Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Factions Part 2

Last time, we began taking a look at a new concept: Factions, groups of like-minded individuals there in the world to bring individuality and structure to the PCs. Today we continue that:

Okay, a brainstorming session, complete with thesaurus and Latin dictionary, and I've got some the skeleton of the factions worked out.

Each faction will have a society name, and be associated with a powerful organization and a religion that provides the base for their philosophical bent.

Firstly: I removed two ideas from the list I posted last time. First, the self-sufficient Kivian Taoists and the self-interested Church of Lies seemed to follow the same basic ideology (see the word "self" in both), and Kivian Taoism is more interesting, so I eliminated the latter and took the name I had associated, the Egoists, for the Taoists.

Second, I consolidated the Free Association of Merchants and Businesspeoples and the Triocheans. The reasoning behind putting together an association whose goal is "money" and one whose goal is "utopia" might not be immediately apparent, but let me explain. The Elder Trio, the mysterious beings who rule the City, are the quintessential laissez-faire rulers -- they hardly ever interfere with the City's goings-on. Add to that the Objectivist dystopia seen in Bioshock, which I recently played and am fascinated with, and you have the notion that utopia is best found through the application of money in the free market. With that idea, suddenly the idea of simply wanting "money" feels meaningless, and the two become one seamless whole.

Okay, here we go:

The Canonists work for House lev-Barun and are associated with The Church of the Blinding Light. They work towards peace and order. This was an easy one. The Church has been around since the beginning of the concept, and of course they needed an organization and political arm. So I looked around in a thesaurus for another word for "believer," and decided "canonist" had a good ring to it (and is pretty obscure). The house name came from the Everchanging Book of Names I've mentioned before, working with Hebrew sounds -- the language I've decided the priestly Leovites are associated with.

The Egoists work for House Naught, practice Kivian Taoism, and believe in enlightened self-interest. As we've explored before, Kivian Taoism is based on the principle that every person has their own "way" through life, and they should follow it to the highest heights -- to the detriment of others if necessary. Nothing else to say at the moment, except that I love "House Naught" -- that is to say, house nothing, because the Egoists don't work together enough to have a proper House.

The Enders work for The Enders and follow The Entropic Circle, and want to spread entropy and chaos. That's just about all I got so far -- I just think that the idea of a faction based around nihilism has great potential, and could make both good conflicted heroes and great bad guys.

The Epicureans work for House Daceas, follow the Promethean Heresy, and desire art and pleasure. This was another easy one -- I'm bringing over the same basic notions as the Hedonists from Crosstime and the Sensates from Planescape, and emphasizing the love of art that is a defining characteristic of the Promethean bloodline. Worth noting is that the Promethean Heresy is one of several splinter religions diverging from the Church of the Blinding Light -- in the Church, Prometheus is regarded as somewhere between Eve and Satan, as he pulled early man from a state of grace by giving them technology and art; in the Promethean Heresy, he is revered as having lifted man from a state of ignorance. Other than that, the religions are virtually the same -- but because of that, they don't get along. Also of note is that "Epicureans" comes from ancient Greek culture... via the thesaurus, and "House Daceas" comes from the Greek section of the Everchanging Book of Names.

Okay. You go hide, I'll count to three days, and I'll find you on Friday. Go!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Factions Part 1

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about campaign styles for The City of Lives. Every game system has a type of campaign that it works best for: D&D is based around the assumption of dungeoncrawling, meeting monsters and taking their stuff; Vampire assumes political maneuvering and angst; Champions assumes comic-book vigilantism. This is not to say that you can't dungeoncrawl in Vampire or do vigilantism in D&D, but it's not the easiest, it's not what the system is built around. So what kind of game is The City of Lives built around? The answer is, I believe, what the current playtesters are playing -- spy-genre intrigue, the PCs working as espionage agents and troubleshooters for one of the "noble Houses" that, like the Montagues and Capulets, run the City and are constantly feuding. So, now that I have that basic idea in my head, how to best encourage and support it?

