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.


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.


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

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.

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…


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.

Saturday 4 March 2017

A Lemon Planet

Earth-like planets are just not that common in Known Space. There’s some that are about the same size and some of those are about the right temperature and some of those have a decent atmosphere and some water. But there are a hell of a lot more crappy lumps of rock and ice and great boluses of noxious gas, but if life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Humans are an inventive lot, and any system has some clod of matter they can make use of.


Aquila 160 D 220 220 B Desert, Low Population, Poor

An ice cave in the Torre Glacier on Earth - Tsaitsyn's are mostly pitch black
(By Andrew Waddington)

Tsaritsyn/Yokoana is a tiny iceball of a world, dry and cold, orbiting a gas giant which in turn distantly orbits a class K9 star.

It has an atmosphere though, and it has oxygen, making it a far better prospect for an outpost than any of the similar bits of icy detritus in the system. The thick dirty ice covering of Tsaritsyn is porous, almost a sponge or foam in places, with tendrils and spicules of ice covering almost all of its surface, intermixed with loose lumps of ice and snow. 

There is a mountain range of sorts, a place where water has erupted from somewhere below and frozen into a solid but extensively cracked glacier. Landing a starship anywhere but on this glacier is a risky proposition, you have to search long and hard with ground penetrating radar to find any area of ice with sufficient strength to support its weight, even with the low gravity, and even then tidal forces may shift and crack the ice under your vessel as the moon slowly rotates.

The ice layer is around 30km deep, riddled with pockets of gas and extensive complex cave systems, millions of miles of them. As you go deeper the ice has a greater proportion of hydrocarbons and even pools and rivers of semi-liquid oily sludge can be found due to natural anti-freeze, and it harbours ever great amounts of silicate dust until it becomes solid rock. Somewhere deep inside the planet is a heat source, presumably a molten nickel-iron core, though it seems too small to have such a thing.

There is an ecosystem down here. The organisms are not cellular, they are almost crystalline nodes of informational molecules directing the general smear of hydrocarbon, silanes and boranes around them into a metabolism reliant on chemo and thermo synthesis for energy. It is a sluggish and half hearted affair, visible as brownish coloured ice and rainbow films of oil, barely living at all, but it does produce a tiny bit of oxygen and methane to create an actual atmosphere.

The beasties in question?
(From a paper by MB Uloth et al in PloS One on an earthly bacterium that uses crystals)

The two colonies are both corporate; the Rosneft Interstellar Mining corporation and a firm from Aquila's Japanese-speaking Onika Prefecture, Hokada Nanochemical. Both colonies are tiny, 87 in the Rosnef base, 73 in the Hokada. They lie a hundred kilometers apart at either end of the Broken Hills glacier.

The Rosneft base - Tsaritsyn - is dedicated to finding a usable reservoir of exotic petrochemcials. Surveying teams trek across the surface and through the caves, a risky business aided by specially made tunnelling machines and drones, but deposits are mostly too small to justify the expense of pumping them out. Hokada use their facility as a manufacturing base far from the restrictive environmental regulations back home and import most of their feedstock or skim it from the local gas giants. The chemical waste they pour into their caverns is having an effect on the local slime, mainly killing it outright, but some varieties seem to be adapting.

The two settlements are in a low level war, with frequent legal arguments over exploitation rights to the planet. There is sabotage of Hokada plant and the Rosneft crew accuse Hokada of deliberately killing off their exploration crews by triggering cave ins. The two settlements have separate landing fields and refuse to have anything to do with each other. The Hokada even have a different name for the world - Yokoana - though since the Russians were there first and there are more of them their name is more frequently on the star charts. Hokada are trying to persuade the various state authorities on Aquila to start an embargo against Rosneft, but though the Russians are light years away no one wants to rile them.

For most travellers Tsaritsyn/Yokoana is a ‘flyover’ planet, you might go into a parking orbit over the Hokada base and have their shuttle bring you up some overpriced unrefined fuel (130Cr/ton), but there is no reason to stop, not even a hotel.

