[To Playtest] Colonization of Qek

Started by Eero Tuovinen, December 13, 2008, 03:18:47 PM

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Eero Tuovinen

Quite intriguing, lots of ideas for interaction and motivations there. The method you use for these is interesting, makes for a faction-rich game. Reminds me of Morrowind now that I think of it.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


  I fixed the Enemies and Allies. Yesterday was super busy and I didn't notice I forgot them til late last night.

  Yeah, I came up with this system as a way to force myself to look at the relationship between factions under a more objective light. Before I did this, I found myself either using old stereotypes (elves hate dwarves, etc) or trying "too hard" to go against those stereotypes. So, I formulated a way to find out what the issues were that were driving the conflicts in the setting and then codify the relationships based on that.

  In the KOTOR era of the star wars universe, the Sith is an empire separate from the old Republic, their territory is beyond the outer rim. What I discovered when I used this technique in that setting is that the Republic Military and the Sith Military complexes have a lot in common, with just he one except (light side versus dark side). And some of the enemies and allies that came from that analysis allowed me to really come up with some unique campaign ideas.

  So, this technique has served me pretty well. I just found that I have to do things in a certain order or the factions will be too formulated. Another pitfall is the alignment factors (i.e., Pro-Trade vs Anti-Trade), you have to be careful to pick one that is a more neutral term. Otherwise, you end up with all the good guys on one side and all the bad guys on another side. for instance, for this one, I tried using Pro-Wealth vs. Anti-Wealth (since Qek gem working is more about wealth and less about trade), but this did not work as it basically divided the factions into hippies vs conservatives. And while it was interesting, it was not very helpful as very few people do not want wealth.
Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
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One more resource other than diamonds comes from Qek, namely some rare spices and plants. But I agree that this is just a variant on the same theme.

Contrasting Qek with Khale or the other way round also fits the original writeup, since it is mentioned the Khaleans think themselves descendants of Qek. In a howardian fashion, one could surmise the Khaleans either cast off the bounds of primitivity or they devolved into some kind of misconstrued decadence, with their festive days and internal feuds polarising the conservative powers and the destructive nature.

If you look up Yesterday's Heresies, you'll find hints at blood sacrificing walozi controlling the inner jungle from the steps of their pyramids, too. This might be an additional explanation for the outer Qeks' lethargy: They dare not move around and stirring the interest of the Powers That Be(TM) in the Qek jungles that grow into the mountains.


So, here are the experiences from Helsinki from a viewpoint of one player. Sorry for being badly delayed: We played the sessions in December, but I've been on holidays and busy with studies. Without any further excuses, here we go:

We played only two sessions, maybe about 10 hours altogether, so I'm not saying that the testing was throughout. There were four of us, three players and so three characters. One was an Ammeni sergeant, another was an Ammeni soldier of fortune and third (my character) was a Qek tribe woman. The game was focused to the Ammeni military base / colony, so my character was a bit in the shadows. Our characters gained about 2-3 advances during playing, so nothing much can be said about the direction of growth or change.

Also, as far as I know, we didn't much follow the guidelines suggested in the first post, so I don't even try to answer in the bullet points given there. We took the campaign idea, some tools provided for it and ran with that. What follows are things which we found out to be insufficiently explained or provided for our campaign. Not saying that you Eero should fix this all or that others would run into same problems and benefit from our experiences, but simply: here are thoughts from our sessions.

Oh, and sorry for some secret and key names. Cannot remember what they all are in English out of a sudden. Ask if wondering. Also, sorry for the excessive use of brakcets. I know it makes the text a bit messy, but I don't have time to hone the text.


Nothing much seemed to be happening in the jungle. There was no apparent conflict between the Ammeni and the Qek. Jungle was big enough for everybody and Qek families were pretty self-sufficient. We did create on the fly the idea of the Ammeni colony being a penal colony for those officers who have failed in the war between Ammeni and Khale. The actual soldiers were prisoners, mainly from a mine but also deserters and rebelling soldiers from Khale war, I recall. During the game we continued to deepen the divisions in the Ammeni camp. The mentioned sergeant was from a mine, where he had his own gang, Sledge. These were eager to take over the whole colony and, with the diamond trade and time, turn it into some sort of free port.

