP progression changed to match the wizards. Magic ain’t cheap…unless you’re a rogue.

But on the note of the wizard, this brings me to the biggest issue. No one wants to play wizards. Now, this might just be an issue of having mostly new players, and I do recommend that newer players avoid the class. But I’ve been thinking about it, and the wizard I’ve got now is definitely even more fiddly then the Adept is. You’ve got more spell slots than a 5e wizard, and each slot has to be prepared with a specific spell, and then you can invest some of your slots into panoply items, and your grimoire can only hold 10 spells, and you can’t prepare duplicates unless you have two copies of the spells. It’s basically a fucking mess, and may end up running more like a spell-point system then I would like, because panoply investment also takes into account the level of the spell. So I’m going to have to simplify some shit.

First of all, the panoply will no longer take into account the different spell levels. It will just be “X slots for Y abilities” and that’s that. Yeah, players are going to preferentially invest lower level slots, but it’s not a big deal, since the most spell slots you ever at each spell level is like 5 when your still filling out your panoply.

Spell preparation is now 5e preparation. You got spell-slots of high enough level and the spell prepped, you can do it, boss. Actually, you can do it without, as well. There will be a penalty to the casting roll if you use a lower level slot, and a roll bonus for casting with a higher one. I may even allow casting without spell slots at a massive penalty.

Duplicate spells flummox me yet again. Once I thought duplicate spells were necessary to game balance, but came around to one each. Now I’m thinking they may be necessary again. I think I’ll go for some kind of compromise, with a penalty to spell-casting roll if you’ve cast it already today.

Aside from the changes above, the panoply could do with more simplifying. The familiar is going to be removed and folded into the Servant, which is going to get a few more rules to guide me and the players through the process of finding and binding one. It will also be a more mutual agreement between and servant and master, in general. Forcing a devil to do shit for you against its will should be a challenge. I may potentially add the Cabal to the panoply to round out the lost item/spell level.

The spell levels for stat bonuses can stay, but probably in a diminished form. I’m probably going to totally rework talismans.+X to Y Save is pretty darb. We’ll see though, because I’m probably going to slash save progression past ninth level.

Fighters seem to be popular and playable. With the addition of Specializations and weapon-perks and all the other crap, I kind of feel like they may be overloaded with too much. They’re supposed to be the simplest class. I’ve considered many times removing one or the other. I also feel like they’re at constant risk of being overshadowed by rogues or martially oriented adepts. Both of those classes are supposed to be pretty good at fighting as well, but they should basically always lose in a straight fight against a fighter of the same level. This basically is what caused me to add Specializations in the first place, to give them something the other classes could never have. But never is such a strong word, and I’d be inclined to rule that a rogue or adept of sufficient level could learn some tricks of the trade as a special ability*. I’ve also given an AC bonus to fighters as they level. In addition to probably skyrocketing them to the most popular class right then and there, this should make sure they stay well ahead of the curb in terms of fighting ability.

I’ve gotten to the point where it feels like I’m not going to remove either of them, but I have already removed Break Their Ranks! as a class feature. They get enough extra attacks with their weapon perks, and I personally have never got much enjoyment out of throwing hordes of humanoids at them. The orcs in my game are sort of their own thing that’s been metastasizing in my brain and not intended to (always) act as cannon fodder. Humanoids in general are pretty thin on the ground. The last post I made about them may have made it seem opposite, but most of those are getting retconned the hell out. It’s really down to the goblins, kobolds, and Anilins, and the last aren’t really vicious fighting spirits. So with so few humanoids, why not use humans? And if we’re using humans, what reason have we got for ruling out diplomacy? None, and it tends to go that way a bit in my games- so much that I’ve come to plan for it.

I’ve also got something of an idea (maybe more of a quality of life improvement) for dealing with large groups of enemies without minis or strict positional record keeping, which will be coming in another blog post.