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

  • The Hokada staff have been infiltrated by environmentalists from Aquila. The planet’s ecosystem may be gunge with a slight pretense at organisation but in the opinion of the Fronte Naturelle it has a right to live with minimal disturbance from humankind. Hokada could have sited their plant on any ball of rock, there’s plenty in the Aquila system itself, there is no reason be poisoning these bugs, they should go, and those Rosneft wallies as well.
  • This planet is just plain weird, it shouldn’t have these caves. Planetologist David Mkumba reckons it looks like the place was boiled and then quickly refrozen. The gas giant below is a big one, nearly a brown dwarf, and there is an outside chance that it, or the primary star, once spawned a coronal mass ejection that caused the mass meltdown. When will the next be?
  • What this place needs is some terraforming. The Rosneft crew have a plan. The Broken Hills Glacier lies over what looks like the only actual geological fault in the rocky core below, they reckon that it was a volcanic eruption down there long, long ago that created the glacier. They are bringing in a really big drill and are going down to the planet’s mantle to trigger another one, melt a whole shedload more of the ice, bring some of the atmosphere down below out to the surface, maybe keep it going permanently for geothermal power and to create a liquid water sea. Cracking open a planet? What could go wrong?
  • You know these life forms are really clever, they manage to extract and concentrate the oil and minerals from solid dirty ice really well. And they are crystalline, or almost so, using various phases of solid water ice to create tiny architectures and self-replicating patterns, kind of like recent experiments in nano-technology. You could export these to other such moons - they are a very common type - and leave them for a million years of so and just come back and slurp up the hydrocarbon. Rosneft are working on a way to speed up the process, using nanotech methods to speed up the existing bugs, and/or the secret of the Hokada base is that they have concluded they are in fact nano-tech left by an alien race, have projected what kind of monstrosity the wee fuckers are trying to turn this ice ball into and are trying to kill them off.
  • Life evolves slowly on a planet this cold and with this little solar input, it’s been 7 billion years and the best they it has come up with is a half assed replicator based on fancy ice and clay crystals - not even bloody membranes and the place is full of oil! The human bases are injecting a lot of heat, complex organics and DNA (well the shithouse has got to have a pipe that comes out somewhere) and a whole bunch of other crud including radionulceides and it is making up for lost time. Slimes are quietly dissolving the great concrete and steel slabs the bases are built on, the bodies of those poor swine buried in cave ins are being digested and their biomolecules repurposed; it’s going to bloody eat us!
  • It’s all one cell, one organism, and it is intelligent. It’s thought processes are slow - the speed of diffusing chemicals - but those nodes communicate amongst themselves and there are billions of them. It doesn’t know what to think about the peculiar changes to its environment yet, but it has recognised that there are other organisms than itself and may yet try and communicate. How? Structures in ice? Words strung from chains of carbon, boron and silicon with heterocyclic rings as letters? Will the squabbling humans recognise what they are sitting on before killing it entirely?

Tuesday 14 February 2017

The Red School of Masks

Wearing masks is a common enough feature of worship all across Glorantha. Priests and initiates don masks and costumes and re-enact the old legends of the gods for the edification of worshippers all the time. In the Lunar Empire the mask has assumed a special religious significance, with various aspects of the Red Goddess being referred to as 'masks' and the various occupants of the Imperial Throne as 'masks' of the one true Red Emperor, whose soul lies behind all of them.

Most masks used in rites to depict gods and their legendary foes have a standard(ish) format and many are old, part of the ritual equipment of the temples and tribes, and if a new one needs to be made it is closely modelled on the old.

The following is partly drawn from the Tales Of the Reaching Moon #15 article on Moonbroth by Mick Brooke and Malcolm Serabian.

The Red School of Masks based in Moonbroth in Prax treat the idea of masks differently. They are a sect made up up of a motley crew of native and Lunar shamen, Lunar mystics and the 'moon-struck', lunatics from all backgrounds and walks of life who have been called by the red light of the moon. Non-members tend to call them 'Loonies'.

They all wear masks, but not the conventional standardised types used by most religions but their own original creations based on their own peculiar visions.

To become a member one must first have a vision. Cultists achieve this in various ways, drugs, reckless shamanic delving into the spirit world, fasting, inhaling the peculiar fumes in the volcanic caves around Moonbroth and dancing oneself into an exhausted trance is popular. The Red School is pretty anarchic and any method will do.

The key text of the cult is the Ode of the Wandering Moon, allegedly written by the Red Goddess herself, which described her descent into Hell and what she saw and did there. It is written in extremely obscure and symbolic language and interpretations of it vary widely. It is not considered part of the 'Rufus Scripts', the official liturgy of the Lunar Way, penned by Takenegi, the first Red Emperor, and most Lunar scholars consider it a blatant fraud.

The ideal is to follow the path of Teelo Estara into the underworld, achieve illumination and re-emerge, as Teelo Imara did, as a living god. But so far no one has actually done so, but they have emerged with a vision of the god they are destined to be, if not in this lifetime, then in another future one, and these are the masks the members of the School wear.