I created the invasion of bloodthirsty beast apes as a kicker for my character. This wasn't too effective in the fiction, however, as families were quite self-sufficient and uninterested to form an organized chain of resistance and common protection. During the game we had a bunch of low intellect or animal-like apes (some animals and some ape-goblins) and a society of beast apes (strong gorilla-like goblins, which had ape servants and apparently also some past trade relations with Ammeni).

I'd say that in order to create more dynamic situation there should be more factions. Especially Qek folk remained passive. Even if they are supposed to be loyal only to their own family, one family might be practically slaves of Ammeni, another working for them and third actively working against them. Similarly Ammenis could have different approaches, like the military core led by the captain, who wishes to tame the jungle, the rebellious thugs seeking to escape through revolt and cunning (well, despaired actually) merchant trying to acquire the riches of the jungle. Then there could be also goblin apes, walozis and Shar-Tek to keep player characters occupied and producing situations for choices.

Exploration and getting lost in the jungle

The basic idea was that jungle is a dead-serious place for both Ammeni and Qek. The only places you could go to where places you already knew. For my character this meant a problem, when I wanted to find a place to gather cocoa. I wanted a larger supply, which would not require constant gathering checks or would remove penalty dice from herb lore checks for cocoa or would even give a chance to make the check and find cocoa (cannot remember which). I managed to pull the roll, but since I didn't have free advances or time to wait till the new moon, I couldn't tie the place. Therefore I didn't have any chances of finding the place again. It sure made the jungle feel impenetrable, but it also made exploration quite frustrating. It's hard to be a native guide, when the only places you can find your way to are home, a sea shore and Eagle cliffs.

As part of this, hunting in the jungle for an Ammeni was nigh-impossible. I recall that the player first had to make a check about finding any game animals, then another getting near them and third slaying them. The first one was of course penalty died, due to having only woodscraft and not jungle travelling (or whatever you call it in English).

Getting lost was just a consequence or a "bring down the plot hook" for the SG, akin to a refreshment scene.

Ammeni against the jungle

If the jungle was so bad-ass, it would probably devour the colony, don't you think? It was clear in the fiction, that the colony survived only because Ammeni constantly shipped there new soldiers. Technically the whole Ammeni population would be changed in less than a year (though I don't think we followed this idea in the fiction). But how does the game system show this? Or is it just the SG's call when the wounds become inflamed, the food is spoiled and buildings collapse? When do the Ammeni run out of clean water, cloth and fresh bamboo spears?

Linked to this, how do the Ammeni make colonization happen? What kind of abilities or checks should the Ammeni player characters succeed in, so that they could adapt and become self-sufficient? In short: what to do, when Ammeni try to do something in order to purify the muddy parasite-ridden Qek river water?

Ideas suggested for this was to create the jungle as a side character against which to declare conflicts, make problems into effects which colonialists can overcome through successful ability checks or to have Qek folk actively sabotage the colony (again giving an opposition for conflics). The secret of incubation is of course one option as is also the idea that no checks can be made: the problem must be solved through interacting with different Qek groups (no-one is and cannot be fully self-sufficient, hence laying a source for drama).

Encounters with the savage

There were no bilingual player characters at the beginning of the sessions. The negotiations with the furious apes were mostly roleplayed, describing characters actions. As the soldier of fortune spent some time as a slave for beast apes, the player was granted to purchase the secret of Qek language. No problems over here, actually.


As was mentioned in the previous post, we only gained 2-3 advances each, so we didn't get to buy too many secrets or keys. I'd say that the secrets bought were knots and the secret of Qek language. The keys... the Ammeni sergeant had the key of criminal (wheeling and dealing with his Sledge gang) and the soldier of fortune had the key of outcast and of glittering gold. The latter one bought also the key of smart-ass (xp for bitching others). My character had the key of family: personal (we had the conversation whether you can / must have a different key for every family, like "personal", "parents" and so on), of tsafari and bought the key of diplomat (very similar to the key of pacifist).

I'd say that the only key that didn't quite work was the key of tsafari. It costs five xps to acquire a knot, and if you happen to learn it from someone, you get one xp. It's a better bargain if you make the knot yourself (get three xps, spend five), but since finding new places was so very difficult and binding an already bound place would erase the previous knot (thus causing everyone having the original knot to lose it, right?), it wasn't really an option.

