Saturday, 9 May 2020

The Grand Kevuk Championship

Another bit rescued from the Inner Sphere blog:


The shrine of Niyunen, the Giver of Unlooked for Wealth, (an aspect of Hrihayal) is between the towns of Pala Jakalla and Hyatla in Jakasha Province. Starting on the 5th of Langala through to the 8th Langala the humid summer nights are filled with the rattle of dice as the grand yearly Kevuk championships are held. The courtyard of the temple is filled with booths and stalls selling food, drink and drugs, a veritable city of tents houses the festival goers, there are stages for musicians and dancers, and other gambling games carry on apace on the outskirts.

But the main event is in the central hall of the shrine, the Kevuk game. It is an unusual event in that the common street corner players who play for a few qirgal and a round of drinks get to challenge the aristocratic rakes who play for thousands of kaitars; wealth is not an issue here, and even social divisions are relaxed a little. It is all about luck and the fvaour of the Lady.

The selection of players for the final three days of gaming is made by drawing numbered lots at the start of the festival; 1000 play on the first day in groups of 10, the 100 winners play in groups of 10 on the second day, and the last 10 play on the last day, all games starting at sunset and ending at sunrise or when all players bar one are out of tokens. The winner gets to experience as many of the 32 Unspeakable Acts as they care to participate in free of charge (including the inevitably fatal 32nd if they so desire), free lodging at the temple for a year and, most prized of all, a jade bracelet of unusual design that denotes that they have been the favourite of Niyunen for that year.

Since it is first come first served for the big game, the event actually begins as early as late Didom, when hopefuls start to camp out in the temple grounds, and the first dice games inevitably start just to pass the time until the festival begins. Many a player has been reduced to penury by the time the Priests and Priestesses throw their gates open to the players of the sacred game.

Kévuk | Board Game | BoardGameGeek

Scenarios:


Saving Utlen

Utlen hiTelsu, a youth of the impeccably aristocratic High Pinnacle clan, has not been seen for weeks. Before his disappearance he was on a determined path of drinking gambling and wenching and in the opinion of his elders possibly over doing it a bit. They have checked the debtors prisons and Ketengku temples and cannot find him there, they are hoping he will turn up at the Kevuk championship.

  1. He turns up as a player not of Kevuk, but Six-Glass, a very decadent game of chance involving six drinking glasses and a bottle of Dreaming Diamond Tsuhoridu. The normal game is played with five glasses of water and one of Dreaming Diamond, which most people can take maybe three or four shots of before passing out into a hallucination filled dream, the loser being the one who passes out first after several rounds of random drink selection. He gets to pay for the Tsuhoridu. The ‘fun’ version Utlen is playing involves five big glasses of Double Diamond (aka The White Mist of Inchoate Dreams) and one of poison. All persons go out after the first drink, but only five wake up half an hour later. They are usually so mashed they immediately set the glasses up for another game. Winner/survivors are considered a) mad but also b) blessed by Hrihayal and therefore gain +2 on any seduction rolls among those who think this sort of thing is cool.

  2. He is in the big game, and he had better win. He has made a side bet with a ‘friend’ of his of some 10,000 kaitars that he will make it to the last round. If he doesn’t he will become that friends property as a slave. The friend, depending on how evil the GM is feeling, may be another foolish rake doing it for a laugh, a priestess of Dlamelish who will just use him as a sex toy for a while, or a priest of Ksarul who needs a good looking youth for a demonic sacrifice he has planned. In any case other friends of his will be breaking the rules by intimidating and/or killing rival players, and his opposition will be trying to get people to swap numbers so he inevitably faces the best players in the field.

  3. He turns up not as a player but a prize. He has been introduced to Zu’ur and is one of a batch of addicted slaves who are being offered as prizes in a high-stakes Tlatlen game.

  4. He turns up as a slave merchant. He is up to his eyeballs in debt and he has hit on a pretty creepy but workable method of making some money back by offering to buy the children of big losers as slaves at a real knock-down rate. He has accomplices targeting those attendees known to have families and inveigling them into crooked kevuk games.

  5. He doesn’t turn up. However it does get about that some bunch of guys are looking for a kid called Utlen and they are inundated with random people called Utlen, drunks and junkies claiming to have seen him and willing to tell them about it for a few kaitars, panderers who know a lovely young lad called Utlen they should meet, variously unconvincing fake Utlens who think they can pass themselves off as him long enough to get access to some of High Pinnacles’ cash etc. etc.

  6. He turns up, but his activities are obscure to say the least. He is disguised as a sailor and is hanging about with the most debauched sorts imaginable but appears to be staying away from most of the considerable temptations on offer. He has in fact been secretly recruited by the OAL to ‘go undercover’ and ferret out Zu’ur smugglers. A bunch of fools turning up and telling everyone that he is a young nobleman will seriously screw things up and put his life in danger.


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Tugo the Lucky

Tugo is a latrine digger (or corpse washer, street sweeper or other yucky very low clan occupation). He also happens to be pretty good at kevuk, and has a knack for spotting when a bird is going to poop on people. He is cutting a swathe through the festival, filling his pockets with small change at the lesser kevuk pits, coin tossing, hoopla and wheel of fortune stalls.

  1. The story of the lucky pleb have got about. A certain priest of Gruganu has a theory; in all the games he is good at some physical object is involved – a wheel, dice, a hoop and so on. He reckons this fellow is a raw psychic with a powerful telekinetic ability and wants him recruited to the temple. PCs must observe him and see if they can confirm or deny this suspicion; teaching him tsahlten and seeing how he does might work. If a mage is available he might be able to detect the psychic energies in his vicinity during a game. He might not want to come with you – threatening or trying to kidnap him might result in some difficulty as he will instinctively use telekinetic force to avoid capture.

  2. As 1. but Tugo is well aware of what he is doing; this is no wild talent, he is a sorcerer in disguise. His temple is one of the dull and straight-laced stability ones that frowns on using magic to affect the outcome of dice games, but he decided to slip out and have a laugh. Apprehending him might prove tricky, as he is well trained with some very hairy abilities.

