Sireap Valley: opinions requested

Started by Nick the Nevermet, July 10, 2009, 05:38:04 PM

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Nick the Nevermet

Hey there.

I recently started re-reading all the TSOY stuff, and quite unintentionally, an idea started to form.  Unfortunately, I'm between groups, so I couldn't put it into action, but I felt like writing it down as much as possible.

It started with an image of a lightly armored fighter, armed with a curved polearm, charging into combat.  The noteworthy thing about this warrior was speed; not speed in terms of attacks per round, but speed in terms of how fast he can close distance as he runs by his opponent, slashing him.  Immediately, it occurred to me he was from a culture that didn't use horses at all, and runners were as close to cavalry as they got.  So, from there, I built out to make a place in Near.

I want as much feed back as possible, but at the moment, this is just a mental exercise.

Nick the Nevermet

Casnic has fallen!
Into the earth of Sireap
Casnic has fallen!
Rotting with its beasts of burden

   A valley lies between Maldor and Ammeni, yet no caravans go there and no lord desires it.  It is a cursed place, punished to this day for the callous attrocities committed during the Year of Night by Esau Neverfull, Count of Casnic.  The valley's curse is simple, direct, and blunt: Beast shall not serve man.

Surviving the Night
   Before the Sky-Fire, Casnic was a large and prosperous Maldorite city, blessed by fertile farmland, bountiful warrens, and plentiful trade.  This changed as the world fell into continual night.  Count Esau and his court mantained order as well they could, but everyone within Casnic feared the inevitability of famine and starvation.  The count demanded a solution from his court magician, Sapa the Assartist, who subsequently created Sijjin's farro: a grain that needed no light nor warmth to grow, but required blood and carrion in addition to water and soil.
   The peasantry, called the Tserani, initially accepted this was necessary for survival, but their support waned when animals – livestock, pets, and working animals of all forms – began to fall ill and die.  The uprising began in earnest, however, when word spread that the Count's men attempted to nourish the farro with human sacrifice.  The revolt was led by Amos, the Vechil (a commoner overseer of the count's land) before the Sky Fire.  In the end, Casnic was in flames and its nobility destroyed, leaving Vechil Amos and the commoners on their own. 

Settling in the Sun
   The Tserani survived until the sun rose again, but they discovered the further costs of Sijjin's farro.  Sapa created a grain that fed off the life force of beasts, amplified it, and nourished man with it.  A consequence of this, however, is that animal kingdom now perceives a taint among the surviving Tserani and their descendents.  Animals cannot be domesticated in any way by the Tserani, and often fight or flee their presence.
   Tseran elders believe this was the cost Sapa was willing to make Casnic pay for survival.  However, Count Esau demanded much more of Sijjin's farro be planted than Sapa originally intended.  The consequence was that Tseran land itself became hostile to animal life.  Wild animals that cannot flee Tseran land become increasingly feral.  Domesticated animals, however, all die within a day. 
   Centuries after the world began anew, this curse of the farro is still in effect.  Tseran farmers no longer plant Sijjin's farrow, but it grows as a weed around all graveyards and cemetaries, marking the area with its black-red chaff and stalks.

Tseran Society today
   The Tseran of Sireap Valley live in a primarily agricultural society with a decentralized political structure, based around village life.  They have a much richer selection of produce than what one finds in Maldor proper, and some of the seasonings Ammenite cuisine adores can be found in Tseran cooking.  At the same time, however, meat is very rare in the Tseran diet for reasons discussed above.  Some are completely vegan, be it out of necessity (many of the poor) or choice (many devout Tserani view animal products as unclean).  Over the past few centuries, the Tserani have compensated for their lack of animals by training themselves til the point of making mounts irrelevant (or at least less necessary).  The Tserani are famous for both their prowess at running and their ability to carry loads long distances.  At least one Ammeni noble is quite proud of his Tserani porters.
   Each village is overseen by a council of elders, with the Vechil as the overall ruler.  New elders may be selected by the Vechil, a town meeting of all farmers, or by the council itself.  The Tseran have a general preference for a balance between these three forms of selection, but there are no laws demanding a certain mix.
   The Vechil has become a hereditary position.  There are specific laws about how much more extravagant the Vechil's house may be than other farm houses.  New Vechils are required to take up residence in a new village that is different from his father's or mother's.  The Tserani believe this helps prevent the creation of a new city, and as all Tserani know, cities are vile places just like Casnic.  The Vechil's taxes are put to villages, not individuals, and can be paid in two forms: food and service.  The Vechil is in charge of overseeing trade between villages as well as between the valley and neighboring Maldorite fiefs.