They take many forms. Praxian shamen tend to come out with some 'Lunarised' form of their previous tribal beast or one of the Great Spirits of Prax, Jakaleel and other Lunar shamen with strange demons and beasts found only on the moon, the various mystics and madmen with almost any damned thing.

The cult mask colours are usually black, red and white and they can be anything from a simple piece of leather up to a baroque confection of wood, metal, horn and glass. All will detect as being magical and all are supposed to give some hint of the god-like powers the user will one day command, but very few do anything practical. Members may make multiple versions of their mask, refining their vision, and take multiple trips into the Otherworlds, seeking to strengthen their potential god-hood.

The Red School of Masks

Lay Member
The School will take absolutely anyone, their dedication to the principle of Inclusion is impeccable. Whether a lay members previous cult or tribe takes kindly to their dabbling in a wierdo cult of dubious provenance is another matter, even many Lunar cults regard the Red School as dangerously heretical and outright bonkers.

Being a lay member is easy, hang out with the cult and help with the many experimental rituals, if you have not had a vision yet your turn will come. The main cult site is the ramshackle Temple of the Wandering Moon at Moonbroth, a collection of Praxian lodges and wattle and daub enclosures roofed with a mixture of skins and thatch to create a warren of small rooms. This spreads into an even more ramshackle camp site where dozens of Loonies jabber, shriek, dance, sleep, fornicate and eat in between altering their consciousness and importuning passing travellers for alms.

Can you spare a moment to talk about the MOON?

Initiate – Masked One
To become a Masked One, you must have a vision. Devise a method for breaking through into an Otherworld, the more outlandish the better. The basic roll ought to be POW plus two other characteristics, which might be POW again (depends on method – straight shamanic trance might be POWx3, massive doses of Hazia or other drug might be POWx2+CON, lying in a fire ant nest under the blazing sun with no food or water might be POW+CONx2, dancing frantically POW+CON+CHA etc.) Failure at this point results in loss of one point of a stat.

This is followed by a minor heroquest which will challenge 2d3+1 skills or stats. This may be entirely spiritual and take place in a trance, or be partly or wholly physical in which the candidate wanders around the desert, cave, city streets etc. being assailed by obstacles and enemies. The participant must also roll for Illumination, and if they get a critical success in any roll they permanently gain +1% to their chance.

Failed rolls:
If ALL rolls are failed the person becomes insane for 21-POW months, plus the effect as below.

Seven fails – gain a (D6) 1-3 Chaos Feature, 4-6 Anti-Chaos feature. The Red School are fine with chaotic and insane members, sadly the rest of the world is not so 'Inclusive'. Roll vs POW x 5% or become a (D10) 1-2 Broo, 3-5 Ogre, 6 Were-creature, 7 Gorp, 8 Strix (a kind of Lunar Harpy), 9 A hive of chaotic wasps, 10 Something else entirely.

Six fails – Attacked by a Moon-spirit with an eye to possession. The person is deemed to have been cursed by the moon and even if they succeeded a roll they are thrown out of the cult and have until the next full moon to get away or be slain. All chances of Illumination reset to 0%. If possessed by a moon-spirit they become a very odd NPC with mental health issues.

Five fails – Memory loss. Lose 5% or one point in all the skills or stats challenged. Cannot recall most of the vision. Lose 21-POW points of intelligence, regained at one per day, if INT becomes zero remain catatonic until it gets back into positive points.

Four fails – Lose 1 permanent POW or one runespell or one spirit becomes unbound and wanders off into the 23 Delayed Realm or lose one sorcery spell. Lose 21-POW points of intelligence, regained at one per day, if INT becomes zero remain catatonic until it gets back into positive points.

Three fails – Suffer a geas, which if broken results in attack by a moon-spirit.

Two fails – Infected by Brain Fever, roll for severity as usual, may be cured as normal.

One fail – No effect.

Successful rolls:
Seven successes – While wearing your mask you increase in stats by 1d6 points, no more than 3 in any one stat. This may include SIZ – the person physically grows towards god-like stature when wearing the mask. POW points may also be sacrificed for a re-useable Rune spell that can only be cast while wearing the mask, including any cult special from any Lunar cult whether a member of not. Gain 1d6% towards your chance of Illumination.

Six successes – The mask acts as a power crystal of the users choice, but half the strength of the crystal. May only be used while wearing the mask.