(All in all, being a tzafari is bloody expensive advance-wise, but so is being a three-corner wizard, so maybe I'm whining for no reason.)
Sami Koponen

Eero Tuovinen

Ah, thanks for the report, Sami. Given that your character was the one most entailed in the knot and travel mechanics, a few questions:

Did you find that getting lost delayed or frustrated play, or was it an interesting constraint and source of danger?

Did you use paths? Using paths does not require Advances, so they are the safe and simple way (or the safest and simplest, anyway) of traversing the jungle. I'm also interested in this because I'm considering removing the explicit knot connection from paths - makes creating paths relatively hard if you need to have two knots for it; makes sense on the other hand, if we presume that any two points for a path to run between already need to be somehow significant for the path to matter in the first place.

Did you require characters to always find their way to a discrete "place" in the jungle if they wanted to do something specific? How did you determine whether some activity required traveling the jungle as opposed to staying put? Your example about gathering cocoa beans seems like a sort of liminal case to me - I could imagine running it with a simple food-gathering Ability check, presuming that suitable cocoa bushes might exist close enough to the character's current location that no real "travel" in abstract, mechanical terms would be required. I suppose this depends on how rare cocoa is imagined to be, but was the possibility of not tackling the travel mechanics on the table?

Would you say that the mechanics would flow better if you got more knots per Advance? Or would it be a better solution to create stories where individual knots were more important?

Did you get to use your knots for anything else apart from travel? Did you find individual knots frustrating, useless and difficult to learn? Should there be some sort of baseline Secrets that help bootstrap a beginning character? The crunch doesn't do a very good job of supporting a native guide -style concept, I agree; that'd require a number of advances. I'm thinking of something like this to help:

Secret of Home Turf (Area)
The character has lived his whole life in a particular patch of the Qek jungle - he is practically a part of the living roho itself, and there is little that escapes his notice. The character is assumed to know all knots in the Area without needing to spend Advances on them - he also regains all Advances spent on knots in the Area. Knots explicitly created during play by characters do not count for this effect. When an applicable knot is revealed in play, any other character who knows the knot may check Jungle Travel (R) to show that the knot has, in fact, never been taught to this character. Requirements: Three knots.

Do you think it would be a good idea to turn knots into Effects, removing their Advance cost? This would enable a character to have many more knots with much less experience spending. It would also lessen the ties Qek have to the land, as they could just get new Effects for new places with little fuzz.

As can be seen, most of my questions concern whether the knot mechanics can be used facilely in actual play. They are balanced mechanically, but that is not much use if the players find it awkward to make full use of them.


As for your question concerning practical issues of colony-keeping, Solar System is quite relaxed when it comes to these issues: if you don't have a character to play against, then characters just need to succeed in simple Ability checks to succeed in whatever seems reasonable. (If you're wondering what constitutes a character, check the last chapter in SS - I classify different sorts of SG characters there.) Perhaps the more problematic issue is whether something is reasonable; can the Ammeni even try to figure out how to get fresh water in the jungle? I suggest that the simplest solution is to always accept the possibility if the player asks for it and the SG can imagine the game continuing with the fictional consequences - if it fits with the setting and situation, then it's applicable as an object of resolution.

Also remember to not burden your play with unnecessarily many Ability checks. Often enough individual checks are enough to establish direction for the events - if you failed to find water today, do we really need to roll for it again tomorrow? Perhaps we do, perhaps we won't, but it basically depends on the local understanding of the fictional situation.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


Here we go with a bunch of answers. Got to get this done, before I forget it all.

Quote from: Eero Tuovinen
Did you find that getting lost delayed or frustrated play, or was it an interesting constraint and source of danger?

More frustrating, I'd say. My character's skill in Jungle Travelling was 2, so I pretty much cleared it everytime. However, I was required to make a check everytime my character moved along a path or straight to a knot, so I rolled a lot (like getting to meet my character's mother-in-law required one roll to get to Eagle Cliffs, another to follow the path to her own parents' home and another to follow the path to get to meet the mother-in-law). The idea behind was probably just to make me check until I'd fail, so that the SG could toss me to some ungodly place. Sure, the possibility of failing at any time you move through the jungle makes the place feel a bit dangerous, but it wasn't too rewarding.