  3. AS 2, but Tugo is not just any old sorcerer, he is an Undying Wizard, come to this probability and time to find some really awful demon and deal with it. The messing about at the gaming tables is just a ruse to attract the attention of a certain Gruganu priest who lies at the centre of the nefarious and world-threatening goings on.

  4. Tugo is a demon in disguise. He is looking to gain attention from some of the big cheeses at the fair and challenge them to a game of kevuk for a sum unspecified (it will turn out to be their souls…). If they accept a game with a latrine cleaner they are demeaning themselves, but if they refuse, they will never know if they really are the best Kevuk player. With the right style and quantity of charm and ego prodding he might manage it.

  5. Tugo is a very lucky hick on an extraordinary roll of good fortune. This is likely to come to an end, as the PCs over hear a couple of jealous lowlife types planning to relieve the jolly menial of his winnings. He’s a latrine digger, who will investigate or pursue shamtla? Do the players let this happen, mug him themselves, or protect him? What is the decent thing in these circumstances as far as their temple is concerned?

  6. Tugo is blessed by Hrihayal; his astrological chart has some perfect trines and other aspects, he was born to play dice. Someone who investigates his background appropriately might persuade him of this fact, or if not him, then perhaps the temple staff. There would be a big reward from the temple for discovering a person in whom Niyunen is so manifest.
PCs may hear a curious rumour about him – he is allegedly a penis thief! A couple of people near him at one of the stalls ran away screaming saying that their penises had disappeared. If they track down these persons it turns out to be true. This is because they tried to pick his pocket and the goddess Hrihayal exacted appropriate revenge on behalf of her chosen son.

 

The Law of Chance

An event like the festival needs careful and discreet policing. It can’t be left to run itself, gambling, drugs, drink and sex all in one place in large amounts will almost inevitably lead to something else in even bigger amounts – violence and theft. Various agencies take an interest in the festival and its legal side.

  1. The Order of the Absolute Light of Justice are a lesser sect of the temple of Hnalla (with a few Karakan, Thumis and Chegarra adherents thrown in) who are dedicated to maintaining the utmost standards of probity and decorum in public life. A bunch of puritanical busybodies in other words, and it is their contention that gambling of any kind is an affront to the orderly running of the Empire and probably the universe as well, as all events are preordained by mighty Lord Hnalla and betting on them is blasphemous. Under the rules of the Concordat they cannot ban the Kevuk Festival, but they can turn up and poke their noses into everyone’s business and make sure every petty infraction of the word of the law is scrupulously investigated and the offenders punished. PCs are either a member of the sect trying to uncover as many ‘crimes’ as possible and/or convert the benighted gamblers to the way of Absolute Light, or one of the long suffering policemen who follow them about trying to keep the fools out of trouble.

  2. The Temple Guard of Hrihayal are pretty easygoing lot; fat, lazy and corrupt might be a little uncharitable, but not entirely inaccurate. However the Kevuk Festival does require them to be a bit more on the ball than usual – the provincial governor keeps getting it in the ear from those Hnalla twerps about the amount of petty crime it attracts and they might be forced to scale the thing back or stop it entirely. The PCs are draftees from the Jakalla temple, unsure of the how things are done at the festival and have to try and keep order in a Hrihayal-ish fashion. A challenge to roleplaying if ever there was one.

  3. As 2. but life is made a tad more complicated by the presence of a gang of lads from the Chiteng Temple. They are supposed to be providing muscle to back up the Hrihayal guards should armed force be necessary, but seem to be more intent on getting drunk as lords, spending their pay at the gaming booths before they even get it and getting laid. Being Chitengi, they doing all of the above with maximum aggression, seeing how many people they can intimidate and/or beat up and/or impale for public order offences along the way.

  4. as 3, but not to worry, a cohort of the Legion of Gusha the Khirgari are on leave after a long and boring garrison duty in the Pass of Skulls, and have turned up on a regimental day out to the festival without their officers a day after they received three months back pay.

  5. Zu’ur is on sale at the festival. The OAL want to know who is selling it, and where they got it from. Keep your knives hidden but keep them sharp, Zu’ur smuggling gangs are nearly as well organised and vicious as the OAL itself. Fortunately the forested garden of the Temple of Niyunen offers many places to set ambushes and hide corpses.



Luck and Death

There is of course a distinct possibility that PCs may just want to turn up at such an event and have a game of dice and bit of a laugh. The following options are mere random events and situations they may encounter at the festival.

  1. Lucky Kuruku Feet are on sale, a must for any gambling man looking for an edge. Trouble is they are not quite dead, and may randomly reanimate in the dead of night, grab something small but valuable and finger walk their way back through the gardens to the villain who is selling them.

  2. Scandal at the Tsahlten tent erupts when players accuse one of the judges of bias. Tsahlten is a high class game for the well heeled, and the poor judge, a mere low clanner from the Bright Sword, cannot act against the high clan complainers. To make matters worse his honour is being further impugned by another judge from the Clan of the Balanced Stone who says he definitely was cheating. A matter of honour is rapidly escalating out of control, duels may be fought.

  3. A popular side show among the lower clan types is the contest to see which woman attending the festival has the biggest breasts and which man the biggest penis (don’t titter, this is deeply seriously religious stuff to a goddess like Hrihayal!). The appropriate organ is weighed and a prize of the equivalent in silver is awarded to the winner, or their owner should they happen to be a slave. The PCs may want to enter, trawling the slave markets of Jakalla for a suitable contestant, or may have been asked to find a sponsor for the contest if they are followers of Hrihayal or Dlamelish. A prize slave dancing girl, Orella, a lass with a chest like two chlen-calves fighting over a turnip, has gone on the run – if she makes it to the festival she would probably win the prize and if not buy her freedom, at least make enough cash to get home to Salarvya.

  4. An utterly bizarre funeral is taking place at the festival this year. Lady Gashon hiYtlenu has finally expired from the side effects of her deep devotion to Hrihayal, and as a final act of piety is donating her preserved corpse to the temple for use in certain necrophiliac rites. The funeral procession is a sight many will not forget in a long while, and as for those privileged to see the ‘interment’…
  5. Shen shouldn’t gamble really, they become addicted too easily and they are poor losers. In fact that big one over there is such a poor loser he is running amok with a sword-axe and, oh look, he is heading your way...