Five successes – The mask acts as a battle magic matrix for any spell up to 2d2 points. Any spell may be chosen, the caster does not have to know it already, and cult special spells may (at the GMs discretion) be chosen.

Four successes – Mask adds +1d3x5% to a non-combat skill, but carries a geas which only affects person while wearing the mask.

Three successes – Mask adds 5% to one non-combat skill. If fails outnumber successes Mask detects as magical, but does nothing.

Two successes – Mask detects as magic, but does nothing. If fails outnumber successes, no mask vision is gained and person remains a lay member.

One success – No effect.

Masks add 1 point of head armour, and may be made so as to give additional protection if money is spent on their creation. May not be worn with a closed or full helmet. All add +1 CHA when dealing with fellow members of the Red School of Masks, the six success version gives +2 CHA, the seven success gives +3 CHA.

The vision quest may be tried again to get a better mask, but each vision is different and will challenge different skills. A person may only have one mask at a time.

As yet there are no rune priests or rune lords specifically of the Red School of Masks, and it is not known whether such a position is even possible. You would in effect be the priest or lord of your own personal deity who happens to be yourself. There are supposedly members who have undertaken difficult quests in the Otherworlds to enhance the powers of their Masks, and members who have died and been reborn with the magic powers of their mask as innate special abilities, but members are vague as to who they actually are.

There are priests of other cults who have undertaken the mask quest and become initiates and they have senior positions in the Temple of the Wandering Moon for what it is worth, since trying to organise the Loonies is like juggling cats in a room full of rocking chairs. Most notable are:

  • Mama Jaga, a Jakaleel Witch, who has some clout with fellow Jakaleel cultists within the school as she is their Coven-Mistress. She sees the School as a good way of increasing the numerical strength of her coven, though the quality of the new recruits often leaves much to be desired.
Mama Jaga's Mask

  • Yoros the Quiet, a minor sorcerer of the Irin School who has been making a bit of a name for himself fighting the nastier manifestations of Chaos in Pavis County with his band of somewhat more sober and sensible Loonies, and thus doing a lot to improve the reputation of the cult and Lunars in general with the Sartarite population. Mama Yaga hates him, a crusading sorcerous prig who thinks he's a tough guy because he beats up on a few snivelling broo. Yoros wants to find and slay Bleb the Talking Filth (see below) but his little band wouldn't make it a mile into the Chaos Marsh, he needs an army.
  • Zanzar Wahanzar the Spinning Man – a proper shaman of Waha who devotes himself to continual dancing and who knows the rites of many Praxian great spirits. Spouts blood curdling prophecies at anyone who will listen and repeatedly goes on vision quests to learn more. Other Praxian shamen respect him as an undoubted master of their craft, but few are keen on following his example and trying to tame the spirits of the moon as they have obviously driven him nuts. Too involved in his own efforts to divine the future to be an actual leader of the Loonies, though he puts on some wicked dance, drum and drug shindigs that have helped plenty of lay members have visions to find their own mask.
The Mask of Bleb

  • Bleb the Talking Filth – Bleb was a missionary priest of Etyries called Arikanthus who joined the Loonies as a way of understanding the shamanic mindset and whose first vision quest went badly wrong and turned him into a Gorp. He made it on his second try and now supposedly lives in the Chaos Marshes south of the Block, an amorphous acidic blob who created his own mask by etching a slab of bronze into beautiful androgynous human face stained with multicoloured corrosion. He is utterly mad in all kinds of interesting ways and his broo followers bring captured humans to him to be harangued in unknowable divine languages mixed with Tradetalk expletives, salacious gossip and really obscure and dark prophecies. A couple of Loonies at Moonbroth have met him and bear the physical and mental scars, lucky that Bleb decided to let them loose to spread his disjointed words rather than let his followers fuck and eat them.

Sunday 12 February 2017

Charelle, the Happy Planet

Been trying to fill in a few of the gaps in the Aquila Sector for my Known Space homebrew Traveller setting. 


Aquila 071 B 966 517 6 Agricultural, Garden, Non-Industrial

Charelle is a pleasant world, warm and temperate, with a thriving native ecosystem and a growing population. Unfortunately local law stipulates that no-one may leave the starport and no inhabitant may leave the planet without government permission.

Charelle might be called a psychiatric dictatorship. The founders, Robert and Cynthia Charelle, were psychiatrists from the USA on Earth who migrated to Aquila and gathered a cult-like following for their unconventional theories on mental health, moving on to found the colony of Charelle around eighty years ago. To become a colonist one must undergo a battery of psychometric tests and a month long stay in their assessment centre and sign an impressive wad of legal documents committing them to stay on the planet for at least ten years.