Quote from: Eero TuovinenDid you require characters to always find their way to a discrete "place" in the jungle if they wanted to do something specific? How did you determine whether some activity required traveling the jungle as opposed to staying put? Your example about gathering cocoa beans seems like a sort of liminal case to me

Yes, there was a situation, when I needed to do some First Aid check and supported it with Herb Lore. So essentially my character just searched healing herbs from nearby her home. We did discuss the fictional rarity of cocoa and also about how easy it would be to collect (like how many doses can you get with one check). As I mentioned earlier, there are many possibilities why we ended up with the search for a cocoa valley.

Quote from: Eero TuovinenWould you say that the mechanics would flow better if you got more knots per Advance? Or would it be a better solution to create stories where individual knots were more important? Did you get to use your knots for anything else apart from travel? Did you find individual knots frustrating, useless and difficult to learn?

Yeah, I'd say that the problem with knots was mostly that they were useless. Or in other words, we didn't know how to use them efficiently. In either case, compare to Secrets: it's easy to say what a given Secret can do. But what's with a single knot? It's just a light house in the pitch-black jungle: a guide for travellers. They become more efficient when you have three of them - and even then you have to use another Secret (and pool points) to turn them into an area. Knots weren't too hard to obtain in the fiction: several NPCs were willing to teach their stuff (even if their stuff was pretty non-dramatic, like relatives' homes or Gathering grounds or Tiger glade). I just couldn't produce enough xp to keep on going.

It's like... without knots your character's world is just plain empty. So you need to get knots just to have places where your character can go to. In order to actually benefit from knots, you need to gather several of them and then knit them together into a web. This, however, is extremely slow (expensive in experience points) process. And even then I'd say that they are less useful than same amount of Three-Corner Secrets: less combinations, less mechanical effectiveness. Just knowing (or finding) stuff is different from being able to do stuff.

Or maybe my approach was just wrong. Just having a knot for home and another for Diamond Mountain and third for some place familiar to Ammenis would have everything a dramatic set would need. I just went for "let's explore the jungle by knowing a lot of knots" -plan.
Sami Koponen

Eero Tuovinen

Quite so. I find it believable that knots might be overpriced as is - I can see how to make them work, but it'd require the SG to specifically lean on the system in a holistic manner to make it worthwhile. This might very well be a case of outdated mechanics - I hadn't developed the Effects rules and such when I wrote the knot stuff, so it's originally made for a bit different environment.

One option would be to make knots into Effects, but that doesn't capture them correctly in the fiction. It seems that what I need to do is to make knots somehow usable even for characters who don't know them and allow characters to use paths without Ability checks. That should cut down on the unnecessary pressure. Perhaps add to the usefulness of individual knots by tying some second-order effects into them that help characters navigate the jungle. Have to think about it.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


What about a quick change to the rules that you pay for Areas as secrets, but can use knots and paths before that, and get XP in the relevant Keys for knots still? It's a bit of an overhead, but I'd argue that knots and paths are just some kind of (very specialized) equipment that you can use for good synergistic effects when spending an Advance to make them an Area.


I played a really short adventure in the 'colonization of qek' setting. It was good, but very Ammeni-centric due to the way I set it up. The whole game had a touch of Roanoke (as far as I can say, I don't own the game) as it centered on the way the colony reacted to the influx of new settlers and a power mad ammenite Inquisitor. We had great drama in the end when Leonce Phol attacked his son Qem Phol, the Inquisitor, to save his love from certain and the new settlers from uncertain doom.

More details will follow when I finish writing up my prep notes for public consumption.


I can certainly add that while I love the way the knot and path system has made me excited about the Qek jungles, I've been worried about its cost in Secrets being prohibitive. There aren't a lot of other situations where you end up paying a Secret cost for game information or ordinary gear, at least in the way the groups I've played in have worked. No one's had to pay a Secret for owning a home, working in a tavern, or even owning weapons or a horse if they had a Scrapping or Riding ability.