  6. A fantastic new game is sweeping the festival – cat racing! The Clan of the Hidden Hand have created tiny carts and puppet cart-drivers and hitched them to tiuni. The spectacle is chaotic but hilarious and it costs a lot just to get into the pavillion and have a look, let alone put a bet on. Aficionados of the dying art of dog-racing, a sport much like greyhound racing on Earth using saluki-like tlekku, are appalled and want the farce banned forthwith.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Many years ago now I had a blog called 'The Inner Sphere' entirely devouted to EPT. Events in James Maliszewski's 'House of Worms' campiagn has reminded me of something I wrote about the nefarious workings of the temple of Ksarul, so I have dug it out.

All of the following is non-canonical, but if I am GMing EPT excpet some of the nonsense below to be true in my game...

Ksarul, Ancient Lord of Secrets


Ksarul is the Tsolyani god of secrets, mysteries and magic. Like all Tsolyani deities his religion is a complex business with 62 different recognised aspects (plus a few local ones), a close relationship with his 'cohort' Gruganu and his 27 aspects.



Ksarul goes by numerous epithets; the most common is 'The Doomed Prince of the Blue Room', alluding to his aeons long imprisonment in a room hung with deep blue curtains, permanently asleep, surrounded by ten impregnable magical walls. Even in this comatose state Ksarul is a mighty god.

Expanding Universe: Scarabomancy

 

Philosophy




This religion is a mystery cult writ large. Believers accept that the 'Outer Doctrines' as taught to lay members are essentially false, and that as a priest rises within the temple more and more of the true 'Inner Doctrines' are revealed to him. 

What constitutes real promotion in the temple is complicated by the presence of three major mutually mistrustful sects and the presence of the secret 'Inner Sphere', the membership of which is unknown and which directs the actions of the temple through secret meetings and subtle pressures.



The Temple of Ksarul operates on a paradox - everyone is expected to behave with utter faith and sincerity, doing what their higher ups tell them is the will of the Doomed Prince at all times and without question, while at the same time making it perfectly clear members of it's clergy are not only expected to tell lies to those below them in the hierarchy, it is their religious duty to do so.



This is Zen Stalinism, deliberate belief in a dictatorship that you know is lying to you, in order to gain sufficient knowledge and power to become a liar yourself. Add to that the fact that there are several different interpretations of what the will of the Doomed Prince actually is, and that it is difficult to know precisely who your superiors are when the most important ones - the Inner Sphere - lurk within the temple as spies on their own people.



Never, ever question whether a superior is telling you the truth. He is probably lying and certainly keeping various salient facts from you, possibly for your own good, possibly not, but never come right out and say it to their face, or even subtly imply that you do not trust the smiling goon as far as you can throw him/her. 

However Ksarulites are not gullible, far from it, the religion values intelligence (as opposed to wisdom, the domain of Thumis). And thus ambitious types are always on the lookout for opportunities to work out what kind of conspiracy is really going on, to spy on each other, steal documents, use blackmail and so on in order to ensure that they on the inside of any conspiratorial cabal pissing out and not one of the urinated on.



Of course all temples are like this to some extent (even those snivelling Thumis wimps) but with the Ksarulites it is tacitly accepted, and a follower caught in the act of any number of petty treacheries and misdemeanours will get off comparatively lightly - and might even be marked for promotion as being a person with a bit of flair and ambition and a suitably change deity attitude to stuffy stablity-favoured things like precedent and hierarchy.

 

Ksarulite Masks




Priests of Ksarul wear black robes with silver masks depicting the blandly smiling and friendly face of their deity, and square mortarboard like head-dresses, female priests have black wooden masks of the same kind. 

This kit is stiflingly hot, and unless they are attending a ceremony most priests will just wear the hat with a black and deep blue collar and a black kilt with a silver belt. Unlike priests of other religions Ksarulites do not usually wear insignia depicting their Circle rank; you often have no idea if you are talking to a junior clerk or a temple commandant, and given the vagaries of the Inner Sphere system the junior clerk may in fact have more real authority.

When they talk to the laity or say a chant or prayer in their role as a priest or priestess they use a droning sing-song voice that makes it hard to tell one from another. You will know whether it is a priest or priestess, but that is about it.

It is a tale the Ksarulites like to spread that the truly powerful among them like to circulate among the lower clergy and laity incognito and with deep cover indentities. That sweeper who works in the lower cloister, with a cast in one eye and muutters to himself? May well be the Chagun Hikkolei, Commander of Energies and Powers, a sorcerer outranking the High Priest himself... 

 

Sects of Ksarul




There are three major sects within the temple, each with its own spin on the theology and mythology of Ksarul; the reasonably open Society of the Blue Light, the ultra secretive Refulgent Blue Curtain Society which dominates in Tumissa and the Chakan provinces and the feared Ndalu society which conspires to gain greater political power for the temple. (See the Temple of Ksarul netbook and Mitlanyal Vol 2 for further details.)



There are numerous lesser sects, three of which are detailed below.



Cartographers of the Luminous Pylon



This is a group of two dozen adherents of Ksarul and Gruganu (and one of Dlamelish) based in Tumissa who are trying to map the many alternative demon planes. They are seeking to do this not through visiting these mostly lethal places, but through visions and scrying. They are of the opinion that it ought to be possible to use psychic methods to look into the other planes just as it is possible to use clairvoyance and telepathy; it is just a matter of getting your mind into the appropriate state of consciousness. They mostly do this through immoderate use of drugs. They communicate their findings through pictures and poetry, trying to capture the true otherworldly essence of the places they have seen in bizarre abstract paintings and incantations that appear to be gibberish.



Serious magicians regard them as dangerous loonies and disdain their methods and loathe the provocative and ungrammatical way they express their ideas, but the Cartographers are sure that they are onto something, perhaps the biggest revolution in magical theory and practice since Llyani times. The temple hierarchy will not stamp them out however; perhaps they secretly think the Cartographers will produce something useful, perhaps they are useful to the temple as a fertile source of false and confusing doctrines to baffle the uninitiated as to what Ksarul worship is really about.