For PCs determined to get in the base pass roll is 12+

Add all stat modifiers (the Charellites say their tests are purely psychological, but they currently havent got the resources to look after the potentially unhealthy)
+1 per level of skill in Diplomacy, Carouse and Jack of all Trades (they like sociability and self-reliance),
-2 per level of skill in Deception (they really are good at spotting wrong'uns),
+2 per level in Social Science (Psychology) (the tests are supposed to be unbiased, but if you have a basic knowledge of psychology you will know what answers they are looking for),
+2 if a family member is already a settler,
+2 if aged under 30, +1 if under 40. 

+1 if named Robert or Cynthia
+2 if named David or Davinia
+1 if member of a religion
-3 if formerly worked in Marketing or Human Resources
Automatic acceptance if former Scientologist

Those with any cybernetic or biological enhancement, including New Men and Hobbits, are automatically barred, and those with a criminal record have -1 to -10 penalty depending on severity of the crime.

The tests are, it is claimed, to measure sociability, community-mindedness, intelligence, honesty and integrity. They have a nice colony here, a utopia of specially chosen kind and considerate people, they don't want any flies in their ointment. Once beyond the confines of the starport, it is indeed pleasant. A bit primitive maybe - information technology is restricted to administrators only, communication is by wired telephone, transport is by electric light railway and the odd internal combustion truck, entertainment is team sports, barn dances and a two hour per night radio broadcast and electricity is unfortunately rationed until they can get the hydroelectric dam project sorted. It is all rather reminiscent of the 1950's as seen by Norman Rockwell, with a bit of idealised Soviet collective farm as seen in a Pravda article.

Everyone sees a psychiatrist once a week for a private session and council meetings are essentially group therapy. Freedom of religion is respected up to a point - there are Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, Temples etc. but all the clergy are trained psychiatrists and paid by the state. The state keeps extensive records of sessions and permission to vote is only allowed to those who, in their opinion, have shown good judgement and intelligence, and even then the Clinical Council, the ultimate authority on the planet, is made up of psychiatrists selected on merit by their peers.

The selection process weeds out most potential malcontents, but those having difficulty fitting in are offered alternative jobs and a move of settlement based on their psychometric test results. There is a prison out in the woods, but it is a pretty mild place, more a therapeutic community where inmates can work out their issues or even set up a cabin alone in the wilds to meditate upon their problems.

If none of this works inside the ten year minimum stay then the person is asked to leave, passage is booked on a passing merchant vessel and they are let go, but in the last decade only three people have left in this way. The Charellites are obviously pretty good at persuading people to conform.

People with a long track record of loyalty and stability can be given permission to work in the starport (situated on an island) and deal with the selfish, awkward and frankly pretty barmy outsiders. It is not an assignment most Charellites relish, but someone has to do it. They may also be given a leave of absence to go to another planet on business - the Charelle Institute still has branch offices in the colonies of Aquila which need staffing.

For a supposedly peace loving people the Charellites can be pretty militaristic. Everyone over 18 has mandatory militia training, and 1 in 20 of the 60,000 inhabitants is in the security service. Every settlement has an armoury where citizens can be issued with TL5 rifles and pistols if the need arises, and shotgun licences are easy to obtain for those on frontier farms where wild animals may roam onto their property. Target shooting is a popular sport, though actively hunting the local wildlife is discouraged. The security services have TL7 assault rifles and TL8 stunclubs, have some rather rickety APCs and operate a few TL9 system defence boats and armed shuttles.

The greatest fear of the Charellites is that another colony will be set up on their beautiful and mostly empty planet and 'neurotic' outsiders will ruin the utopia they have tried to create. And it certainly is an enticing looking planet, a true garden world with fertile soils and a wide diversity of quasi-reptilian and crustacean fauna. The authorities know that a determined settlement effort by a well armed outside force would blow their low tech militia away and are seeking a treaty with the Aquilan League of Nations to defend them in return for land grants and an understanding that no one is to settle within the vast tracts they have claimed for themselves to expand into.

