Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sometimes You Eat Bear!

Last week, I talked about my dilemma in my Volant Vanilla game on Wednesdays over IRC. Several of you made suggestions on how I might get out of it. None of them quite worked for me. Anyway, last night I spent the first half of the night dealing with the brawl that got out of hand. That resulted in a reasonable self-defense plea, and worked out well enough. The PCs had to pay weregild for the three NPCs they killed. Everyone was OK, this was fair.

Then on the the Elven healer. I had to deal with this, and I had no idea how I was going to do that. To stall for time - and because that was the way he had dealt with the brawlers - the Duke asked the elf to present her story of what happened. She admitted seducing the young lord, but for some reason, decided to play the "scared and desperate woman who panicked" card. He didn't buy that. The body showed no hesitation in her attack, no defensive wounds, no sign of struggle, no panicky stabbity stab stab, just a single clean surgical slice across his throat from ear to ear - the elf was a healer after all.

I still had no idea what to do as he demolished her arguments and told her to stop lying. Then he mentioned that she was an Elf, or as he said, "accursed", and that there were no Elves in his land. I didn't know why he said it, but then it all clicked. My subconscious had found the key that my conscious mind had missed.

This game is very Tolkien-ish - not Tolkien-esque. The Elves and Dwarves in the setting - as in Tolkien - were respectively immortal and long lived. The Elves were immortal as a punishment from the gods for fighting against them, while the Dwarves were long lived, with a short and precipitous decline at the end, as a reward for their noble service. If killed, the Elves were reborn with their memories intact - there was the matter of growing back to physical adulthood, but what are a score of years to an immortal. They could not escape this life, even if they wanted to.

Thus, death for an Elf was not a punishment, but a temporary inconvenience. A slap on the wrist. If he was going to punish her, and the Duke needed to, for justice, death was not going to do anything. He told her he would give her her trial, which was going to declare her guilty of the assassination of her son. She could say what she wished about this in public. Then her sentence would be announced and carried out, and it would not involve death.

That worked out perfectly - and all with setting appropriate reasons. I did not need to get meta at all. She can continue on, but she will have to deal with real and severe consequences. The party will have to deal with these consequences as well. Her presence will hamper them in ways quite visible. And I worked it all out subconsciously, while I was in character talking to her.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Sometimes Bear Eats You!

My Wednesday IRC game Volant Vanilla - a terrestrial Tolkien-inspired fantasy game run using Volant rules - went strange on me. Two sessions ago, a young dickwad lord and his retinue/posse popped into a local tavern and was a complete dick to the serving wench waiting on the PC party, as in he wanted her right then and lords don't have to wait. This royally pissed off the party, of course. Then one of the characters, an elf healer, decided to intervene. She seduced the lord and brought him upstairs to a room that was presumably rented by the quarter hour.

Meanwhile, downstairs, things went sour fast. What looked like a looming bar brawl changed when somebody on the Party drew steel. Suddenly, three of the lord's people were dead and two were badly wounded, while two of the Party were badly wounded. There were arrows flying! In a bar!

Upstairs, things went worse. I knew the elf was not actually attracted to this POS, but I was expecting her to sap him and embarrass the hell out of him. Instead, she sliced his throat... while he was on top of her! Premeditated murder! Assassination! And of the son of the local Duke in the bargain! I was hoping he would be an ally, but not this time! And their mission was to bring this country into a possible alliance, or maybe at least separate them from allying with their enemy...

Last session I took the other group - each player has two characters, so we can split up as necessary - on a simultaneous jaunt, partly because they needed some things, and partly to give everyone time to cool down and rethink.

This session, they argued over how to handle things. They could run away to an enemy of the Duke in another city, they could attempt a coup d'etat and take out the Duke and place one of themselves on the throne, or they could admit to the charges - they were totally true after all, give themselves up, and throw themselves on the mercy of the court. The elf decided to give herself up, which kind of decided the others in that way too.

Now the brawl-turned deadly will probably turn out OK. These things happen in bars, and there was no apparent intent to kill. Things just got out of hand. Weregild will be levied, families of the deceased appeased, and PCs will be contrite. These things happen. Nobody intended murder.

But the elf? She certainly planned it. She openly seduced him - there were plenty of witnesses - and then sliced his throat. No other wounds. It's cut and dried - no pun intended! There is no realistic doubt she will be judged guilty, and if guilty, she'll hang. Hell, she'll be drawn and quartered. I am trapped. I hate when that happens!

Meanwhile, the party's mission is off to a terrible start!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Teruvars and PSI

Something that has been present throughout my development of the StarCluster game has been the presence in the setting of PSI. This was been vitally important in StarCluster 1E (2002), slightly less so in StarCluster 2E (2004), and has become less and less important since. In StarCluster 3E it was definitely de-emphasized, and in StarCluster 4E it will be entirely optional, with PSI skills being completely removed, replaced by using normal skills with PSI, as I did with Lowell Was Right!. My other games frequently become laboratories for new ideas which later become integrated into StarCluster.

What does this have to do with Teruvar? Game designer +Kyrinn S. Eis asked me on G+ if Teruvar had PSI. If so, they could co-habit the body of a Human or Jeshen, bestowing long healthy life in return for service as a representative. That is such a sweet idea! Still, the possibility of a being of Teruvar scale having PSI just scares me. What if they just casually decided to take over the people inside them as meat puppets? What if they got angry and decided to order a world to commit suicide? What if they just let go an angry bomb that worked like a massive EMP and wiped the minds of a world's entire population clean. How do you fight that kind of power?

