Arabian elementalism

Applying the ideas of elemental manipulation from Avatar: The Last Airbender and trying to drop it in a medieval/Renaissance Arabian setting has given me some ideas regarding how I would have it interact with the world.
I was searching for ways that the elementality of the djinn could follow through into other areas of their life, or might spring up around them involuntarily. The original idea was for the sword of an Ifrit to either set ablaze when he was angry, or else singe and burn at the best of times, and having the Eloi’s blows land with small thunderclaps. But I was having a hard time with subtle offensives for the Dao and Marid. So far the best I’ve come up with is the Dao’s blows simply having the weight of stone behind them, and the Marid to flow around a fight and dodge easily.
Having them have access to the signature water whip or stone armour/gauntlets occasionally seen in the cartoon series was already a given.

Other ideas that I’ve currently got involve the current djinn as being the descendants of humans and true djinn, hence their lesser abilities and more human appearance. I think the corrupted djinn may be the formation of the Ghilan, or perhaps the djinn who did not become a part of humanity are the ones that turned that way. Seems that a Ghul would not follow the Word of Elohim (or however I name the overarching religion).

I’ve dug up a bunch of books on Arabian culture that I’m going to power through in the next few weeks. I’m hoping to take a look at both Persian and Mesopotamian cultural roots too. I’d like for this to work on several levels of culture.

I had a thought regarding removing humanity altogether, and having the world of the djinn be the one played in, but I wasn’t sure how happy I was with that, given how I’d like the bad guys to work. We’ll see though. Would certainly lend an edge to how people would see the world as different.
As it stands, I think the different djinn are the ones in touch with elemental forces, whilst humanity is able to harness the arcane in both good and bad ways. Piety and prayer will avoid corruption, but there’ll be plenty about, from pickpockets and hashish dens to necromancy and demonic bargains.

Also, packs of street rats with different skills, abilities, and skin colours from blue to red to grey are already running around sandy bazaars in my mind.

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Yet more Dresden

I’m a bit behind on collecting together my thoughts, but here’s the recap of Wednesday’s session.

Crazy Mexican sorcerer attends the Priest’s first mass in his new chapel. It does not go well for the mostly elderly congregation, as their hearing aids cease to function due to hexing. Priest is most unimpressed, but after mass gets a sense of being needed elsewhere.
With his Jesus-sense tingling (this is what he referred to it as), he set off apace. Sorcerer followed him, and when it became apparent that the Priest was much faster, used his shadow magic to grab his feet every time they hit the pavement. The Priest managed to dispel that quickly, and hightailed it out of there!
The Priest found himself in a dark alleyway, where a homeless man asked him for change. Very quickly, the homeless man burst from under a mass of trash to show he was in fact a Red Court Vampire. The Priest managed to force him out into the sun using his holy aura and burning touch attacks.

Meanwhile the ectomancer summons up a wizardly ghost to learn about faeries. She doesn’t want them coming around and leaving her any more cryptic messages, and finds out that cold iron is the key. She goes off searching the city’s magic shops, then instead the junk yards.
My cryomancer spent the night researching faeries that killed children, without getting very far. He can still see the image of a faerie surrounded by dead babies in pinpoint accuracy thanks to the Sight, so is a little hasty with shopkeepers trying to get some cold iron. A police officer manages to calm him down a little.
He bumped into the ectomancer, realised that they were both looking for the same stuff, and they team up.

The Mexican decided he needed some cold iron as faerie protection for next time he ended up in the Nevernever (which he plans to do with alarming frequency), so used a thaumaturgical ritual to allow him to literally sniff out cold iron.
After coming across the ecto- and cryomancers, he finds a bountiful source of it in the walls of a large house. Possibly as the walls, or at least their main support. It is certainly unclear at the time.

The Priest headed to the magical bar in town, and made up for seeing a vampire burst into flames by drinking. The ecto- and cryomancers turn up, the latter for work. He owes the ectomancer an iced coffee too.
The local Warden is talking to the Priest about what’s happened, and introducing himself. The cryomancer catches his eye, and tells him that the Mexican went looking for cold iron, but was worried (as a parolee of the Doom himself) that he may have killed with magic. Warden got angry and left.

Sorcerer enters the house and hears maniacal cackling from somewhere inside. He can’t get the cold iron out of the walls from inside, so goes back outside. Breaking himself quite severely in the process (getting a migraine and a phobia of laughter), he manages to pull all of the iron out of the house, and it condenses in a large ball in front of him. The house promptly collapses as the Warden shows up.
Whilst the Sorcerer has used magic to aid in killing someone, he actually buried the man alive using his trusty shovel (did I mention he’s been carrying that the whole time?). The Warden lets him off with a caution, and uses magic to pull a fully-formed sword from the ball as he walks away.
Sorcerer uses his own magic to form a cold iron shovelhead for his shovel, then goes to get a bunch of Mexican labourers to help him move the ball back to his office at the university (where he is living).

