Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Volant - Playtest #4

Had a short game - we had to integrate a new player and needed to stop a bit short. Anyway, Pherin, the new character, was supposed to go with the others , but had been away on a retreat, Yes, a retreat, He was an alchemist, an herbalist, and something of a soldier. The Company found him, hustled him on a fast ship to Straum, and he figured out where the rest would be crossing from ar Jinnyah and went there.

Now he had been waiting for two days on the top of the cliffs above the Hole, avoiding the Straum border patrols, and waiting for the others to cross the ten mile wide Hole. The others were flying mostly owls, he knew, and he needed some way to signal them without the heron mounted Straum patrols seeing the signal. That day he had brewed a potion from concentrates of Fire Flower, for fire, and Brain Fruit, for concentration. This he unstoppered and poured on the ground. A spot of intense heat without fire grew. The owls, with their fantastic night sight would see it if they passed over.

Meanwhile, at the fall of night, the others left the "safety" of the cavern and headed aloft up the Hole. They spiraled up far out in the hole, miles from the cliff face, where patrols marched and flew, then flew inland over the Straum border. Arjuna and Kumar noticed the Owls were all agitated about something on the ground, right near the cliff. They talked - well, yelled to each other - about it, and decided it was just Straum patrols. Sanjay and Nadila, overhearing this, reminded the others that Pharis might be waiting there instead of in the Straum capital. He *was* supposed to join them when he could. At the insistence of Sanjay and Nadila, Arjuna "volunteered" to fly his kiwi in and see. Nadila would cover him with her bow.

Pherin heard the whirring of wings, and making his Lore check, identified it as a kiwi, which only Arjuna's family bred and rode. He never heard the owls of course, as they were like ghosts in the night. Arjuna came in and landed, on confirming it was Pherin. He and Pherin talked for a moment, as Pherin gathered his things. Up above, Nadila got mischievous and sent an arrow thunking into the ground beside Pherin. Pherin stared at it like it was a snake.

Arjuna figuring Nadila would never let a Straum air patrol get above them without warning, knew she was playing a game and decided to play along. "Run!" he shouted. "They've found us!" Two more arrows thunked into the earth, bracketing Pherin. ""I'll hold them off while you hide!" Arjuna said as he fired into the air, nowhere near where the others would be. Pherin ran to the edge of the cliff, and scrambled out onto a ledge just under the lip, where he should be invisible.

As he looked up, three shadows blocked out the stars above him as they silently glided in to land on the cliff top, Nadila howling with laughter. Realizing he had been had, Pherin sedately walked back up to the top of the cliff, to the razzing of his friends. "Where you been?" "What's a retreat? That doesn't sound very soldierly, does it." "That was nice retreat - right off the cliff!" He put up with it, in his oddly distracted manner, and loaded his stuff on the back of the birdmaster's owl. He himself had just scrambled up behind Nadila when three flaming javelins flew through the air and thudded into the ground all around them.

"It's the patrol! They've found us!" shouted Arjuna. "Go! Go! Go!" Nadila and Pherin, Sanjay and Kumar, and Arjuna few off into the night, but Rupta, the birdmaster, was not so lucky. Three arrows shot through his chest, and dead, he fell forward out of the saddle, slamming his bird's head into the rocks at the edge of the cliff. The bird, who had also taken several arrows, plummeted off the cliff and down the hole. If it wasn't dead, they'd never find it again. "My things! My alchemy kit!" shouted Pherin. "It's gone!" shouted Nadila. "Get over it! You can afford a new one!"

Through the night, they streaked over mountainous Straum, flying just above the treetops. Just after first light, they spied a hanging valley above the valley they were flying down. On climbing up to it, they found an abandoned rookery - a place where giant birds were raised and bred. It had been abandoned not too long ago, and there were lots of buildings still standing. They brought the owls into a huge barn designed to house birds, and went to sleep.

About mid-day, as Pherin was on watch, he noticed a large naval ship flying right towards the hanging valley. He woke they others up and they had plenty of time to secrete themselves around the barn before the ship landed. It few up and dropped an anchor, then a strange rope and bamboo scaffolding folded down from the ship's belly. Sky sailors swarmed down the scaffolding, hauling lines and staking out the ship with a web of lines and stakes. Meanwhile, others swaggered off to another of the buildings, from which they hauled six two-meter cubed boxes on sledges, twelve men to each hauling on the ropes. They started to bring the boxes up to the ship through the scaffolding.

Arjuna and Nadila were high up in the bird barn, in sniper positions. Arjuna motioned to Nadila, and they sneaked across the grounds of the rookery, dodging behind buildings. The sky sailors didn't even look. They went to the barn the sailors were dragging the boxes from, and crept inside. There were four more boxes, just like the first six, and no one was watching. "Nadila whispered "Should we tell the others?" Arjuna agreed, so she wrote a quick note, wrapped it around an arrow, and sent it into the side of the bird barn, right next to Sanjay.