To help answer that question, I went back to one of my original inspirations: The Planescape campaign setting for AD&D 2nd Edition. I've avoided reading all the way through its material, or even revisiting it at all, for quite some time -- I wanted to ensure I knew what the City of Lives was on its own before polluting my mind with a source as potent as Planescape, worried that I'd end up just writing a rip-off fanfiction. However, the City is now quite distinct in my mind, so I felt it was safe to return to the well. And I discovered an idea that I had actually used before in my earlier game Crosstime, but had largely forgotten about: Factions.

Factions, as the term is used in Planescape, are groups of like-minded individuals who provide each other with support and push their agenda into the landscape -- much like political parties in the real world (or secret societies in Paranoia, for those familiar). Their main purpose from a meta-universe and worldbuilding standpoint is to provide characters with extra flavor and structure -- being a Republican says something about your character, and the Republican party sending the PCs on missions provides a good structure either for a campaign or an occasional adventure.

So let's take a look at these factions, see what we can figure out.

First, I'll take inspiration from Planescape and my old Crosstime campaign, and come up with a list of what each faction in the games are fighting for (and apologies to Zeb Cook if I misinterpret any of his ideas):

  • The Athar: Discover the true nature of the gods
  • Believers of the Source: Become a god
  • The Bleak Cabal: Accept the meaningless of the universe
  • The Doomguard: Assist the entropy of the universe
  • The Dustmen: Prepare for death
  • The Fated: Become self-sufficient and take power
  • The Fraternity of Order: Understand the laws of the universe
  • The Free League: Stay independent
  • The Harmonium: Create peace in the universe by conquering everyone
  • The Mercykillers: Enforce justice
  • The Revolutionary League: Tear down the system!
  • The Sign of One: ...not sure. Make other people accept that you're the center of the universe?
  • The Society of Sensation: Experience as much of the universe as possible.
  • The Transcendent Order: Become one with the universe and act accordingly
  • The Xaositects: Learn the nature of the universe by embracing chaos
  • The Outsiders: Understand this bizarre world they've fallen into.

And from my old Crosstime game (a time-travel game with lots of changing history):
  • Archivists: Learn everything in the universe
  • Freelancers: Stay independent
  • The Free Market: Make money
  • Green Time: Restore nature to dominance
  • Hedonists: Experience as much pleasure as possible
  • Machinists: Introduce as much high-technology into the timeline as possible. 
  • Messiahs: Become the most important person in the universe
  • OTL: Restore the timeline to its original state
  • Racketeers: Also make money... (hm. a potential problem for if/when I return to Crosstime)
  • The Revisionists: Change history to create utopia 
  • The Shelter: Altruism
  • The Span: Destroy time travel
  • Timelost: Get home

Don't worry if it all doesn't make sense. The important part is the goals for each faction -- and, as you can see, there is a lot of overlap. This tells me that there are a limited number of fundamental concepts in the collective unconscious, and thus Zeb Cook and I stumbled across a lot of the same ones. So, if I put them together and cull out the ones that are inappropriate, then throw in a couple of ideas that don't seem to have made the list, I think we'll have a good list of faction goals for The City of Lives.

We'll associate them with a few names I already have kicking around my head -- political parties, religions, and noble Houses, and see what we get:

The Church of the Blinding Light: Peace and order
Kivian Taoism: Self-sufficiency in harmony with the universe
?: entropy and chaos
House Daceas/The Promethean Heresy: Art and pleasure
Faberists/House Solfidly: Revolution
The Seeding Manual: Nature above technology
?:  freedom
Academy of Artful Sciences/Practical Theosophy: Knowledge of the universe and the gods
Publicans/House Trelius: Altruism and charity
Sabercrats: Imperialism and war
The Iversdotter Revelation: Justice
Triocheans: Utopia
The Free Association of Merchants and Businesspeoples: Money
The Church of Lies: Pure Self-interest

Okay, that's enough for this post. Let me mull over these concepts and see if I can come up with some names and more information, and I'll meet you here next time for Factions Part 2!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Grate-Scratcher Archetypal Image and the Kivians