The game ended there. It got a bit manic and sort of difficult, what with a Vampire: the Masquerade game happening at the other end of the room, sometimes quite loudly (too many badly played Malkavians). More next week!

Using d12s regularly – ideas for a system that uses them

A recent posting on Google+ about the lack of use of the d12 got me thinking about ways in which to use it effectively. Talk of a tarot/zodiac system made my mind jump to Feng Shui. Whilst I haven’t had any experience of playing it, I loved the setting idea for it. I can barely remember the mechanics, but I seem to recall a lot of d6s.

Anyway, ideas that immediately jumped to mind were a mish-mash of various ideas. Here’s a shortlist of stuff floating around at the moment.

  • ‘Exploding’ dice on a 12, so automatic reroll.
  • Rolling a number of dice and aiming for a target number on each, each success more than the first a cool good thing happens.
  • Automatic fail on a 1. Something bad happens because of it (even if other dice roll successes – bullets ricochet in bad ways, your lie you speak is entirely convincing but you give off a physical tell that the bad guy now has a chance to notice, etc).
  • Favoured skills/maneuvers that drop the difficulty. You need a 9 to pull off a fancy stunt, but you do it all the time. Drop down to an 8.
  • Base difficulty I guess would be around a 7 for something that usually requires a roll. Maybe a 6 if it’s something anyone (even a lowly NPC child) could do.
  • Some kind of point-buy system to get skills and maneuvers, max dice per skill probably 5. 
  • Unsure if I’d use base stats, might throw in FATE’s aspects for character description/plot hooks/previously mentioned favoured abilities. 
  • Bennies get you an automatic success like a temporary willpower point in oWoD.
I have a feeling I might actually try and playtest this soon. Have some interesting ideas of where to take this.

Queenstown part 3

The Docks and Portside precinct covers the area of warehouses, piers and brewhouses that border the waters of the sea.
Landmarks include
The Promenade, a series of high fashion boutiques to the north of the precinct .
Finnegan’s Wharf, a long and low stone pier that extends some way into the harbour.
The Seawitch’s Moorings, a horde of barges moored out in the harbour and home to nomadic sailors.
The Kobold’s Cleaver, a horrible backstreet pub filled with ne’er-do-wells and shadowy characters.
The Tanty, the city gaol, converted from an abandoned warehouse.

Wharfmaster Jerome Finnegan is well known to provide a safe berth for ships laden heavy with cargo. Growing up around the dock, he has risen through the Dockworkers’ Guild and holds considerable sway in it, though has refused several times to take the guildmaster position. He claims that maintaining the daily affairs of his wharf is all he needs in life. He has recently taken to wearing a antique copper coin on a bootlace around his neck.

The landlord of the Kobold’s Cleaver is a man named Fitz. He has sallow skin, long but thinning hair, and is rumoured to never sleep. His accent is meanders its way through many areas of the Old Crown as he speaks, which he does at such speed, that often his words have to be translated through several drunken patrons before being understandable. His pub is open at all hours, and patrons rarely see him away from his bar.
Above the door is said to be a preserved kobold’s arm grasping what is now a rusted cleaver. The arm is, however, purple and hairy.
Many local brewhouses also make their own beer, which tends to be somewhere between a rich red and deep brown in colour, and have a slight salty tang among other flavours. That’s apparently how the locals like it.

The Seawitch’s Moorings are actually inhabited by several competing tribes of different sea nomads, who all provide a service to ocean-going vessels. The nomads make their livings by hiring out their services to calm storms, create wind and wave in becalmed waters, to steer unwitting captains clear of bad omens at sea, and to generally help with any illnesses among the crew at sea.
Many major ports have small seawitch populations, though it’s said that the flotilla of barges in Queenstown is many times smaller than the one floating in the distant City of Festivals. Travelers bring back fantastic tales of the many different boats, barges, ships and sloops moored there.

Of note in recent years is the rise in trade of Jethimadh root from the Spice Islands. Quickly becoming popular with sailors for settling queasy stomachs as their landlegs return, it spread to those seeking relief from nausea, and is now seen as a sweet treat to many of the population of Queenstown (particularly children eating it candied).

Sands of FATE: A pseudo-Arabian setting – preliminary thoughts

So last weekend I began thinking about using FATE to adapt some ideas that had been knocking about in my head, coalescing into some ideas I’m keen to use for a game in an Arabian Nights-like setting, also incorporating some nonsense about elemental harmony from a failed Avatar: The Last Airbender idea I’d had.