Miscellaneous Suggestions/Reminders So I Don’t Forget Them

*to self: actually write the fucking special ability rules you fool
Rogue combat talents, especially ranged/pugilism ones need a look over. Musical talents need to be ready before fall semester. Beastmaster talents whenever.
Actually use the calendar you wrote, asshole. Better time records.
Convert/prep some dungeons over the summer, for god’s sakes.
Decide what is going on with the Spirit Realm. Release related classes.

Setting Discussions

Lastly, we come to setting issues. Turns out most of my players weren’t even aware they were on a fucking Bishop Ring till after the fall semester, so…yeah. But with loftier idea’s out of the way, I was going for more of an East Asian flavoring over fairly typical knights/kings/medieval fantasy/etc. but may have leaned too heavily on the foreign language dictionaries. From now on  place names are going to be more unassumingly and descriptively English (Black Hills, Yewhill, etc.), and people will be more referred to by title. It fits the sort of feel I’m going for better anyways, I think.

What I really want is for my players to “get” my setting. Not all the deep lore or whatever, but that sort of familiarity/desire to know more that permeates successful fantasy settings it. When Luke walks into a seedy bar in Mos Eisley, when Harry Potter has to go around buying all his shit from Diagon Alley, I think the viewer or reader “gets” the setting through the subtle details of worldbuilding sort of seeded throughout. It’s familiar but all different again, and it hooks people in. I think those franchises owe a lot of their success to those particular scenes and the ones preceding them.

One last thing that’s been bothering me if how high magic things have been getting. I”m more attracted to low fantasy games and settings, but I’m also fairly committed to it for this project, mostly to see if it can work. So much fantasy I see nowadays has got spells whizzing all around the place and weird magic and magical abilities for every wizard and monk that comes hopping down the lane. I like fantasy where everything works the same way it does in real life, except when it doesn’t, because then that’s special.

Adepts have been particularly troubling in this regard, especially the ones that have ties to organizations in the greater world. Adepts in general are meant to be rather rare, and the guys who are under the control of a church structure definitely need a reason to be running around with these yahoos collecting treasure. I’ve considered giving them a fate point cost at character creation and forcing the player to explain their character’s relationship to their hierarchy. It should give them incentive to roleplay a bit more and maybe actually observe their tenants, while cutting down on the number of adepts overall.

I’ve also had an idea, which I may or may not elaborate on in a future post, of bringing them campaign into space. Not Spelljammer, no. No, something more like what I always thought Spelljammer should be. Namely, comparatively technologically primitive societies who by luck or shoddy homegrown tech or maybe a bit of magic or whatever figured out hermetic seals and solar sails and now have spaceships. Meanwhile, their most opulent palaces lack indoor plumbing. Space works same way it does in real life. You need a crew and a biological calculator, not a wizard… although a wizard may help for that last part.

The Devil Princes of Carbax

The sky has two suns. One provides life and light to the ring, glowing white and bright in the sky.

The other is Carbax, the Devil Sun. It simmers red and hateful, day and night. It also gives life, but not to the ring or the world of men. There lies the Devil Courts, where magic and power and madness are traded and stolen, all brokered by the Devil Princes and their lieutenants.

These are these names, domains, and realms.

Melsh

The master of courtesy, splendor, and betrayal. He and his court claims to have invented and disseminated all the trappings of civilization. His devils are known as the Painted Devils. His realm is Gadal, an asteroid of crystal and glass, a city carved all across its surface.

Kadon

The king of kings, master of hierarchy and royalty and creator of class, caste, and contract. He raised the first kings of men, was the first king by some estimations. He is served by the Devil Counts, Barons, and Dukes, who lord over their demesnes from a thousand thousand castles and fastnesses in the realm of Avalon, a harsh and austere world of cold seas and rocky islands.

Pilact

The Prince(s) of consensus, community, and change. They are also known as the crusher of dissent, and the death of independent thought. They are served by or perhaps serve the Million Devils. The realm of Capria is a now emptied ecumenopolis all the way down to the core, ruled nominally by Pilact and actually by the few communes that survived the last convulsions of violence.