The Cartographers have no hierarchy as such, just a charismatic leader, Zuthau hiTlekku of the Dark Fear clan, who pays for much of the 'work' out of his own pocket. Meetings of the Cartographers take place at Aubshoi's Palace of Alchemy shop in the Arcade of Three Lamps. They often start out like poetry readings or art exhibitions, proceed into drugged and drunken debauches and fairly frequently end in fist fights over disputed aspects of transplanar theory. Once in a while they will try an experimental incantation, which even more rarely will, after a fashion, work. 

They were banished from the temple proper when a particularly annoying plague of demonic teleporting crickets spewed forth from one of their nexus gates and infested the temple for weeks.



Stalkers of the Indigo Night



A secret organisation dedicated to protecting Ksarul and Hru'u pilgrims on the road to the shrines at the ruined city of Hmakuyal. Most people are well aware of the shrines, but the official line is that they are secret, and certainly no non-worshipper is allowed into the underground complex beneath the city, and access for most lower order clergy and lay members is seriously restricted. The Stalkers are made up of members of the Temple guard from Ksarul, Gruganu and Hru'u, and given the sinister nature of these cults are likely to have other functions as well as policing.


Whisperers in the Velvet Dark

This is an order of dedicated seers. Every major city temple will have a few such and a special secret chapel and cloister housing them. The fully initiated Whisperers are not allowed to be in the presence of light of any kind, if they are exposed even to lamplight they lose their gift of prophecy and incur an arduous period of re-purfication. Their apprentices are sometimes seen around the ordinary lamp-lit levels of catacombs, flitting to and fro unmasked but with their eyes sewn shut, touching the wals to feel the carvings that guide them around the temple. The novices stumble about even on the upper levels at night blindfolded learning this craft.

The priests of this sect are needed to perform the Acts of the Velvet Dark, and also perform divinations for the higher priesthood. Rich laymen may also consult them, being led blindfold through unlit labyrinths by the apprentices and allowed to listen in on their whispering rites from adjacent cells. 

Once a year they issue an almanac of prophecies for the laity, a nice little earner for the temple scriptoria, but since the originals are written by blind people working in total darkness and in black ink on black dyed vellum made from the hide of unhatched Shuoleth demons scribal interpretations are by neccessity a little free.

 

The Inner Sphere

The most important institution in the Temple of Ksarul is the Inner Sphere, a temple within a temple, the knowers of the most secret secrets and paracticioners of the most potent magics.

This is not be confused with the 'Inner Temple' - this is merely the holiest part of a physical Temple, the sanctuary made in the form of the Blue Room and its subterranean adjuncts like the Cloister of the Velvet Dark, the Hall of Encroaching Nullity and Halls of the Priesthoods of Shadow.

Nor has it anything directly to do with the 'Inner Doctrines', the succession of secrets a priest may be initiated into as he rises from circle to circle in the 'Outer Sphere' of the temple, its outwardly apparent hierarchy.

The Inner Sphere is a network of cells within the temple and occasioanally extending to the laity. Each member will know a few bits of spycraft that enable him to stay in touch with his cell. He or she probably not know the identities of his fellow cell members with any certainty, as they only ever meet masked and robed and using tricks and magic to disguise their voices. Each cell will have a grandiloquent or utterly mundane title like 'The Jilted Lovers of Kriyag', 'Zanatl's Hidden Blades', 'The Thirteenth Day Luncheon Club', 'The Collectors of Ji-Flies' or some such.

One member of a cell will the the 'First' and will be a member of a higher cell. Some will in turn be the first of a lesser cell with people to reporting to them. The orders passed down to each cell are every much on a 'need to know' basis, and allegedly utlimately originate at the Doorway of the Blue Room, where demons sit in communion with the mighty dreaming mind of the Doomed Prince himself. In addition each cell may make local adjustments to plans, submit reports to higher cells and manipulate the action of lower cells. 

And there are plenty of False Spheres, those who are told only fake secrets and given meaningless rites and tasks to perform. A given worshipper will never know whether they are in a real Inner Sphere cell or one of the False ones. There are quite defintely spheres made up of only the stupid and least adept at spycraft to create a lot of silly so and sos sneaking about as a diversion from the real secret societies. 

One of the few religious crimes the Ksarulites will act upon (through secret assassination of course) is the heresy of suggesting that all Spheres are false spheres, that the whole arrangement of cells is circular and the secrets passed about no more than 'Livyani whispers', spin and distortion piled on rumour forever recirculating and that the Doomed Prince is in fact dead and says nothing.




Saturday, 3 February 2018

Shargash the Destroyer

Shargash, destroyer of all, killer of everything (including himself), god of the Red Planet and all round arsehole has come to burn down your internet!


By Johnny Shumate (https://johnnyshumate.com/2012/09/27/canaanite-warrior/)

Shargash is a throwback. Even in the God-Time the Dara Happans had moved on to war-chariots and phalanxes and soon after the dawn had adopted light cavalry and horse archery to contest with the Pentans. Shargash is a tribal warrior god from the days when bashing your opponent with a rock on a stick was the last word in military technology and head hunting was a popular hobby.

Image result for mace wound in skull
Shargash woz 'ere!
When Yelm fell out of the sky and the great darkness stole over the land Shargash became Emperor, a brutal god for a brutal time, and his all encompassing rage and hatred was all that kept humanity from extinction. And the later Emperors magnanimously allowed his cult to keep going just in case such apocalyptic times come again. And besides if there's one thing the bastards are good at it is handing phalanxes their own backsides on a platter, often quite literally, how could they stop them?


There is no denying they are good at what they do, but wanton massacre, scorched earth and sadistic oppression are just not the current fashion in the heart of the modern Lunar Empire. At the frontiers maybe, but even there you have to leaven it with 'hearts and minds' missionary work to get those Sartarite and Praxian yobs to see the truth that 'We Are All Us.'

So go visit Alkoth while it still has that Old World charm that comes from being literally in Hell, full of thugs beating drums with the thighbones of their foes and liberally sprinkled with the ashes of burnt human sacrifices. It won't be around forever.