Answer: You embrace it. PSI is optional in StarCluster 4, so let it be a similar choice on the group level. I can supply some ideas, but I won't make that final decision. Here are some interesting possibilities, and here are some frightening ones - you decide if you want this in your setting. StarCluster 4 is all about choices - the full game lets you choose setting, game mechanic, and virtually everything about the game. You select from the choices, and the pdf is generated with those choices. Turn and face the strange!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Politics and Teruvar

One of the realities of living within a Teruvar is that you are there on sufferance. The Teruvar itself is, in essence, the absolute monarch. You, after all, living inside the body of a much larger being. Unlike any other form of government, where the government gets its power from the people, the government of the Teruvar is the Teruvar. Essentially, you have no more vote in what the Teruvar does than does a single E. Coli organism in the gut of a Human.

Now, this does not mean that the inhabitants of a Teruvar have no power. After all, E. Coli can make a Human very conscious of their presence collectively, but the Humans must rely on the Teruvar's innate decency and willingness to allot them some say. All of the Seven have pledged not to eject their peoples without warning or without time to relocate. After all, what is Human or Jeshen scale time to a Teruvar? Still, each agreement is between the Teruvar and the people who live inside it.

There must be a high degree of trust between the two for any such agreement to be made. Generally speaking, a Teruvar controls the number of people living within, and any single person may be ejected - that is removed from the covenant which binds the people and Teruvar, and thus forced to live elsewhere. A Teruvar often will select a person, Jeshen or Human, to represent them in talks with the rest of Jeshen Space. The representative will negotiate any deal, then submit the deal to the Teruvar in question, who can say yea or nay. In any case, the seven inhabited Teruvar all have thus far elected to retain control of access, and not delegate this power to the people within.

So far, the Teruvar in general have thus far chosen to drastically limit the number of people inside them. Where a large Teruvar may be theoretically able to support tens of millions, none has so far granted more than a tiny fraction of these numbers access. Within the Teruvar, the settled scale is very small, and the people within live a more rural lifestyle than many in Jeshen Space. Children are very limited, under replacement by default, with increase coming through permitted immigration. This may be due to various reasons - a desire to keep control by the Teruvar, a need to know each settler personally, a preference for the natural ecosystem, or many other reasons.

Each Teruvar is an individual, with individual rules and cultures inside. The settlers stay on good terms with the Teruvar, for obvious reasons, and thus personal freedom is generally very good. Teruvar are not micro-managers. As long as the inhabitants stay within the guidelines set down, they can do pretty much what they want.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Reasons The Teruvar Let in People

The Seven Open Teruvar let people into their interiors for specific reasons. The Teruvar are ancient, and their reasons for doing various things are very long sighted. These are some reasons they might have:

1. They are lonely. Speaking with other Teruvar is hard on the creatures of their interiors, and they can quite easily chat with interior people.

2. They are curious. The people in their interiors are mayfly like. Evanescent. Their lives are over in a blink. How can they sustain themselves?

3. They wish to acquire some technology for long range reasons: * Radio - to lift their loneliness without bothering their internal creatures. They can talk to anyone with a radio, instantaneously. * FTL - to jump to other systems. To travel. To see new things. To spread their seed in new systems. * Fusion Reaction Jets - for the same reasons as FTL. It will just take longer, and that is no problem to a creature with tens or hundreds of millions of years to live.

4. They want the short-life tiny ones to spread their seed around other stars for them, carrying it as cargo.

5. They eventually want to make Humans and Jeshen part of their default internal creatures, each seed carrying the genetic blueprint of them internally. Eventually these tiny people will be inside every Teruvar, everywhere.

6. People are entertaining, and the current internal creatures are boring. They enjoy the antics of the newcomers, and love to meddle.

7. They want to add the intelligence and sapience of these people to their default animals, by stripping and analyzing their genetic makeup, and incorporating analogous genes into some of their internal creatures.

8. They like being worshiped like gods.

Any and all of these reasons could apply to any given one of the Seven.

A Dream LARP

Last night I had a dream. Not my usual boring fly-on-the-wall slice-of-americana- life dream, though! No "Honey, I got the potatoes!" "Good! Put them in the kitchen dear!" dream about people I didn't know!

I dreamed I was part of a group of larpers - I've never larped in my life, btw - and my smaller bunch was humans from a merchanter exploring a gigantic abandoned alien space ship. There were five or six other groups - aliens of various types - also exploring the ship. We were scavenging anything small, and hoping to eventually take the entire ship.

The game was set in an enormous empty office building, and the only furniture in it was props. There was no system - we were using laser tag pistols and collapsible knives - but we all had characters we were playing. We captured a girl - the player was maybe 18 - who was playing some dinosaur species, by hitting a button on the back of her neck, signifying a knock-out.

We were carrying these big poster board things signifying the members of the other groups we were against, with a quick sketch of each of those members we had taken out. We questioned the girl we captured, and got her to give us information about her saurian group - who the leader was, how many there were, etc. - and filled in the blanks on our posters. I have no idea why they were so big, or why they were not electronic,but it made sense in the dream. I think it was because they really were electronic. They wiped clean with a swipe, and the stylus/pen painted like a brush, and could change colors. Why they were that size and why we carried one for each opposing group I don't know. In any case, dino-gal switched sides joined us for the rest of the dream.

Then a bell rang and we stopped for the night, intending to return the next day. The premise was very interesting for me - usually in scenarios like this it is all exploration, or going up against the ship's automated defenses. The added complication of numerous small parties from other ships was a great addition. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Kerea, a Teruvar Worldlet

Data page for the Teruvar world Kerea. Look up my last few posts for more on the Teruvar. Let me know what you think!