Juvias

The Prince of ambition, singularity, and mistrust. He is “served” by the August Devils, who pursue their own agendas, and are perhaps the most diverse of any devils. They also deal most often with mortals and wizards. Their realm is a desolate, airless landscape of isolated peaks and towers.

Affra

The Devil Prince (Princess?) of love, lust, devotion, and passion. She (it?) is also called the Darklover, and has power over sorrow and joy. Their court is filled with the Amorous Devils, who run amok in creation to tempt and reproduce. Their realm is the planet Siltol, half covered with steaming, vampiric jungle, and the rest covered with sweltering desert.

Garal

The master of greed, want, and luxurious splendor. It is also known as the Rapacious Lord, and is served by the Gilded Devils. Garal’s realm is a great stellated dodecahedron known as Masop, in which all the material pleasures and treasures of the world are contained.

Elact and Voath

The two masters of war, conflict, and strife, who have been warring with each other since time immemorial. They are served by the Belligerent and Bellicose Devils, respectively. Really, they are more alike than different. Their realms fluctuate across the wartorn binary planets of Poul and Esht.

Foroth

The master of forbidden knowledge, secrets, philosophy, prophecy, and sophistry. Also known as the Profaner or All-Seeing Prince. It is served by the Seeing Devils, who trade for knowledge in all its forms. Its realm, known as Yiol, is a deep blue ice giant in which the knowledge the devils hoard is contained.

Nereyl

The mistress of death, decay, and entropy. Also known as the Nemesis Queen, and Guardian of the Dead, and has powers over mutation and evolution.She is served by the Blight Devils. The distant realm of Nemesis is a desolate, icy hellscape with pockets of subterranean sub-courts. She is hated by Ceras and all the other devil lords, and actively rebels against them.

Ceras

The Master of all the Devils, Lord of Undeath, Longevity, and Anentropy. This is god of the gods, the most powerful by far. All the other lords, save Nereyl, at least outwardly bend their knees. His control is loose to non-existent. His realm is technically Carbax itself, which is swollen to enormous size by his presence in the core. However, it also claims the tidally locked world of Seph. He is served by the Eternal Devils, and many, many undead.

Seph’s is also an ecumenopolis, filled with undead, devils, men, and demons (aliens). The light side is built around the bones of a network of smaller cities, raised long ago by Ceras’s orders. In between those and all across the night-side, the dregs of society threw up their own ramshackle architecture to accommodate the traders, refugees, and petitioners. Seph is now seen by Ceras as a horrific entropy-engine, a city of waste, want, and hated disorder. Yet he does not destroy, as would be simple for him to do. It is out of love that he preserves his erstwhile children, as is everything that he does to fight the inevitability of death.

The Wizards

Wizard in my game are like warlocks. Men’s souls are bright but weak sources of magic, and the must be augmented by the panoply. Items in the panoply include the grimoire, talismans, raiments, foci (a staff usually), a familiar, a servant, and a sanctum. If you want to cast an Xth level spell, you need X panoply items. But all of the above items only count once to your maximum castable spell level, so what’s the deal? Well, to truly ascend to the heights of mortal power, you need to make a Pact.

Note: Servants and Familiars also tend to be minor devils, but in theory be any sufficiently magical creature that agrees to service.

A pact is a deal with the a Devil Prince or one of their lieutenants. Again, these are unique and vary from devil to devil and wizard to wizard. Usually the benefits start at a spell slot of the highest level a wizard can cast and the cancellation of all experience penalties, whilst the costs typically start at the immortal soul of the wizard, one creed the wizard must always follow, and one favor owed by the wizard, to be carried out before their death, the particular nature of the favor to be determined at a later date. However, everything said for servants applies here as well, but the benefits can apply anywhere. Kingdoms, money, stat increases, XP bonuses, anything is possible.  Again, making a pact is roleplaying, not rolling.