The Effects rules might be a much better placement for this, I agree, Eero, particularly in that Effect dice are so easily passed back and forth to other players. Maintaining multiple knots and paths might be somewhat prohibitive in terms of total pool cost, though, correct? Perhaps a variation on your Secret of the Home Turf might be helpful in bridging that situation where a group of regularly used knots need to be upgraded from Effects to something more permanent?

I guess one of the questions that circulates around this is: are tsafari and others forced to constantly maintain the paths and knots, lest they atrophy, and the ever-growing jungle consume them? This effectively has the techniques of a verdant jungle which is constantly changing and growing-over paths and concealing cool sites. But it also puts a lot of heavy lifting on people who are maintaining these Effects, doesn't it? For instance, the beautiful knot map in this thread has a total of 14 knots, though granted not all of them are actively linked with paths. That seems a lot of pool expenditure for characters, particularly when some of these map nodes are really places where the Ammeni and Qek families are just hanging out, doing their thing. If we're representing the jungle's tendency for growth, then maybe knots and paths are sometimes just maintained by regular use, which can take some of the effect cost off of the tsafari, and make the Effects they maintain really special?

In that case, maybe the Secrets could run more like this:

Anyone with Jungle Survival can:

  • Establish or maintain a knot just by inhabiting an area. A knot is a relatively safe area where you can trust that your provisions won't be automatically befouled by the jungle or stolen by scavengers, and you can have shelter and safety. Knots are ideal locations for refresh scenes. Establishing or maintaining a knot means taking care of a camp site, scaring off animals and clearing out new vegetation from the quick-growing jungle. Anyone can leave a site unattended for several days without losing the knot that's there, but this requires a Jungle Survival Effect, with each effect die maintaining it an additional day.
  • Maintain a path between two established knots by making a Jungle Survival (R) check once per day, which involves walking the path and clearing it. So long as a path is maintained on the map, it is usable by anyone else who walks it in that day, travelling from knot A to knot B. A path can be maintained for several days after its use, but this requires a Jungle Survival Effect, with each effect die maintaining it an additional day.
  • Maintain an area (a space defined by three or more knots). This requires awareness that all three knots are maintained, which is done either by visiting them yourself, maintaining a path effect, or receiving word via messengers from the other knots (allowing them to maintain the path). Thus areas tend to be collaborative regions which are maintained by a small cluster of Families, who have to make some show of mutual reliance on each other. An area is a place where you can hunt, gather, and perform other actions in the jungle with relative safety and assurance of a minimum of wild animals and intruders. Jungle Survival checks allow you to know when there are dangers present in the area, and are instrumental in realizing that one or more paths or knots aren't being maintained, and the area is atrophying to just a "V" formed by three knots and two paths, or even just three isolated knots.
  • Try and find a knot without a path. The difficulty/opposition of the check is determined by distance, difficulty of journey, and Storyguide fiat. Failure equals immediate danger for the person wandering the untamed jungle. A knot which is inside an area but not linked via a path (see the Clear Pool example in the map on the previous page) is substantially easier to find than one which is free floating in the world (the Ape Cliffs or Old Ruins).

Characters who don't have Jungle Survival--outlanders and invaders and such--are forced to use Woodscraft or other abilities, but they're out of their element to start. This should have a minimum effect of a penalty die on all checks, which should particularly stack nastily with trying to find knots without paths.

This also means your trusty jungle guide is immediately way more useful, even if all he's done is take a Qek cultural ability (which he might've grabbed through some sort of nifty Secret if he's an outlander).

As to the Secrets which actually play with knots and paths and such:

Secret of the Tsafari
You are talented at recognizing and finding "knots", marking places in the jungle, and establishing safe paths between them. You receive a bonus die on any Jungle Survival check to find a knot without using a path, or to notice that an area is atrophying because its paths or knots aren't maintained. Once a day, you can make a Jungle Survival check without spending a point of Reason to establish and maintain knot and path Effects, maintaining the knots and paths you know by either actively keeping them clear or else anticipating the growth of the jungle so that the minor atrophy which these sites go through all the time doesn't obscure them from your discovery and use.