Svetana Milevic -- a Grate-Scratcher Burglar

Svetana is short and slim near to the point of emaciation. She has pale, unhealthy-looking skin, and large (I mean inhumanly large) eyes with irises so light they almost blend into the whites. She is in her early 20s. Her hair is limp and straggly in a dirty gray under a pair of dark goggles she wears across her forehead. She wears plain, dark rags, mottled in grays and dark reds (a makeshift urban camouflage for a city filled with brick and stone) -- and they look like they used to be 18th-century peasant garb, reminiscent of Les Miserables. What skin shows is splattered in mud and grime, as though she’d been living in a sewer for years (as indeed she has). She carries a thick length of rope with a grapnel on it on one shoulder, a crowbar in her belt, and is removing a lockpick from a leather case. Her lips are thin, but pressed into a grin of smirking happiness.

Picture after the jump:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Iversdotter Archetypal Image and Riannos

Ingra Eagle-Shield Iversdotter -- an Iversdotter Battlecrafter

Ingra is tall, with light blonde hair, Nordic features, and a muscular and buxom figure. She wears her hair in complex Viking-style braids, but with part of her head shaved in a kind of Viking-Punk look. She is in her late 20s or early 30s. She has a series of Norse runes tattooed across one cheek and down her neck. She has a lot of piercings, from ears to nose (not a bridge, please) to lip and perhaps further south. She wears a leather bustier and leather pants -- both sexy but practical-looking, perhaps patched. She has a long dagger on her hip, and one hand -- curled into a fist -- has nasty-looking bone spurs jutting from her knuckles, forming a kind of brass knuckle. Her expression tells the viewer to back the fuck off.

Picture after the jump

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kipman Archetypal Image and the Realm of Opening

Closk Hotblood -- a Kipman Soldier

Closk is a mongrel. He has features from half-a-dozen different animals. Primarily, he is human -- tall, heavy-set, imposing, a physique reminiscent of a bull or bear. He also features a bear’s muzzle and ram’s horns. His eyes are human, an intense blue. He is in his late 20s. He has patchy fur all over his body, interspersed with tan skin and the occasional patch of reptilian scales. One hand looks like a bear paw, while the other is human. He has the backward-jointed legs and hooves of a sheep. He is dressed in ragged clothes like that of a 19th-century peasant, heavily soiled and patched -- a coarse canvas shirt and ragged pants, with a jerkin of studded leather armor over it. In his human hand, he carries an old, heavily-notched hand axe. His face tells the viewer to die horribly.

See the picture after the jump:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pariah Archetypal Image and the Shertasi

Marcek Rystyna-per -- a Pariah Information Merchant

Marcek is short and slim. He is in his late 30s. He has dark skin, hair, and eyes, rather Middle-Eastern features. His thin cheeks are permanently stained with tears, which glow with a black light. He has a short goatee. His head is covered by a skullcap in dark orange and purple stripes. He wears an Elizabethan-era tunic and pants (“slops” or “trunk hose”) in black, gray, and purple, simple and severe. He has a stuffed-full scroll-case on his belt, ink-stained fingers, and a quill pen in one hand. His face says he knows more than you, and wants you to know it.See the image after the jump:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Promethean Archetypal Image and the end of the Ma'ar

Phaedra -- a Promethean Explosives Artificer

Phaedra is tall and statuesque, with the high breasts and aquiline nose of a classical Greek statue. She is in her early 20s. Her skin is burnished a dull red, and her veins glow with a dim orange light. Her hair is cut in a “Cleopatra” hairdo, ash-gray, and her eyes look like glowing coals. She wears a flattering Greek tunic with bare legs. She holds a small black-powder grenade (like from Pirates of the Caribbean or old Looney Tunes cartoons), and is lighting the wick with a small breath of fire. She has a pyromaniac’s glee in her eyes. Image after the jump:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sky-Carver Archetypal Image and the Ma'ar continued

Tessiria Aderino -- a Sky-Carver Courtier

Tessiria is thin and tall, looking slender at best, if not emaciated. Her eyes have no irises, instead being a solid light blue, and her long hair, waving in an unseen breeze, is stark white. She is in her mid-40s. Her skin is pale and tinged with a light blue, with white, cloud-shaped markings appearing across her skin. She is dressed in a long, flowing Renaissance dress, perhaps inspired by Lucrezia Borgia’s dress in the attached picture. She should look sexy, supercilious, and terrifyingly cruel.