Wizards who violate the terms of the pact (breaks a creed, doesn’t complete a favor) may be subjected to curses, lose their benefits, or even die, depending on the pact. The broker of the pact will usually “forget” to mention these unless prodded.

A wizard may have as many pacts as they want, with each one providing access to a new spell level.  Such arrangements are permanent unless the pact stipulates some exit condition, which a Devil Prince or lieutenant will almost never agree to include.

EX: Aldemos seeks arcane power through the Devil Prince Juvias. In exchange for two additional spell slots of the highest level he can cast and a ten percent bonus to all experience, Juvias requests his soul, a favor, and that he hoard his power and take no apprentices. Aldemos accepts, and gains great power as a result, eventually growing well-famed and achieving many court appointments. Soon he enters service with a powerful king, and earns an unprecedented marriage to the king’s daughter daughter. Shortly thereafter, Juvias notices, and believing Aldemos’s trust and love for his new wife holds him back, the Prince calls in his favor: kill his wife and family. Aldemos balks at this request, and instead tries to flee, family in tow. Aldemos and family is violently killed by devils the very same day, his soul dragged to the domains of Juvias.

Mendicant, Beggar Houses, and Caravansaries

The Resplendent Empire contracted behind the Ochre River, as internal strife and external invasion gnawed at the borders. This saved the remnants of the state, but millions were left on the wrong side of the river, in depopulated towns and under the cruel warlords remaining.

So they fled.

City of Beggars

By a twist of luck, some refugees landed near a large cenote, in a site well positioned for exploiting windward trade. Their fortune was not obvious; the fields grow only millet and wheat, the hills turn out only iron and copper. Yet because of trade, the city sprawls outwards precariously and defiantly.

Men from all over the continent now haunt the great markets and caravansaries. Beggars still sit forlornly in the corners of dusty stone streets, and sleep in dusty tan arcades.

Fortune seekers from all parts flock to the city, of course. Few places are better for selling their ill-gotten gains, and the hills are dotted with ruins.

Most people here are from the Resplendent Empire’s lost or conquered peripheries, refugees direct or first and second generation descendants of such. Around here, the empire is referred to as the Homeland, and held in a vaguely nostalgic reverence. Not that anyone really wants to go back. Not with the way things are going.

Beggar Galleries

When the fortune seekers arrive in town, they’ll probably stay in one of these. Stone floors are free of charge. Stealing isn’t much of a problem if you’re well armed. The owner of One Roof, the largest gallery in the city, also takes pains to keep the beggars well behaved.

Mind the beggar dukes. They run some of the smaller beggar-houses, and organize gangs. The lone grifter with a iron nail shiv is not particularly dangerous, but meeting a score of them in a gallery at night rarely ends well. Don’t annoy them, and don’t ruin any of their rackets.

Caravansaries

Traders and their ilk are disdained in the cultures of the Resplendent Empire, an attitude the daughter city shares. For this reason, merchant guilds (with one exception) are not allowed to hold property within the city, and must instead organize themselves through the caravansaries and their powerful owners. Now, their function has extended to general meeting place for the public, especially the establishments catering to the lower classes. People wander on down to the hostels to drink, game, socialize, and cavort.

If beggar dukes are small time criminals, the managers and owners of the city’s hostels are the big time dons. They practically serve as nobility. In addition to being the real gear turners behind trade, they own the entire slave and prostitution trade. They’d own the mercenary barracks too, if the mayors would let them. Hostels are the center of life, and hold pubs, theaters, game rooms, baths, and brothels.

The largest caravansary is The Sunset Way, built over and around one the largest street in the city, Kneeling Street, which is more like a tunnel due to the complexes expanse. Kneeling Street leads to Kneeling Market, the largest market in the city. The main building and assorted attachments could host 2000 traders with all their attendant baggage and livestock. It is the largest building in the city.

The House of White and Turquoise is smaller, more opulent, and famed all around continent. In addition to having an exterior of gleaming white marble enameled with turquoise stones -all imported, of course-, lush gardens are nestled away in the complex. The attached brothel is also well renowned as the best in the city. Here the richest traders and adventurers can be found, sipping fine liquors, and playing chess with finer jade and onyx pieces.