The Ushers
   Villages also send men and women to work for the Vechil as part of their taxes.  They are called the Ushers, and generally serve terms of 2-4 years, depending on what arrangements the Vechil has that particular village.  They are the official representatives of the Vechil's authority, and keep the peace, bring messages to Elders, etc.  They wear light brigandine armor, and their traditional weapons are the sling and curved, edged polearm they call an Usher's bill, but most Maldorite infantrymen would call it a glaive, though with a slightly shorter and more curved blade than normal.  In combat, the Ushers are extremely competent skirmishers, known for incredible manueverability and ability to close distance.  More than once, the Ushers have defended the valley from recklesss heavy infantry or overconfident horsemen.

The Dresors
   As Maldorite peasants, the Tserani woship Absolon the Sun, though their form looks rather different than what is promoted by various Maldorite nobles.  First, Absolon was able to divert the apocolypse, though something had to take its place.  The Year of Shadow is thus seen as a test that some people passed and others failed.  The Tserani passed, but not as perfectly as they would have liked thanks to Count Esau and Sapa.  The Tserani believe that all people must be tested with Shadow, but the tests need not be as dramatic or as obvious as the Year of Shadow.  If one is thought to be experiencing a test, other Tserani give them a wide discretion, as it may suggest radical changes to how one lives his or her life.
   Second, the Tserani believe in spirits who, while not evil per se, are no friend to man.  They belong to the moon, while mankind belongs to the Sun.  Since the Year of Shadow, the Tserani believe nature has generally allied itself with the moon.  Man must defend itself until Absolon returns to create a lasting balance between the worlds of sun & moon.
   Third, in the days after the peasant revolt, some of the lesser nobles who were not killed joined the Tserani.  One of these people was an apprentice to Sapa who was skilled in transformation & enhancement named Lingau.  After renouncing Sapa, Lingau became an elder in a village, had a religious experience, and became a holy man.  In doing so, he offered his sorcerous knowledge to the religious leaders of the Tserani.
   The Tserani priests are called Dresors, and to the outside world, they appear to be a bizarre hodgepodge.  They are priests of a heretical religion, the deal in spirits and exorcism, and they also dabble in one of three corners.  But to the Tserani, it is completely sensible.  They do not consider their religion hersy, they think it's quite sensible to prepare oneself against evil spirits, and what better embodies the power of mankind than the ability to enhance and transform?

Other races
   Wedged between a river and foothills in the heart of the valley are the ruins of Casnic.  Today, the majority of the ruins (and whatever relics they contain) are controlled by the Ratkin, though some outskirts have been repopulated by humans.  Ratkin-human relations are erratic at best; trouble inevitably erupts when the Ratkin forage beyond the ruins or the humans go relix hunting within the city.  Some personal agreements have been forged between specific leaders, however, though the terms of these truces are inconsistent (sometimes contradictory).  In addition to antiquities, the Ratkin have recently reopened an iron mine Casnic was built upon, though none know how much iron remains in the mine, or what may now lurk within it.
   There are two Goblin populations in Sireap.  First, Vanitors roam the forested hillsides in feral packs, though the woodsmen tell tales bonfires in hidden gullies.  Occasionally, fanged Goblins raid villages for food, possibly for sport as well.  Second, the Chervans are a smaller tribe of Goblins who have created a niche for themselves working with the Tserani: using the powers of adaptation, they shapechange into forms capable of carrying goods the humans could not without the use of pack animals.  The Chervans make a living by being merchants through the valley and to the outside world.  At times in the past, Vechils have attempted to drive the Chervan out, and in other times the Chervans attempted to acquire a monopoly on trade.  Currently, Chervans are used, especially for trade outside of the Valley, but they hardly have exclusive rights on anything. 
   Elves are very rare in Sireap.  One Elf lives permanently within the ruins of Casnic, residing in a dilapidated tower of forgotten purpose.  Four things are known of it: the Elf's name is Slusch Bash, she weilds Three-Corner Magic with terrifying ability, came soon after Elves returned to Near, and Slusch Bash regularly entertains visiting Elves (but none stay long).  Slusch Bash keeps to herself, and it is safest to respect her privacy.  Other Elves have occasionally become Ushers but never elders in the villages.