An RQ2 write up of the Cult of Shargash.





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Saturday, 27 May 2017

The Bronze Treasure


Glorantha has a plethora of planets, some seem have been fixtures in the sky since the earliest days of the gods, others have come and gone, and come back again (like the various moons). And of course each culture has a different name for each and a slightly different take on what god they are and their role in myth and legend.

Bronze Treasure is a large planet of reddish hue that has a cycle of 28 days. In the far eastern lands of Teshnos he is Tolat, in Dragon Pass and the Holy Country Jagekriand, in Peloria he is Shargash the Destroyer, always associated with deities of destruction and war.

In Prax he is the Bronze Treasure, forger of the first bronze weapons that proved so superior to the stone and bone of the Praxians and patron of such native redsmiths as there are. They mostly associate him with the Sky and Death runes, though among the increasing number of Lunar converts in the Sable Tribe he is the ‘Little Moon’ and Sky has been replaced with the Moon rune.




Lay Membership

Bronze Treasure is one of the great spirits invoked before a battle between Praxian nomads. Along with the usual rites to Waha and Eiritha, any other spirit the Khans think may be useful may be invoked; Storm bull is a must if chaos is involved, Oakfed, one or more of the Three Feathered Rivals, an elemental spirit possibly, ancestors, whatever they think will be useful.

And Bronze Treasure is pretty useful. The rival tribes may vie for his favour, and the one who honours him most wins his blessing for the battle; any warrior with a bronze weapon may cast Bladesharp on it at one less magic point (though always at least one), and any Strength spell costs only 1 point for the duration of the battle.

The rites to gain this favour vary, but can only be done while Bronze Treasure is in the sky and all involve bloody sacrifices of herd beasts and often humans. Bronze Treasure prefers the spirits of blooded warriors, captives taken in preliminary raids do very nicely. Sometimes a particularly mean Khan will tell a bunch of mediocre slaves that he will free the last one standing after an all in ritual combat/gladiatorial contest and give them bronze daggers to kill each other with. The last one is then treacherously seized and sacrificed to Bronze Treasure.

Initiate

Any Praxian warrior may try and create his own Bronze Treasure with the aid of a shaman at a holy site of the spirit.

The rite involves capturing an enemy warrior of at least the same skill and status as the warrior himself with a minimum POW of 9 and a weapon skill of at least 50%. If deemed acceptable to Bronze Treasure the captive is sacrificed when the planet is at his zenith and his blood poured over the mould for a bronze weapon which is immediately cast by the shaman. A bone hilt or handle made from part of the body of the foe is added, maybe his scalp or skin used as a binding on the handle and his spirit called back to be fought in spirit combat and bound into it.

Bronze Treasure doesn’t like making this too easy and will lend the spirit 6 of his own POW for the duration of the combat. Two points of POW are sacrificed by the binder to give the weapon its unique enchantment.

Most shamen will find that Bronze Treasure may put more conditions on the task (or maybe they will do so themselves to test the mettle of the petitioner or to make the task as near impossible for a petitioner they don’t like for some reason; foreigner, old feud, rival tribe etc.). Copper may have to be brought from the Copper Sands and tin from the slopes of the Dragonspine Mountains, the shaft of a spear or axe may have to be taken from an elf forest in Shadows Dance, an old Bronze Treasure weapon may need to be recovered from some forsaken hell hole full of monsters and recast, or some other challenging task.

The sacred moulds used to cast a Bronze Treasure are limited and it is uncertain how to make new ones. Suitable moulds may be laying in treasure hoards or lost in ruins all over the place.

After the creation of the weapon the relatives of the sacrificed will pursue the wielder and attempt to free the spirit to join his/her ancestors.

The exact powers of the weapon depend on whether the shrine is a traditional one with runes of Fire and Death, or one that has been converted to Moon and Death.

Fire version

While the person possesses the weapon he can use the spirit of his sacrificed foe as a normal bound spirit which counts against his usual max for bound spirits, but since it is hostile it will never remember any spells for him and can only be tapped for magic points. Once a day for one hour the wielder can use a 2 point Rune Spell that adds half again to their strength up to their racial maximum and for each foe slain with the weapon add 1 further point of strength which may take them beyond it. Their skin becomes increasingly redder and their demeanour more furious and they must roll their POW vs their enhanced STR or immediately attack any enemy or imagined enemy they see. At the end of the spell their strength is halved but recovered over a period of an hour.

If the weapon is ever broken the spirit is released and it will attack the user in spirit combat at some point by way of revenge. The power of Bronze Treasure adds 1d3 to the HP of the weapon, but it is always a good idea to keep it repaired and in good order. Matrices may be added to the weapon.

The wielder is subject to a geas - never sheathe or drop the weapon unblooded, it must always be used to strike at least one blow in anger whether the power of Bronze Treasure is invoked or not, and they must sacrifice one herd beast or one human and 2mp to Bronze Treasure when he is at his zenith, once every 28 days. Challenging a foe to a ritual combat and slaying him is an acceptable form of sacrifice.

Moon version

At those shrines where Bronze Treasure has been ‘Lunarised’ the effects differ. As long as the Bronze Treasure is possessed all the wielder's magic from whatever source is subject to Lunar Cyclism. The power of the Bronze Treasure can be invoked on any day, but effects vary:

Dark/Dying Moon: adds ¼ to STR, lasts 15 minutes,1d3 magic points are gained per slain foe which can be used by the wielder. These are lost when the moon becomes crescent. Blade has a black tinge, user’s skin become darker as he gains power, gains +5% Hide in Cover per 3 points absorbed and 10% Darksense ability. POW of bound spirit is halved.

Crescent Moon: adds ⅓ to STR, lasts 30 minutes. Each foe slain adds 1 DEX, eyes glow redder and gains 5% Detect Enemies and Detect Spirit as an ability per DEX absorbed. POW of bound spirit is at ⅔.

Half moon: Adds ½ STR, lasts 1 hour, gain STR as normal Fire version above. POW of bound spirit is normal.