>>>Generate Caravansaries and Galleries<<<

Made in the spirit of Yoon-Suin tables. If you haven’t read Yoon-Suin yet, do so ASAP. Also made with Latex, as an experiment.

The Mayor

The Mayor and his cloud of ministers run all of this, nominally. The arm of their authority is the City Guard, and their leader is the Minister of Order. The Ministers of the Gates and the Bank control entrance into the city and finance within. There are others, but they aren’t as important, and tend to be in the pocket of one of the other ministers.

The Hordes

The crises that precipitated the Resplendent Empire’s century long contraction were many, but chief amongst them were the invasions and depredations of the Kuluk hordes. The hatred between the settlers of Mendicant and the shepherds of the steppe run strong and deep. Now, another horde seeks to drive the rotten city off the steppes, and plunder the wealth within. Forty foot tall walls keep them out, for now. If it ever comes to war, the city is doomed, that is sure.

Era of the Dead

The Elves had favorites in their rule of the Ring. Humans and societies given the secrets of magic, life, and death. The hated lich-kings and reviled elves worked hand in hand. Following the Gigantomachy, as the elder folk waned, and retreated to isolated palaces and cities in the air, the dead rose to take their place. Their cruelty matched and exceeded their masters, but the war with Titans changed all. No longer were the tribes of men cowering and cringing in the shadow of elves, not when the longer shadows of a deadlier foe had been cast down.

They are oft called the Lords of the Dead, those first tribes, that made cities, steel, and armies, and kicked off the Humanomachy, the final strangling of the Elves and their dominion over the Ring. For the last reason, they are called the Humanomachs as well. They are dead, destroyed by their wars for dominion, but there names are remembered well by histories.

Stone Masters

The first to rise, the first to fall. They learned from the Giants how to construct great works of stone. Gargantuan castles and curtain walls of stone, fit together cunningly without mortar. They stole the riddles of steel from the elves as well. Kings on the Storm Salient still claim lineage (and their honorific) from their first king, Anax Kwame.

Their domains spread over the whole of Zephyria, till the dead starved them in their cities, and feasted on the skin and bones remaining.

Mound Judges

Arbiters of death, dispensers of justice, and the greatest kings of men to walk Creation. Destroyed the undead wherever they were found, and rose dirt mounds the size of mountains. Created the first script of men, derivatives of which still see use in Zephyria. The Mound Kings of Xul claim descent from a king, Kasen Er.

Their homeland, lying in the seas between Zephyria and Xul, was sunk into the the sea by the cruel lich kings.

The Spirit Shamans

Technically predate all of this, but didn’t organize kingdoms or lead conquests. The mythic figure Samnus first learned how to access the realm of spirits, and do mysterious workings of magic.

Even today, spirit shamans still ply their trades, most often in Eurus. But anywhere there are wilds, they can be found.

River Lords

Arose in the far east of Eurus, descent claimed by Resplendent Empire. Their theurgy allowed them great power over the dead and ability to predict the future. Invented irrigation and waterworks. Wyvern riders invaded heaven and put a torch to the cities of the sky, before raising their own. Made their own script as well, used in most of Eurus.

Internal disputes, and the great expense of the invasion, and the distance of their rulers from their Earthly subjects eventually shattered their hold on the ground.

Star Pupils

Men who stole the secrets of magic from the Elves, and their tradition is practiced still by all men in all parts. They taught the rest of humanity of the eight schools, long hoarded by the lich kings. Their loyalties were ever uncertain, but eventually, critically, they sided with the Humanomachs. Without them, the Elves and Lich Kings would have certainly remained in power.

They survived longest of the Humanomachs, even being concurrent with the Resplendent Empire’s early days, but their network of client states turned against them, and their crystal tower was cast down in the shadow of the Ji Mountains.