This is the only archetypal character we had Amy Clark draw that is an actual character in the playtesters' campaign. Specifically, this "Tessiria Aderino" is a Sky-Carver aristocrat collaborating with the Niontians to aid their invasion of the City of Lives, and is the primary antagonist of the campaign. The playtesters have only encountered her once -- and even then, only one character saw her personally (calmly torturing a servant who had failed her), but her fingers are in everything they see and touch, and are constantly acting to take down her numerous powers.






Excellent work, Amy! Tessiria is ethereal, cruel, beautiful, and looks like she's floating despite being unable to see anything below her waist. Also, an excellent adaptation and interpretation of Lucrezia Borgia's dress in her famous portrait.

I can't really say negative, or even "constructive criticism" on this (besides the eternal "I wish it were in color," but that seems less necessary for this drawing than some others), so let's take a look at how the Sky-Carvers will change now that the Sons of Light are being removed from the game:

Very, very little. Mostly, the change will mean that they have fewer adversaries on the aristocratic battlefield, mostly fighting among themselves (and, to a lesser extent, the Leovites and Prometheans, but both of those bloodlines are less concerned with status than the Sky-Carvers and ex-Sons of Light). The only other change is that I'm removing the artistic temperament that formerly was a secondary part of the Sky-Carver personality, leaving Prometheans as the only artists -- because otherwise they step on each other's toes, archetypally speaking.

Let's take a look at the Ma'ar. We'll ARTT this out.

Archetype: First off, let's cover the fact that the Ma'ar and the Shertasi are designed to be, in the words of tvtropes.org, "Always Chaotic Evil." They are antagonists, first and foremost. The City of Lives is the hero of this campaign world, as it were. It may not be perfect, but a central thesis of the campaign world is that the City is the best of all possible Realms. Thus, the Shertasi Empire, the Niontians of the Lesser Chthonic Worlds, and Ma'ar Commonwealth are all antagonistic -- they may not be at war with the City itself, but their goals are almost certainly opposite to the PCs'. So while we want to create a realistic, full-featured society here, it's important to remember that it should be largely abhorrent.

Real-Life Inspiration: The Ma'ar are pack felines: how do we reconcile these two ideas? Well, let's start by listing out some attributes associates with dogs and wolves on one hand, and cats big and small on the other.

  • Carnivores
  • Hunters
  • Pack mentality, complex hierarchy
  • Strong
  • Good sense of smell, hearing, decent sight. 
  • Mate for life, have "heat". 
  • Must be dominant to mate. 
  • Carnivores
  • Hunters
  • Independent
  • Agile
  • Good hearing, sight, decent smell.
  • Have "heat", do not keep sexual partners.
  • Must be dominant to mate
Interesting. Really, they're much more similar than dissimilar. Let's see how we can put some of the differences together. Pack animals stay together, form a bond of trust. Cats are solitary, disliking and challenging other felines that invade their territory. Mix them, and we have a pack system, functioning in packs and families even more than humans do -- if you see a lone Ma'ara [the singular form of the name], there are at least two more nearby. However, it's based not on trust, but merely need. Status is of terrible importance -- but none will sit quietly and keep their status static, instead constantly fighting for dominance in a series of ritualized challenges.

Ritualized combat and dueling would play a large role in Ma'ar society, methinks - Every Ma'ar adult must own a very specially-designed, very expensive, very elaborate robe that is specifically meant for dueling and only dueling. They must always have this with them, prepared for a duel. In a duel, they will go through a very elaborate set-up, very ritualized, very formal, then let loose the savage beast within. They do not stop for a moment until one is dead. Then the winner must buy a replacement robe for the rags that he has just destroyed in his fight or he will have lost all the honor he just gained.