Full Moon: Adds ⅔ STR, lasts 3 hours, gain 1 point of STR or DEX or 1d3 magic points per slain foe as desired, 1% cumulative per use on a Full Moon day of gaining a Chaos Feature next Sacred Time. POW of bound spirit is half again.

Holding a Lunar spirit like this will add 1% to chances of Illumination next Sacred Time.

The geas and sacrifice is as the Fire version.

Shaman


Shamen who wish to master the rites of Bronze Treasure must take over a holy site. These are scattered around Prax and the Wastes and each has it’s own particular unique features. Each usually has it’s own resident shaman, usually with apprentices and a followers from his tribe, and they must be got rid of.

Shamen must personally make the bronze weapons used to create the magic items detailed above. Since the Praxians are neolithic nomads who mainly raid and trade for what bronze they have this can be difficult, they learn from an existing shaman or gain the knowledge from foreigners, and even so rites are often spoiled by having a weapon turn out to be a dud due to poor casting. But being at a shrine, getting hold of a good supply of copper and tin and practising will give the shaman a Weapon smithing skill gain roll once per season, and Bronze Treasure himself can teach a shaman who sacrifices to him at a rate of +5% skill per permanent POW or enemy warrior or shaman sacrificed. Weaponsmithing and one weapon attack skill are not limited to the 5 x DEX limit usually imposed on shaman skills as long as he is resident at the site and actively making bronze and practising his skill with a Bronze Treasure weapon to defend it.

Local tribes supporting the shaman will see that he is supplied with food, water and materials in return for bronze weapons and the odd Bronze Treasure rite for their warleaders and the shrines are often little trading posts in the wilderness.

If the shaman wishes to dedicate himself to the Fire version of Bronze Treasure he must not hold a Darkness spirit, the Moon version is opposed to Air spirits, but otherwise it is a relatively easy matter to convert a shrine from one to the other, just find a suitable spirit or the right element and bind it into a standing stone at the site.

Use of Weaponsmithing skill:

Fumbled roll - utterly useless object, wrong proportions of copper and tin, chuck it away.

Failed roll - poor quality object, HPs are 10-60% of what they should be, damage 10-60%, use it if you like, but don’t ask for a refund when it breaks

Success - an adequate quality weapon.

Special - Nice weapon, +1 to HP and +5-25% to value

Critical - Excellent weapon fit for a Khan, +1d3 HP and gains 1 AP reducing any damage done to it in combat by 1; double value.



Some Holy Sites

Moonbroth
Not far from Moonbroth in an area of volcanic activity called the Tubes. This used to be held by the Pol Joni who invited/kidnapped Gustbran redsmiths from Sartar and taught them the shamanic part of the rites, but is now controlled by a Sable shaman who has rededicated it to the Lunar Bronze Treasure. With good supplies of ore from trade in Moonbroth a veritable weapon factory. Will make a Bronze Treasure in the form of Sartarite style broadswords and bastard swords. They have just acquired a mould for a scimitar from the Lunar Heartlands and are sure they have dedicated to properly to Bronze Treasure and want someone to try it out.

Monkey Ruins
A smelter run in a half-assed fashion by baboons and under constant threat of closure by baboon traditionalists who regard bronze as human thing they have no use for. Intermittent supplies of copper and tin, poor quality smithing, not produced a Bronze Treasure magic weapon in living memory.

Eiritha Hills
In a valley in the hills south of Eyebrow, with a shaman appointed by the priestesses at the Paps, though many there frown upon the violence of this old sky spirit, the current incumbent being from the Bison Tribe. Has moulds for battle axes and a kopesh, an unusual form of broadsword still found in some old ruins and used in old rites in Pavis and Adari.

Feverlast
In the far southwest of the wastes, an oasis where merchants from Teshnos trade with Praxian nomads. The shrine here is decorated with statues of Tolat imported from Melib and local tradition dictates that the shaman must be a woman.

Valley of Pinnacles

Incredibly dicey location just to the east of the valley itself, frequently overrun with chaos beasts. Control of the shrine passes from Praxians to Broos and back, Broo proving as capable of the rite of the Bronze Treasure and acquiring bronzesmithing skills from him as humans. Likewise control passes from Moon to Fire and back.

Zebra Graze
Has a reasonable source of tin nearby and gets copper from trade with Sun County. Makes spears and lances. Local shaman is actually from Pavis and claims to have learned smithing from the dwarves themselves, and says the best weapons are from the secret dwarven bronze alloy, and objects made of it and even ingots can be found in the Big Rubble.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Irinites

The Lunar Empire, as any beef-faced Heortling oaf will tell you between heroic swigs of mead, is chaotic. Yeah, yeah, there's the roads and the water works, and the taxmen (hoik phut!) and the lawyers (hoik-phut!) and all that crap, but when push comes to shove they are just broo who have taken a bath and a shave. Look up there, Crimson Bat, just makes my point (Oh fuck CRIMSON BAT!)

But while the Empire is proud of accepting all beings of all Glorantha's diverse ilks into its inclusive utopia and progressive tax regime, the official doctrines and actual practices are extremely diverse. What the barbarian hoi polloi loafing around Geo's probably don't know about is the Lunars' very own cult of chaos-hunters.

The Irin School are the answer to that very thorny issue few of the Lunar elite have ever had to answer - would you want Broo as your neighbours? The populace are pragmatists rather than philosophers and the Irin School are there to resolve that issue with fire and sword.



They just want to borrow a cup of sugar...

They started when the Mad Sultanate made it's presence felt in the 14th century with a demented rampage across Peloria and a quiet and unassuming Irippi Ontor scholar named Irin found himself in a blasted hellscape tagging along with a company of Uroxi and Humakti from Aggar just trying to stay alive.

Anything the barbarians can do, the civilised Lunars think they can do better and Irin applied reason, philosophy and sorcery to the issue of chaos run wild. His magic proved effective enough and by the time the Mad Sultan was brought to bay in Dorastor he was leading a small regiment of hard bitten and well disciplined fellow survivors.