Forgotten Allies

In truth, men did not win alone. They had the aid of the demi-humans, hated and reviled in the Resplendent Empire. You will find little mention outside Gnomic Records (themselves written by demi-humans) of their contributions. The other records are too short, or too biased. Nonetheless, these allies were critical to the success of the rebellion.

Grand Anilin Commune

The greatest polity of this race ever to be seen; with their numbers, reality could bend to their will. Before the Star Pupils, the Anilins were the only thing keeping the other kingdoms in the game. They turned back armies of the dead, time and time again. The cost of their abilities is death, and so they died in droves, working the magics needed for the Humanomachs to survive, and win.

Pit Folk

The masters of the great dark expanses of the rings interior. Their aid was felt everywhere, including on the far continent of Akertha, neglected by the rest. They hated elves, their own kin, with ferocious abandon, their suicidal charges killing as many of them as their enemies. Even in the direst times, they fought- surrender was never an option. They are still said to survive in the deserts of Akertha, in the Usfir kingdoms.

Gnomen Chroniclers

Wrote most of this.

Snake Men Tribes

Provided manpower and tactical prowess in the many battles of Humanomachy, all while they set the stage for their own empire.

Gate Makers

Also said to be kin to elves, these enigmatic peoples are not well understood. Interestingly, even the Resplendent Empire’s records mentions them, suggesting they may have been humans. It seems they served as a sort of magical porters, using their magics to whisk wide armies of other states to distant places. Also seemed to be a general go to whenever some specific weapon was needed, and could not be provided with human magic or Anilin empathy.  Rumored to have a city of gold called Janix located… well, probably somewhere on the Ring.

Notes on scripts: Elvish is used most often in Zephyria, the River Seal Script’s descendants are most common in Eurus. Elvish and the Mound Rune Script’s derivatives split Xul. Akertha has little writing- only the Usfir keep any writing, and they write Elvish.

Damned Dirty Demi-Humans

There weren’t many demi-humans in my campaign. None of these are playable right now, save half-elves. The campaign does not take place in the Bright Empire, but most demi-humans are nonetheless very rare in most of Eurus. Some classes will be closed to each race, and a few will have unique adept classes.

I’ve also decided to revise the size of the ring. It is now only 70000 km in radius. The rotation still takes a full day. The “gravity” of the ring is provided by its mass, in which case everything must necessarily be on the outside of the ring (inside the net gravitational effect would be zero) or gravity must be provided by some other, potentially magical mechanism. Another possibility is asymmetry within the ring’s structure. The area under the tower and the directly opposite patch of ring could be composed of ultra dense material, generating a local gravitational field. In fact, you could probably have four of these, with large voids between them.

I’ll have to mull this over, but I feel the ideas I have for the creation of the ring could justify the existence of artificial gravity without needing those stand-ins.

Zhlyrs

Technically just the top moiety of their namesake empire, but claimed by detractors and dissidents to be nonhuman. Confirming this is quite difficult, as all of them go about wearing full body armor or similarly obfuscating clothing. Certainly seem far lankier and taller than regular humans. Rumors abound that they have three eyes, that their mouth is on their forehead, that they have no eyes at all. Masters of destructive magicks, which is not aiding their public image.

Elves

Extinct. Said to be immortal, capable of regenerating horrific wounds. Masters of alchemy, necromancy. Complete bastards. Left ruins all over the place; scholars suspect the giants killed them all.

Half-Elves

Spread over the Antezephyr edges of Zephyria. Sky-Elf empire claims dominion over all of elfkind. Including those outside their mountain ranges. Half-Elves don’t live longer than humans, but they do have pointy ears and tend toward slimmer builds. Only demi-humans the Bright Empire can tolerate.

Harpies

Winged humanoids, all female. Had complex if technologically simple (their hand/talons are not good for tool usage) societies, now “united” with Sky-elves. Second class citizens or slaves. Many kept by the state as messengers, as they fly as well as they walk. Native culture basically gone by now.