Secret of Knot Attunement (or some other appropriate name...?)
Any knot you maintain through about two hours of work can be attuned to a specific task, aligned with the roho of the area for beneficial effects. Specify one ability when you maintain this knot which is appropriate to the area; the Storyguide may determine that specifying the First Aid ability is inappropriate to a viper den, or that Distillation does not work at a roaring waterfall (though it might just as well be exciting to say that the snakes' poison can serve as a useful ingredient in antivenom, and the rushing pure waters of a waterfall are essential for some concoctions). Anyone using the specified ability in the knot is considered to have the Secret of Ability Enhancement (and can spend unlimited pool points when using this Ability to gain bonus dice). Knots only stay attuned in this fashion for a day, but you can extend their duration the same way you would maintain any other knot, by spending Effect dice from a Jungle Survival check (one per day). You can use a Jungle Survival Effect pool to "cache" bonus dice for ths specified attuned ability at the knot, which you or other people you teach about the knot can access. This might represent special provisions you hide in the knot, or simply a sort of jungle "feng shui". Prerequisite: Secret of the Tsafari. Special: A knot may only be attuned to one ability at a time.

Secret of the Jungle's Bounty (a rework of the old Secret of the Stomping Ground)
When you are in an area you have helped to at least partially maintain (by maintaining one or more of its knots or paths), you can make a Jungle Survival check to locate anything appropriate to the area-- people, waterways, caves, animals, rare goods-- whatever could be found in the area on principle. You can look for something in specific (i.e. a lost child) or declare a general type of thing (i.e. travelers). The Storyguide creates the details. Unlikeliness may result in penalty dice on the Jungle Survival check. Prerequisite: Secret of the Tsafari. Cost: 2 points from an appropriate pool: Vigor for geographical features, Instinct for animals and plants, Reason for people-things.

Secret of the Knotworker
You can do much more with a knot than even other tsafari. You can make a Jungle Survival check to assess a knot, determining who has maintained it recently, recognizing an individual or a group you have encountered before, or determining some facts about them if you've never met them. You can also break any maintained knot or path (including the effects of an attuned knot), inviting the jungle's encroachment in once more, though this may require a contest against the person who maintained it. You can actively conceal your own signs of the knots and paths you maintain, requiring anyone who discovers them to make a Jungle Survival check to even realize that they have been established or maintained. Prerequisite: Secret of the Tsafari.

I'd say the Secret of the Hermit works alright as is in this version (I guess the idea behind that is that you're isolated in the jungle, so it might be hard to refresh Vigor and Reason without other people, but you can always hunt animals to get that Instinct back?).

Any thoughts or comments? With this system, you can hopefully maintain a bunch of pretty story-useful knots and paths just via having characters inhabit them. To refer to the knot map earlier in this thread, for instance, all of the Family knots are always maintained just by inhabiting them, as is the Ammeni Trading Post (so long as there are regularly traders there; otherwise, when the Ammenites come back after a week, they have to clear out kudzu and monkeys who are despoiling their little outpost). The paths between Family knots are maintained through walking them each day (a single Jungle Survival check) or walking them once every couple of days and establishing them as Effects. It doesn't take a true tsafari (jungle guide) to do this, but he does it cheaper than anyone else, thanks to his free Effect pool per day. So long as the Runti, Itzel, and Maxtla maintain their own knots (which is just standard work at the homestead each day) and keep their paths maintained (either daily travel or effects), the reap the rewards of their safe Moot Grounds area, and can even reach the Clear Pool knot without too much danger, despite the lack of a clear path. If one of those knots isn't maintained (a family gets attacked, is forced to relocate or travel) or a path isn't maintained, the entire area becomes vulnerable, and you can bet that the Clear Pool is going to be a more dangerous location (because wild animals might consider it their watering hole now).

Knots like the Runti Trapping Gorge and the Gem Flats require regular maintenance of the path or else the path deteriorates and they have to be searched for once more. They don't disappear off the map; they just become the equivalent of what the Ape Cliffs or Honey Trees are-- people talk about them, they just don't know how to get to them reliably and safely. The same is even possible for reliable paths which don't have to be maintained-- you could argue the Coastline is effectively a path that isn't going away in the near future, and that a mountain ridge could serve as a quasi-reliable path, if there were knots that were worth tying at either end. Otherwise, it's just a feature of the jungle, and doesn't help you get anywhere in particular. You go from being lost at one end to being lost at the other.