After this war he set up a school to teach his chaos fighting techniques and the Imperial government has supported it, up to a point. The issue with chaos, as Irin pointed out, is it's lack of balance. He did not deny it had a place in the world, but that place was very small and preferably far, far away from ordinary citizens who just want to get on with their lives without being eaten. But give chaos an inch and will take a mile, and the Irinites found themselves fighting not just broo infestations but running up against the more subtle cults that rot a society from within with fear and corruption.

When the Imperial order is under threat Irinite Inquisitors are asked in to restore it. They try and operate within the law, but every so often they get a bit over enthusiastic and put whole villages to the question over hidden Malia and Krasht cults.




Don't tell me you didn't expect this...

They also have wandering Irin Monks traversing the country in search of chaos, many 'deniable assets' who have supposedly rebelled against the strict discipline of the order and run away from their Chapter-houses.

But the position of the Irinites is difficult. They are out of step with the culture around them and the nature of their work gives them an insight into the Imperium's frequent failures in its grand experiment in 'acceptable' chaos. Though they happily tap the power of the Red Moon to smite broo and other chaotics many long for the coming of the White, a purer and less hypocritical moon whose empire will be less tainted by corruption.

But with the expansion of the Lunar Empire into Dragon Pass and Prax new chaos nests have become accessible, and perhaps revolution will have to postponed until these have been contained. Politics is a luxury those under immanent threat of being eaten by broo, ogres, dragonsnails and their ilk have no time for.

Click below for full details...

The Irin School



Thursday, 9 March 2017

Beau Geste's Planet?

Another world from the Aquila Sector, and another place liable to blow up in visiting PCs faces…

Alzarha


034 Aquila B 984648 9 Agricultural, Garden, Rich

Alzarha is a large, hot world, baking under a class F3 star. The equatorial region is stupidly hot and an uninhabitable desert, but the northern and southern sub arctic zones have liquid water seas and pleasant climates comparable to the tropics towards the equator, up to a mediterranean climate nearer the poles. The atmosphere is rich in oxygen and in some areas near these ocean basins saturated with water, while most of the planet is drier than the Atacama Desert. The only problem is the high gravity, 1.25Gs, which reduces the lifespan of colonists due to strain on the cardiovascular system.

They're huge!

The ecosystem is well developed with major phyla of large exoskeletoned and segmented worms, long homeothermic furred peripatus-like creatures with efficient lungs and a plethora of diurnal fliers from the size of hummingbirds up to an albatross, and a minor phylum of quasi molluscs with complex internal calcareous shells with joints and sometimes limbs and an outer covering of leathery skin studded with scutes. The fundamental biochemistry is however incompatible with Earths and there have been extensive introductions from earth from camels, cattle and sheeps to basic crops and supporting soil microbiota through to fish. This has been very successful in the northern half of the northern maritime region, while the southern basin remains almost entirely indigenous.

The population is 7.2 million split between four colonies - The largest is the Neo-Tuareg Popular Republic, with 4 million, the Free Confederation of Archaeo-Tuareg with 1.6 million, an Indian colony, New Jaipur with 1.2 million and a European corporate colony, Krona Agritech, with 0.4 million.

The Tuareg originally arrived as part of a joint West African Union colonising effort along with Nigerians, Malinese, Ghanains, Ivorians etc. which fell apart as the WAU fell apart in the 22nd century due to dissatisfaction of the smaller states with Nigerian dominance. The colony looked doomed to fail and most of the population were evacuated, but the small Tuareg element had little to look forward to back home but continuing to be a scattered and declining minority with no nation state to call their own, so they stubbornly stayed on, attempting to establish a viable form of their traditional nomadic lifestyle. They were helped by a Malinese millionaire who had got rich by building solar power farms in the deep Sahara who managed to convince UN environmental agencies to transplant endangered species from the Sahel to Alzarha to preserve them.


The Tuareg adopted him as a constitutional monarch over a parliamentary democracy, and mostly settled down to arable farming, but unfortunately this state didn’t last. It was undermined by populist and militarist demagogues stoking up fears about the New Jaipur colony. India is a rich country with a vast population and the prospect of them setting up down the coast and ‘pouring out of the skies’ was easy to paint them as a potential threat. This resulted in a civil war and the defeated royalists/democrats joined the ‘Archaeo-Tuareg’, the group of ultra-romantic nomadic nutters who had stayed out in desert fringes.

While the Neo-Tuareg Popular Republic goes through the usual trials of a one party police state, the Archaeo-Tuareg have for the last fifty years tried to make desert nomadism viable, with water condenser stations out in the desert creating swathes of semi-permanent grassland for sheep herding, camels and huge native peritapods used alongside solar powered mobile homes, desert fortresses as bunkers and internet server farms buried under the sands. Their once huge fields of solar panels have long since been bombed to smithereens, but they found an alternative power source - uranium. This is a damned useful export since the modern world has little use for milk and sheep’s wool, their only other major commodities. Getting hold of it does involve expeditions into the most hellish tracts of desert though, which is not for the faint hearted and under equipped.

The Archaeo-Tuareg internet is a bustle of political argument paradoxically mostly conducted in Welsh to confuse the Neo’s military who are still trying to wipe out their opposition. For their part the Archaeo’s take whatever secret military aid New Jaipur can give them and raid the edges of the Neo colony for food and manufactured goods.

Meanwhile New Jaipur expands its fish farms as far across the Nagara Sea as it dares, while dealing with dissent of it’s own. The colony is dominated by a few large corporations who have brought in a lot of indentured labour from back home and tensions between the corporate elite and their workers is mounting. The Archaeos live a tough life to be sure, but the sight of their freewheeling convoys coming to the starport to trade reminds them what freedom can look like.

For their part the most radical factions of the Archaeos are all for biting the hand that feeds them and are supporting the nascent New Jaipur trade unions hoping that a future socialist or social democrat state will definitively oust the military buffoons in control of the NTPR rather than just use them as proxies in a low level campaign of containment as has happened so far. 


But the most traditionalist are all for buying indentured labour contracts and reviving the ancient Tuareg tradition of slave ownership. Archaeo-Tuaregs of this stripe are drifting into Indian corporate employment as police and ‘security forces’, and, it is rumoured, are using Neo captives and New Jaipur convicts in uranium mining operations.