Gnomen

Live in the shadow of the border mountains, driven there by Bright Empire. Known as the silent folk. Wildly intelligent with eidetic memory but only 1 in 10000 can process or form speech. Highly gestural language, so subtle that most humans can’t read or use it. Shorter than humans, live to 150, arms disproportionately long. Histories all destroyed, writing unreadable, culture adrift in the mountains.

Anilins

Age to pubescence, then remain at that age for roughly 100 years before aging the rest of the way to adulthood, reproducing,  and dying within five years. Powerful empathic abilities, can alter reality with the sheer power of groupthink. Live in communes, where everyone is approximately the same age. Hair is part of their brain, and is mostly gray- the same color as their nerves. Their eyes are flat grey as well. Large grey nerves visible through their skin. Spread all over, but most in Eurus were driven to the peripheries and isolated places by the Bright Empire.

Zosterians (Troglodytes)

Re-write of my older troglodyte race-as-class. Amphibians that form a symbiotic relationship with pond scum/lichen. Once had great underground society, destroyed and separated by Bright Empire. Trogs can only have one lichen/pond-scum for life- removing it kills them. Most common type is edible shaggy plants sprouting form their skin, making them look like they’re wearing ghillie suits. Incredibly pragmatic.

Snake-men*

What it says on the tin. Massive empire, overthrown by the Bright Empire. Masters of mathematics. Lower classes were legged, upper classes had tails. Also destroyed by Bright Empire. You may notice a theme emerging.

Malactins (Diamondbacks)

Humanoids with large armored backs. Hunched over from their own weight. Clannish, strong, mistrustful, and nomadic. Once had five kingdoms in the lowlands of Bod until they were destroyed by -drumroll- the Bright Empire.

Ponilins (Jungle-kin)**

Furred humanoids, orangutan-like. Tribal, live deep in jungles and woods of Eurus. Driven deeper in by the Bright Empire’s support of humans in the area. Secretive, furtive, but generally peaceful. Trappers and ambushers.

Giants and Titans

Too many to list. Most common in Xul, and formerly Eurus before events tentatively linked to the Bright Empire drove most of them out. Used to practically rule over all of Eurus, in fact. Most common that are left over is the Lava Lords, Oni, and Cyclopes.

Goblins**

Goblins. Many different subspecies. Aye-aye-like creatures most common type. Basically pests these days, in most of Eurus.

Others

There are said to be dozens of strange creatures living on the boundaries of Xul. Bear-folk, Olms, and Froggins are all said to dwell that land, and many more. Some rare species still persist in Zephyria and Eurus, but are not well known, or thought extinct. Grasshopper Men*** are native to the strange continent of Akerhta. Visitors of that land tell strange tales of the Sea-Hags, pale creatures that stand upright like a man, but whose face opens to circular rows of teeth.

*Skerple’s Tomb of the Serpent Kings

**This post from Throne of Salt

***If you have yet to read noism’s Yoon Suin, do so at the nearest opportunity.

The Zalim Desert

I have returned. I will probably start running sessions again once the semester starts. This area will likely be very relevant. Without further ado:

The Zalim Desert

The Zalim Desert is cold. While the days do get hot enough in summer to warrant fear of heatstroke, the real danger is the bitterly cold nights. The desert sits right next to the massive border mountains that keep the atmosphere of the bishop ring in, so cold air is constantly flowing down into the desert. This also leads to freak sandstorms in the summer, where enough hot air reaches the area from the coast/rest of the landmass.

The Zalim Desert is massive. No one has fully mapped it. Only a few have crossed it all in one go, and takes two months or more. Most of the thing is empty. Some places are featureless plains of sand. In other places, the ground more rocky and solid, especially nearer the mountains. The center is mostly massive shifting dunes. Few things live in the desert, but those that do are dangerous. Canisphinxes, deadly scorpion swarms, and the dreaded purple worms all call the desert home. Travel, if it is done, is done in groups. Caravans of fifty or more people is advised.