Authorship of an entirely new knot probably shouldn't be the province of a Secret, unless people are really dying to have it be such. I'm not sure I'd make it grounds for a Secret in Maldor or Zaru when you discovered some new hideout or useful place--instead, it's the focus of drama. Keeping it intact, and either keeping it secret or keeping paths maintained to it (or both, if you're greedy!) becomes an element to deal with in game tension, and is thus way less inert than a Secret is, which is often semi-inviolate.

So, that's a stab at it. Not sure if it's helpful, but it might at least be closer to what you were thinking these days, Eero.

-shadowcourt (aka Josh)


I should add, as a postscript, that part of my incentive around this was to do the following:

  • Force families to communicate with each other more, so that these little "islands" in the jungle have a very social reason to go interact. As such, there's an opportunity to hide in your little knot if you want, but you don't reap many benefits. Instead, you've got to send your sons and daughters out to maintain those lines by visiting your neighboring knots, which leads to all sorts of potential drama ("Bakish went missing while maintaining the paths! Where is he? Form search parties! Contact our neighboring families to beg for aid! This is their moot grounds, as well!"), which means you've got grounds for small family diplomacy and a culture which has a need for more mutual trade and mutual aid. Nobody wants to visit your inlaws, but if you don't periodically, you might find jaguars inhabiting the Clear Pool in your Moot Grounds.
  • Have situations which can destablize. When the Tazamec family to the far east goes missing, your area can fall apart quickly. What do you do? Maintaining a knot where you don't live takes real work. Will the other two families combine their efforts to turn the southern knot into a little outpost which they share the burden of maintaining? What will they do when this starts to stress their resources? Will this prompt an early marriage between a son and daughter of the other two families, just to have some kids to shove out there and keep the knot (and by extension, the paths and area it defines) from falling apart?
  • Keep the jungle discovery work from being all on the Qek side. People love to play the bad guys and invaders in most groups I've ever played in, so allowing the Ammenites to have a chance at finding all this stuff seemed to make sense, particularly in light of some of what Eero said about invading the knot network and becoming so dangerous thereby. Hopefully it forces some hard choices about how and when you isolate or build/maintain a path. It also makes it a little more clear, hopefully, just how and why you might sever a path or abandon a knot to let the jungle take it. This also hopefully protagonizes the Qek a little more, as well, making them less purely reactive and more actively engaged in maintenance or discovery of their stuff. In my mind, they are NOT in perfect harmony with the jungle. They've got to keep those borders and paths clear, or else it swallows them up. This also feeds my evil agenda about where the Qek really came from up north, and why those northern patriarchs haven't swept down to just gobble the Qek back up.

-shadowcourt (aka Josh)

Eero Tuovinen

That's some serious feedback, Josh. Thanks for lifting my spirits. I'm swamped with work right now, though, so can't shift through the nuances this week. I get the impression that you're mostly putting this stuff out for my benefit (as opposed to needing feedback yourself), so I'll just make a note of this and get back to it when I have the time. I've been working on the witchery stuff lately anyway, have to get that into some sort of shape before I nail down the knotwork rules.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.



Yeah, that was mostly an attempt to retool it for you, so you might not have to. I like my peanut butter smooth, but my posts pretty crunchy. I loved the knotwork rules when I first saw them, and had some anxieties about how it would work, but was still eager to use it. I haven't had a chance to field test either the old version o this one yet; I've sworn I was going to do a story set in Near's north, but have been too occupied with work and other games (including using the Solar System to play a massive romping Stone Age game, which is about 2 sessions from being finished...) to do it. That, and I have the rest of the whole "Near's Arid North" stuff to hammer out.

But this was an attempt to do a quick rethink based on your Effects rules and the stuff you'd already established with knotwork. Use or modify at your pleasure. It's hardly original work on my part, just be riffing.

Funny that you're working on witches. I've been lamenting that my version of Goren has little to no non-witchy cultural flavor. I was just about to post a public call for help lamenting that I need some ideas, if anyone has them, on how to make those Russian-y/Viking-y folks have a bit more spice.

Maybe I'll start a thread about it, and solicit ideas.

-shadowcourt (aka Josh)