So far, I’ve got an overall idea of a few cities and settlements in a desert, notably the City of Brass and Jannah, the Garden City.
Strewn across the deserts are trade routes, settlements, oases, ruins, and so on. Hidden among all that are blood sorcerers, demon summoners, slavers, and caves full of thieves, bandits and Ghilan (plural of Ghul).

Now, as for protagonists and those they encounter, I’ve got djinn of four elements stolen from AD&D and modified, so I have Dao for earth, Efreet for fire, Marid for water and Eloi for air. Ghilan might be either djinn of darkness, or a magical experiment run amok. Perhaps something to do with a demon pact. I do like the idea of them being something like a were-hyena.
Djinn would be more in tune with their element, and could function in much the same way as the elementalist archetype presented in Legends of Anglerre. A human would be able to become an elementalist of any element, but then would be stuck with that choice.
An abundance of magic would be faith-based, so minor cantrips might be short words of prayer, a more powerful spell more powerful words or longer verses, and so on. (Orisons? Anyone remember them?)

The overall theme would be that of faith versus corruption, with blood sorcery being a powerful method of magic, but with consequences (such as tearing holes in reality, breaking the laws of faith or some such).
As such, every character would also have a Qarin Aspect, a sort of voice that whispers to their soul and tempts them with impure thoughts or actions. This would function something like the ‘trouble’ Aspect in Dresden Files.

I’m still toying with some of these ideas, and particularly with a current image I have in my head of a man-sized mandrill wearing a shalwar kameez and a fez. Would I then have other animal-folk that for some reason had been ‘uplifted’ to more like a man, or stick with the man and djinn dichotomy. So far, mandrills, lions and capuchin-like monkeys seem to be buzzing around my head like this, though I might limit them to NPC interaction.

Any thoughts, please feel free to let me know.

Queenstown part 2

Seeing as I promised days ago to get this done, I suppose I should get on with it really!

The Central precinct is walled off from the rest of the city, and is heavily guarded.
The area includes the Margrave’s Palace, the Queenstown Senate, the Guildhall and Guildhall Market, the Queenstown Militia Barracks and training grounds, the Central Queenstown Bank, and a Mage’s Librarium. The Librarium is supposed to be dwarfed in size by that of the Raethmoore Academy, far to the northwest, however it is otherwise the largest repository of arcane knowledge known in the entire Old Crown, requiring a simple test of magical ability to access.

The Margrave Thomas Hawksmoore has greying hair, but still has plenty of fight in him. He is known for sending armed militia to deal with any larger-scale problems in the local population. He is most often seen wearing ceremonial armour of burnished copper and steel.
He lives with a large cohort, and even a small court of hangers on, in the Palace, formerly part of the Royal Residences, but subsequently expanded in recent years.
Alistair Foxworthy is the head of the Queenstown Bankers Guild, as well as the Central Bank. He is ostentatious with his wealth, but known by many as an easy mark for ‘valuable’ antiques and ‘priceless’ treasures.
Baeden is the head of the Queenstown Guard, managaing, coordinating and maintaining the various overlapping militia forces within the city walls. He sits in the Senate, much like one of the many guildleaders, and makes sure the militia is treated well. He is also responsible for the maintenance of the lighthouse located in the Port and Dockside district, making sure it is manned and burning at all times.
Commander Foan is the Dragonkin guardsman in charge of the Militia Barracks, responsible for training all new recruits and liasing with the various guardhouses throughout the city.

There are obviously other characters at large – various guild heads, the Magister of the Librarium, other officers of the Guard, and marketstore holders. I haven’t yet dealt too heavily with these figures. Perhaps in a future update. For now, that’s the lot.

More Dresden

Another week and another adventure in Nevermore Baltimore. This time things got a little more interesting.
A new player joined us, setting himself up as a new priest in town. I spent my time looking for faeries and any and all information on them.
Mexican sorcerer knew about them, had talked to them, and we somehow ended up in the Nevernever.
Then we ran in to the local Warden, also in search of information on what was ‘awakening’ in Baltimore.

Sidenote: Is it possible for someone to get addicted to using the Sight? I’ve been using it far too often really, checking out the priest, his chapel, a Winter Court fae, the Warden (he stepped in front of the Winter Court lady), and then a little pixie wildfae who may or may not have been the Erlking in disguise.

Did get to rescue the Warden from the clutches of scary fae though. Maybe one day I’ll escape the Doom of Damocles for that, right? … Right?

Meanwhile, the former gang member Lycanthrope and mortal met up for the first time in a while, and more scary stuff happened.
Next week: we’ll probably investigate ‘the Blight’ since it seems to be awakening, work out how it’s connected to the mortal J.C. (and his magic grandpa!) and maybe teach the sorcerer some English. I don’t hold much hope for the last one though.