Krona Agritech have chosen a spot in the southern hemisphere and are glad to be well away from all this potential chaos. The southern basin has not had the same kind of extensive seeding with Earthly species though and the native beasties are just that bit bigger and more vicious down here, and the jungles more impenetrable. They have had tensions with the NTPR - Krona has put up an extensive network of geosats that could theoretically enable the NTPR army to monitor the Archaeos and bomb them to bits but Krona refuse to get involved. The NTPR are now accusing Krona of allowing the network to be used by the Archaeos to supplement their ground-station based internet, while Krona insists that if it happened it must be hackers - and are investigating what their new IT hires from the anarcho-syndicalist colony of Neuland on Epsilon have actually been up to.

An EU star navy base is being set up and their currently class D starport extended; the NTPR does have some old but still potent Nigerian frigates, and of course the NTPR has a small uranium mine of its own and possibly a secret processing plant. The Indian Navy are already here showing off one of their new ‘Force Projection Carriers’, a combined air superiority and dropship assault vessel, which has in turn made the Chinese base at Shingdu a couple of parsecs away start practising rapid deployment drills and send a military advisor to the NTPR, which supplies a good part of their food.

Radioactives at New Jaipur have a Purchase DM of +2, while weapons of any kind have a Sale DM of +2 anywhere on the planet except the Krona Agritech base.

Any, all or none of the following may be true...


  • The current titular Queen of the Tuareg lives in exile on Aquila. Her parents fled Alzarha after the Neo revolution with just a few thousand credits and she and her half-English family live relatively modestly in a suburb of New Dorchester. Even so President-General Amestida Takoba wants them definitively removed from the picture and may finance an assassination. On the other hand Prince Francis ag-Norman, currently an engineering student at the University of Fargen, might be persuaded to come and take up the crown, though many of his supposed subjects are a bit lukewarm about a restoration and know next to nothing about him other than his love of football. A faction of Archaeos are dispatching a delegation and looking for a PR and social media team to build him up into a revolutionary figurehead, or at least get him holographed riding a camel and wearing a blue headscarf.
  • What this place needs is more guns! Ok, there’s embargos and regulations galore to be circumvented and/or ignored, but if there wasn’t a risk there wouldn’t be a profit would there? There’s plenty of reconditioned TL9-10 gear to be picked up on Orpheus after their nasty little war against the Asgardian Nazis (just file off the swastikas), or maybe some latest model US Gauss Rifles might fall off the back of a shuttle at Fort Clinton in the United Aquilan States. Whatever, the NTPR frigates are allegedly slow as space-sloths with mega-corns and the INSS Sindhurashtra is supposedly all about ground and atmospheric attack not orbital interdiction; as long as you stay ahead of their nuclear torpedoes and depleted uranium mass drivers you’ll be alright…
  • The Tuareg love their music and despite the difficulties the Archaeos still hold rock festivals in the midst of their hard-pan uranium tainted desert whenever they can get away with it. And AlphaGeekOmicron 1234, biggest rock star in the sector, is going to play! As it turns out he sends a computerised ‘Beta Geek’ - he’s into the revolutionary chic and all that but he ain’t daft - much to the disappointment of the heavily armed fans and the detachment of NTPR air cavalry sent out to break it up with maximum prejudice and blow the decadent Scottish cyborg to kingdom come as an example to whoever gives a shit about that sort of thing.
  • The French are coming! Some historical ignoramus back in Brussels on Earth has decided to send the French Légion Étrangère as part of the EU military build up to protect the Krona colony from any upcoming hostilities, forgetting a few of the hoary units notable campaigns in the Sahara in the late 19th century… the 24th century descendants of those they clobbered and colonised most certainly haven’t and Neo- and Archaeo-Tuareg alike are wondering if the Euro-dweebs at the south pole haven’t got something more ambitious in mind than mere self-defence.
  • The NTPR have finally got themselves a Welsh propagandist. Translating the pseudo Celtic gibberish spouted by the Archaeo rebel radio stations wasn’t that hard with modern linguistic computers, but they have had a hard time finding a sufficiently fluent speaker to spread disinformation back into their system. Edward Williams (Jones the Fib to his associates) lately of Swansea and MI5 on Earth, is of sufficient moral flexibility to work with a military junta, and he needs code-monkeys to hack into some Archaeo base stations and maybe the Krona satellite network. Might need some physical ground and space work, the Archaeos certainly have had help from the tech-mad anarchist Neulanders and digital security is as tight as it gets.
  • The cunning bastards at Mahaji Biomass have had their labs in New Jaipur working on something big - they have been messing with the local wildlife for years trying to GM Alzahra/Earth hybrid beasties for the farms, but have abandoned that in favour of making really, really big local millipede-oids fifty plus meters long to tunnel into the NTPR and cause mayhem ahead of a land invasion by joint Indian and Archaeo forces. For their part the NTPR have had agents seeding the New Jaipur fish farms with Chinese made viruses that implant special hormone-triggered genes that will turn all those shrimp and mullet into rabid killers with the addition of a little cat pee. Not to mention the nuclear cyber sharks (shh, DON’T mention that!).
  • The Krona Agritech colony has a hell of a lot of New Man residents and has a pretty impressive population for a place that was only set up thirty years ago. The answer is simple - they have been secretly cloning them, the New Men being designed for that kind of rough treatment. The Krona team have even been modifying their ‘News’, darkening their complexions and trying to adapt them from a low-g to a high-g subspecies, contravening just about every convention on human genetic modification going. The Krona geosat system is actually there to monitor the progress of some experimental New-New-Man test colonies they have set up out in the desert, people truly adapted to Alzarha’s harsh environment and eating it’s indigestible beasties, better than these silly Archaeo-Tuareg wannabes poncing about on imported camels then retiring to air conditioned camper vans when it gets a bit warm. Of course when the EU military team gets up to strength there is every chance they will find out what has been going on and the Krona management are bricking it. They might even stage a fake military confrontation with the NTPR or Archaeos to encourage the Légion Étrangère fuckwits out into the northern deserts well away from anything sensitive. Well they are coming 30+ light years from home, be a shame not have an actual war for them when they get here.