Okay, again we've run out of room. Next time, we'll examine the Promethean archetypal image, and look at the Ma'ar Theme and Twist. See you then!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Leovite Archetypal Image and the Leovites' Role Change

Welcome. Today we're looking at Amy Clark's Leovite image -- unfortunately, we're not going to have any space for the Ma'ar, so we'll see them next time.

Efrael lev-Zeron -- a Leovite Priest

This one might be a little tough -- Efrael has leonine features, but is *not* an anthro. The look of Vincent from the old Beauty and the Beast TV show is pretty much perfect. He has a flattened nose, cleft lip, and distinct fangs. He is covered with a fine golden-brown fur, and a distinctive shaggy mane. He is in his early 30s. He has thick finger- and toenails, almost claw-like. He is tall (six and half feet tall) and thick-bodied, well-muscled but not overly so. His eyes are a golden yellow. He wears white robes reminiscent of Old Testament Jewish priests (though without the jeweled breast-plate or hat), with a stylized sun on his chest. He has a kindly, welcoming look on his face.

Okay, let's start with the positive: he looks just lion enough in his face to fit the concept, without turning into an anthro. That was a difficult request,  but Amy pulled it off. The outfit looks great -- Amy Clark even turned poorly-sketched stylized sun logo I designed into something that really works and looks cool. Now the problems: Efrael's face isn't nearly wide enough -- the wide, thick body of the lion is one of the traits I imagine all Leovites to hold. He also looks a little too sweet -- but that's just "kindly, welcoming look on his face" taken a step further than I would have myself. My other problem is the hair. Unfortunately, it doesn't really look like a mane at all, just giant 80s glam metal hair -- and the Leovites are not metal, glam or otherwise. This would probably be the picture I am least satisfied with, in terms of matching what was in my head -- but she got the "leonine but not anthro" facial structure, so that's all I really care about.

So, now let's talk about what's happened to the Leovites now that the Sons of Light are gone. Or rather, always have been gone. They have been wiped from existence, removed like the people eaten by the crack in Amy Pond's wall. Or perhaps they once existed, but left or were wiped out, in classic Precursor fashion, which allows us to keep the Heliotrope Cliffs, at least in one form. Anyway, Leovites. They now will inherit the Sons of Light's high class, their status as Chosen Ones, and their abilities with Lightshaping. Let's look at these one at a time:

Becoming High Class doesn't change the core demographic of the Leovites -- the priests -- all that much, but it does change everything around them. It will change the priests from being dutiful servants of the aristocracy to spiritual and temporal rulers, like the ruling priests and god-king Pharaoh of Classical Egypt. An unofficial theocracy will form -- not that there wasn't one already, it just had the Sons of Light running the show -- filtering all judgment through the mindset of followers of the Light. Additionally, Leovites who are not priests are no longer servants but aristocrats -- jockeying for power and position, coordinating the government, and leading the armies (not that the City has a standing army, but they can dream).

Being the Chosen Ones changes quite a lot about the Leovites, while clarifying a central tenet of their existence. They have always been all about the Light, following the religion and being servants to the Chosen Sons of Light. Now that they are the Chosen, it means that duty to their god makes the Leovites take responsibility for their own actions, staying moral and pure in a way that the other aristocrats do not. It also helps explain their leonine visage -- I've never wanted them to be diluted Kipmen or anything like that, so I originally dodged the issue by saying they mysteriously appeared from another Realm. This way, though, they were transformed by the power of the Light -- presumably some kind of "made in the image of God" kind of thing (though since the Light is supposed to not have a humanoid body, or physical form other than the sun, I dunno -- maybe lions' manes look like rays of sunlight or something).

The Leovites have always had power with Lightshaping, it being reflective of their relationship with their god. However, it was the Sons of Light who had proper light powers born into them, like glowing eyes and such (though, as discussed, it wasn't a regular thing). Now that the Leovites are innate Lightshapers, we can say they... I dunno, have glowing eyes. And their manes shine slightly, so that it always looks like they're surrounded by a halo. And they function better during the day. That sounds good for now.

Whew. A lot on the Leovites. Next time, we'll look at the Sky-Carvers and more on the Ma'ar.