Crunchy Bits


Key of Zoophobia
   Tserani believe that the wilds outside the settled areas of the valley are full of vengeful spirits that are not yet part of the Sun's kingdom who hate the Tserani for the abuses of Sijjin's farro.  As a result, many Tserani are deathly afraid of the wilds.  Especially beasts, which everyone know can be possessed by spirits at the drop of a hat.  They can either kill your or curse your family, and neither is good.
   1XP: The Tserani acts to off his fear of wild animals. 
   3 XP: Defends himself against serious, possibly life-threatening, attack by a beast
   Buyoff: Befriend a beast.

Key of Salvager
   Many Tserani covet the secrets of Casnic, no matter how many times the Dresors tell them it will end in blood or tears.
   1 XP: Every time your character acquires an antique
   3 XP: Every time your character
   Buyoff: Curse your antiques as cursed and destroy them

Running Secrets

Secret of Fennel Running
   Tserani, are known for their ability to run.  Characters with this secret gain a bonus die to all athletic rolls that involve primarily running to get somewhere.

Secret of active footwork
   Ushers are known for having uncanny abilities at evasion while still attacking.  If they have room to manuever (outside, large room, not grappled, etc), characters with this secret gain a bonus die while using an Usher's bill.

Secret of No Horse
   Through constant training and blessings from Desors, some Ushers have gained superhuman speed on foot.  For 2 vigor, the character may run at unheard of speeds for a human being on foot.  With an athletics check, the character can catch horses. 
Dresor Secrets

Secret of Warding
   Dresors have devised several ways of warding off 'evil spirits' based on the texts that Lingau gave them.  Three-Corner scholars will recognize a type of dispelling magic buried within the 'silly superstitions' of the peasant, heretical priests.  Using this secret, a Dresor can weave a charm from grass and twigs that will help protect the wearer from supernatural harm.  In terms of mechanics, the wearer gains +2 armor when he is the unwilling target of a spell or magical attack.  The charm lasts one week, or until the first bringing down the pain it is involved in, whichever comes first.  Cost: 1 instinct, 1 reason.


interesting spin, although the killing effects on domesticated animlas seem a bit harsh. The Key of Salvager is incomplete.

All in all, this seems like a nice secondary culture.

Nick the Nevermet

Yeah, secondary culture was all I was going for.  Really, it's just Maldoite commoners without animals or nobles (the Vechil doesn't like being called that).  And the effect on domesticated animals is... yeah, I agree it doesn't quite mesh.  I was trying to emphasize the incompatibility of beast & humanity in the Valley, even if one is not from the valley.  But I agree its a bit wonky.  Severity is OK as long as it works thematically, and I don't think it does exactly yet.

As for the Key of the salvager, I don't know how I forgot that.  3 XP to recover an artifact of power one has been actively searching for.  The difference between 1 XP & 3 XP is the difference between random treasure and actively setting out to find the Great Helm of Horns (or whatever).

Eero Tuovinen

Hey, no idea how I'd missed this.

I really like the image here, it's very evocative. The fluff also fits well in the setting, it resonates with some stuff I've been working on myself. I also like the notion of subculture, Maldor has more than enough room for these sorts of fantastic ideas. Having Sijjin sponsor the farro is a nice touch. I'd expect the valley to be rather hard on ratkin or other beastkin as well, considering their animal nature; perhaps they're not as common as that, after all?

For the details of the farro, everything seems to work, except that "a grain that fed off the life force of beasts, amplified it, and nourished man with it" is a bit to the abstract side insofar as magical metaphysics go; I could see it for a magic system that made some fundamental distinction between the human and animal spheres, but that doesn't seem tricornerist (or Ammeni alchemy) style. I'd probably just have the farro's pollen be toxic-yet-addictive, especially in large quantities, so that animals have a strong tendency to go frolic in the field and perish there, thus feeding the crop. This has the benefit of allowing outsiders to bring in their horses when the time is right, such as immediately after hard rains. The people don't even have to understand how the thing works; it's enough for them that animals die when the farro is allowed to grow in large pastures, and even when it has been uprooted, animals grow restless and hostile, fleeing to distant recesses of the wilds. Who knows, perhaps Sapa created the farro by crossbreeding something from the Poison River Valley, making it as much an alchemical phenomenon as magical.