The Zalim Desert is united. Despite its size, danger, and lack of water, almost all of the desert is nominally united under a single religion. The Sun Wardens brought order to the chaos long ago. The desert’s greatest danger is its dearth of easily accessible water, but this also a boon to those who seek to control the people within. Control the oases and wells, and everyone in the desert must bow to you. And this is what the Sun Wardens did so long ago.

The Sun Wardens

The predominant religion of the entire desert is in reverence to the first Sun Warden, Nursa. With four arms, two of flesh and two of light, he fought back the demon blades and the dreaming madmen, and the united the tribes of Nursa’s expanse. His heirs finished the conquest of the desert by taking each of the oases, one by one. Everywhere one goes, three armed, four-armed, and sunburst motifs are apparent.

The Sun Wardens are easily determined by the sunburst marking their right hand, through which  their magical powers flow. All Sun Wardens are left-handed, and everyone else is right-handed. Left-handed people who aren’t Sun Wardens are sacrificed. One in five of all left-handers are born bearing the mark.

The Sun Wardens are privileged and elevated in the society, but they do not rule. Not anymore, in any case. The Grand Scion of Nursa is primarily ceremonial office given to the foremost of the young Sun Wardens, but once the title passed through ultimogeniture and carried with it rule over the deserts. So while the blood of the prophet runs through the Sun Warden’s veins, control is given over to the mundane priesthood of the Church. Adepts, especially those that receive their power innately, are in general far too erratic and self-assured to be trusted with control. Usually they will serve the Oasis Wardens of whichever place they were born in.

The Oasis Wardens

The keepers of peace and enforcers of law in the Zalim Desert. They have no magical power themselves, but all political power is in their hands. Each oasis or water source has some member or members of the priesthood in control of the surrounding area. Each oasis runs mostly according to its own disposition, but each mini-theocracy is part of the larger confederacy blanketing the whole desert. The confederacy does not usually have a ruler, except in times of greatest need, when a Sharif is elected to lead the united armies of all the oases. In other times, the city of Kerulay serves as a de-facto political and cultural center.

The most important service the Oasis Wardens is the water dole. In the Zalim Desert, even in the old days, water was never bought or sold, only given and received as a gift or as charity. Now, this process has be normalized and ritualized. Since the Oasis Wardens control all of the water, for others to live they must receive water as from them; this is the water dole. Every day, every citizen receives a fixed amount of water. Usually enough to live on, but not enough to be comfortable. Great pains are taken to ensure that each citizen gets only the water they are allotted. These same pains make the Wardens excellent administrators, for they must know the name and status of every person within their domain. The penalty for thievery is severe, the penalty for buying or selling water even worse.

The common sentence for theft is amputation of a limb, usually the left hand. An outright death penalty is rare, but one of the sentences unique to the desert is castigation, wherein the accused is branded on each hand and on the forehead. Those bearing the brand can never receive water or charity from the Oasis Wardens, ever. Private citizens can still give them water, but most of them have no water to give and wouldn’t if they could, due to the stigma associated with the castigated. So, castigation is in most cases tantamount to exile.

Each citizen should receive the same amount of water. They do not. Farmers naturally get water via irrigation, but that water is still part of the church. However, agricultural products are expensive and many farmers become rich enough to influence the church to grant them extra water. Merchants likewise do the same, as it is necessary for them to cross the great distances to buy and sell. To incentivize gladiatorial combat, the church literally showers the fighters in water. The result is the creation of an upper class, essentially capable of maintaining their own loyal households reliant on them for water.

DGR: while the ability to gain extra water is obviously tied to material wealth, they still aren’t “buying” water as we would mean it. The water is exchanged for various “favors”, some of which very obviously have to do with the flow of money, but nevertheless, they find ways to make the transaction indirect. A merchant gives a great sum of money to a farmer with close ties to the priesthood, and the priesthood is so overjoyed they give a large amount of water to the merchant, as an earthly reward for his generosity and support for the community. Shit like that.