Adventure Hooks

Rumours about what the Charellites are really up to and what the colony is really about abound. Any, all or none of the following may be true-

  1. The Charellites do not 'own' the planet. There is no way a bunch of cultish kooks could afford to buy the sole exploitation rights to a planet this large and desirable. If you trace back through the web of front companies and trusts the place is in fact owned by the US government and a consortium of American and Swiss pharmaceutical firms. Cynthia Charelle worked in a lab for Jewell GmbH on psychotropic drugs, and though the Charellite shrinks claim to use no more than the odd sedative or mild anti-depressant they are in fact drugging the whole population up to their eyeballs in a nefarious chemo-control scheme the US government is intending to roll out back home. Do not drink anything in that fancy starport of theirs, bring your own water and beer.
  2. It's psionics dummy! Bob Charelle investigated the claims of those Psionic Institute frauds back when he was a lecturer in Psychology and Sociology at Le Grand Ecole Polytechnique d'Aquila, and while the official report said they were talking bollocks, Bob saw they were onto something. The Charelle Institute is running a long term breeding/indoctrination programme to create real actual psychics! Some of those psychiatrists can really, genuinely read your mind! Think only happy thoughts while visiting, or the fuckers will take you that camp in the woods and wipe your mind.
  3. Those Charellites seem such nice folks, cheerful, straight talking and honest to a fault, but they have some dark, dark secrets. They are paranoid. They have this huge planet they only occupy a few dozen square miles of, yet I hear they refused to let a bunch of refugees from the Orphean War in to set up a camp in a spot well out of their way, other side of the planet even. The Orpheans landed anyway and over the next few weeks the Charellites shot down their ship and hunted them down.
  4. The Chinese are going to rub them out sooner or later. The planet isn't theirs, the original survey was by a Chinese State Planetological expedition and the Charellites are mere squatters. The Chinese are overstretched as it is and currently the farthest colony they are seriously investing in is on St Anne which has more easily exploitable minerals. But one shipload of marines and these wallies are toast, and it will come.
  5. The Clinical Council has gone the same way as all self-perpetuating oligarchies, with internal factionalism, corruption and official ideology a mere stick to beat each other with. Know a guy who took a high mucky-muck psychiatrist or two off world secretly, there had been an internal coup or some such and they had to leave before they got shot or reprogrammed. There's a real issue with introverts, people scoring low on the EI scale are sent off to out of the way projects like the hydro-electric dam, the ruling faction on the council don't trust them. But someone out there is giving them extra militia training.
  6. It's the local fauna you got to look out for. There's ruins in the forests, real lost cities. The official line is that there was a failed colonising attempt, some Argentinian squatters who lacked the numbers, equipment and support to become self-sufficient. But though they aren't marked on any map you can see big lines and patterns from orbit, hundreds of miles across. There was an alien civilisation here, and the holiday camp they send their maladjusted folks to is in the middle of it. What wierd alien tech have they uncovered to use on them eh? What became of those aliens? Still there, degenerated into something innocuous looking maybe, but wanting these squishy human interlopers gone...
  7. One thing the Charellites won't tell you is that they believe in the Quantity Theory of Insanity. According to this, in any human society there will always be a certain amount of insanity, usually spread wide and shallow in the form of minor hang-ups and neuroses. The Charellite system is to off load all of this insanity on a few individual scapegoats who become deeply screwed up. The 'therapeutic community' they show you in the brochures is a sham, there's some very disturbed and dangerous psychopaths and paranoid schizophrenics, made that way by Charellite social manipulation supposedly to ease the burden of neurosis on the others, and they are kept in a very high security installation. The first inmate was Robert and Cynthia's own son, David, deliberately driven crazy by his own parents in the name of this wonky theory, and for traditional reasons any settler named David or Davinia is singled out for the same treatment.
  8. Being very into psychiatry the Charellites are seen as Engrams incarnate by the Scientologists, despite the rather obvious parallels between their psychiatric sessions and their own auditing, and the Charellite aim of elimination of neurosis and going clear. The Cathedral of Scientology in New Dorset on Aquila has a special branch of Sea Org set up in the woods where they try and train Scientological fanatics to fool the psychometrics of the Charellites and infiltrate their colony to commit acts of terrorism. They are the source of most of the paranoid conspiracy theories about Charelle. For their part the Charellites see the Scientologists as massively deluded and any they catch at their assessment centre are admitted and immediately sent to the Therapeutic Community for cult deprogramming. PCs may find themselves asked to rescue Scientologists from this facility, or to infiltrate and disrupt the colony on their behalf. One hysterical conspiracy theory put about by the Scientologists is that Charelle is the home of the 'Engram Generator', and visitors to the world are mentally poisoned with infectious psychological memes designed to suppress or even kill their Inner Thetan. Outsiders listen to this with the appropriate degree of scepticism.