Anyway, that's secondary to the purpose of enabling peasant dragoons in Near. Good work. Would you consider CCing this? I might be interested in exploiting it for my own purposes.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Nick the Nevermet

My God, I really did create peasant dragoons, didn't I?  Wasn't my intent, but I won't bother arguing about the end result.  Honestly, the idea came to me while reading the RPG Reign, where a certain nation was horse-free for much of its history.  That got the idea for the running warrior elites.  Then I wondered how it would fit in Near, and I got the Ushers.  I can't decide if I'm amused or saddened that I accidentally reproduced a Final Fantasy character. ;-)

The devil is in the details, and when you get past the specific images I have, my details leave something to be desired.  I am, however, happy that the things I cared about seem to hold water.  To be specific, that would be a human agricultural society devoid of animals whose elite warriors were fast pole-arm wielders, and whose former city was now dominated by the Ratkin.  From there came the ideas of a cursed land, and peasants who rebelled during the Year of Shadow.  I also take the total lack of discussion over my secrets as an indicator they'll probably do whats needed without any dramatic effects, which is fine by me.

Anyhow, I couldn't think of a simple way of getting the 'no animals' thing, and the farro seems to work even if it gets complicated quick.  Your idea about a highly addictive plant for animals is appealing.  Sapa probably tried to play botanist & make a grain that would be a 'super-feed'.  My only question then is whether or not it would kill off all animal life in the vallley, instead of my original idea of just domesticated animals.  I'm tempted to just make it 'a mysterious curse', but that'd just be lame.  Also, you mention Ratkin, and that makes for an interesting idea: farro is 'just' a powerful narcotic to the Ratkin when processed correctly, and there is an illicit trade between humans and Ratkin as a result.

Feel free to borrow as you like, though I'd like some help working this out if possible.  The things I'm not happy with is I still don't feel satisfied with how to explain the lack of domesticated animals (I'd prefer to avoid a 'purely social' answer like a religious ban), and I like the hodgepodge holy men, but they're not well developed yet.  Fortunately, they're really not the 'point' of Sireap either. 

Eero Tuovinen

I think that farro works just fine as an explanation, actually. TSoY is not the most realistically thought-through game at the best of times, so just saying that the farro pollen kills animals or drives them nuts does fine. Characters who have with some interesting method found out this explanation for the phenomenon (as if they could do it, unless they're themselves scientist-wizards) might try to protect their animals from it by keeping them inside or whatnot, but they're still going to go mad at the most amusing moments. That's more than enough reason for the peasants to not bother with animals; they're big long-term investments, just having them all die off during a certain month of summer would be more than enough of a disincentive in the long term. In the short term some outsider might bring some horses into the valley, and they might or might not get into trouble depending on the length of the visit and the conditions, but that just adds spice to the curse. Much more interesting if it's not quite absolute and easily replicable as a phenomenon.

The Secrets are solid. I've myself removed the Secret of Leaping (was that the name?) from among the general Secrets in my own games, but here's where it makes a comeback. Mechanical punch might well be increased some, but that depends so much on the local crunch landscape that it's almost arbitrary.

I'm liking this stuff a lot. No idea if I can sneak it into the book I'm laying out, but maybe...
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Nick the Nevermet

How much more mechanical punch were you thinking about?

And if you don't put it in, I guess I'll see if I can upload it to the TSOY wiki.

Eero Tuovinen

The wiki is a fine destination to be sure!

As far as mechanics go, my own play is pretty pervy, with lots of complex and powerful subsystems. For example, I might well give the Ushers that signature dragoon ability:

Jump Attack Technique
The character can jump really high, which he has adapted into an attack. In normal conflict the character gets synergy as per the Secret of Synergy between his Athletics (V) and Infantry (V) Abilities. In extended conflict his jump with Athletics (V) is a defensive action (that is, opposed for bonus dice) that provides its full value as bonus dice if successful, but the dice have to be used on an Infantry (V) attack on the next round. Cost: 1 Vigor Requirement: Flying Leap Technique

(That's a Secret, I'm just calling it a "technique" because it belongs in the Usher martial art, specifically.)

That sort of thing, of course for running fast and nimble footwork as well. No idea if that's comprehensible without the Solar System booklet at hand - probably not.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Nick the Nevermet

That's an awesome secret.
I was already thinking that an Usher worth his salt needs the secret of synergy, but thats just perfect.

Nick the Nevermet

Here are some more secrets for the Dresors.

Secret of Charm Making
   This secret is similar to the Secret of Blessing.  With a succesful craft check, the Dresor creates charm tied to a specific goal, and a dice pool equal to the success level of the ability check.  Whoever possesses the charm may use the dice pool, one die at a time, to help accomplish this goal.  If the goal is achieved by the owner of the charm, the remaining charm pool replenishes the owner's instinct pool.  Cost: 2 instinct.

Secret of  Becoming the Fence
   The Dresor know the darkness that waits in the forest, and they are ready.  The Desor gains a bonus die against beasts.  Additionally, the Dresor can use woodcraft to scare animals, rather than the regular animal ken.