Arjuna opened one of the boxes, and slipped inside, while Sanjay came across without informing the other. Nadila told him that Arjuna had gone into one of the boxes, and Sanjay went into another. Sanjay scuffled around and found under the excelsior that the box was filled with books. He popped out of the box, and returned to Nadila, who informed him that Arjuna never left his box. Unfortunately, at this time, the sky sailors returned and began hitching up all four boxes. At Sanjay's plea, Nadila  Faked him out as a sailor, and he tailed onto a rope behind the last sailor on the last box, and was brought up into the ship.

Meanwhile, in the barn, Kumar recognized his lover Sanjay disguised as a sky sailor. He told Pherin, and they crept out to the scaffolding as the last sailors swarmed up to the ship. Pherin and Kumar used a potion of web shooting to stick themselves to the underside of the scaffolding floor, and they were brought up to the ship as well. Nadila stayed behind, thinking she had to watch Kumar and Pherin, not realizing they had gone as well.

Sanjay, with his tattoos and eyepatch, fit right in among the sky sailors, as did Kumar, but Pherin wwas an aristocrat, and the Chief of the Boat caught on to him in no time, and took him off to see the Captain.

End of session


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Volant Playtest #3, Part 2

As they flew through the darkness to the north, Arjuna and Nadila both noticed it was thundering and raining in the far eastern mountains. They thought nothing further of it, and continued on. As first light was just penetrating the mirk to the east, they spotted a large copse of trees in a wadi below them, and decided to make camp.

Later, all were asleep but Sanjay, who was on watch. He heard a roar, and a moment later glimpsed a wall of water sweeping down on them. "FLOOD!" he shouted, and scrambled up the steep sides of the wadi. Arjuna jumped bareback onto his Kiwi as it flew away, Nadila and Kumar barely made it up the wadi sides, and the Birdmaster imitated Arjuna and flew away with the owls. The camp, and everything they weren't wearing, was swept away in the flood.

They spent the day patiently searching the wadi, the stream, and the pools of water left behind, and eventually recovered most of what they had lost. Twice patrols of herons flew overhead, but they were not spotted. Arjuna joked bitterly that only an idiot would camp in a wadi while it is raining in the mountains, so why bother looking.

When night fell, they set out again, exhausted after the arduous day finding and drying out their stuff. Flying north again, just before daylight they spotted a huge cliff in front of them, with a gap ten miles wide in front of it. Straum floated higher than Ar Jinnyah, and the match was not smooth. As they flew over the gap, they spotted clouds drifting below them. Ahead, they saw patrols, both on foot and on birdback, along the cliff face and top. They decided to hole up somewhere and wait for night.

Nadila, Arjuna, and Kumar spotted places to land, but Arjuna's ledge was exposed above, and Kumar's cave too shallow. They decided to go for Nadila's cavern, a wide thing with vegetation at the mouth where the sun could reach, and a stream emptying over the lip into the vast emptiness below. They knew - Arjuna and Nadila were both former Avian Scouts - that a cave this nice was probably inhabited, but an inspection turned up nothing, and they settled in and slept, exhausted.

Kumar was on watch when a great lizard pterodactyl thing dove at him from a niche on the roof of the cavern. He saw it in time and leaped away, but did not wake the others. The flying lizard banked and swept down again, this time scoring a ht with its talons, but Kumar got in a got bite with his spear as well. This time he woke up the rest of the party with a shout. (The rest of the players were sarcastically thanking him for letting them sleep, so he had better!)

Sanjay, who did not use any distance weapons, downed the potion of flying, while Arjuna and Nadila grabbed their crossbows. Kumar also dropped his spear and grabbed his crossbow as it came around for another attack. Kumar hit, and Nadila buried two bolts into the creature, but the thing snatched Kumar up, raking him terribly in the process, and flew out over the gap, screaming in triumph. Sanjay screamed "Nooo!" and flew out and onto the great lizard's back. He garotted the lizard while steering it back towards the cave mouth. Arjuna dropped his crossbow, and snatched Kumar from the thing's talons as it swept overhead. Sanjay rode it into the ground as Nadilla hit it twice more. Whether it was the crash, the garotte, or the bolts that killed it is undetermined, but no one much cared. Kumar was in terrible shape, and they poured their strongest healing potion into him as they put him back to sleep.

End of session. Three targets down, four to go.

Volant Playtest #3, Part 1

This is a very long post, so I am splitting it into two parts.

I forgot to note that last week, Sanjay heard that Tomar Shan was expected to arrive any time now by stoneship from the south. Obviously, their news was a bit old.

The session started with Kumar and Sanjay getting into the palace as porters. They had no trouble getting themselves in for several trips, but each time, the guards searched them. The last time they went to the palace, they hid small weapons and potion and poison vials on their person and in their cargo, and attempted to get them past the guards.

Sanjay sailed through the inspection with no difficulties, but Kumar's dagger was not too adroitly hidden. Sanjay, knowing where Kumar hid his dagger, intervened as the guard reached to search that spot. The liquor importer had included a case of Giran, the holy spiced liquor that is obligatory for ritual use by Kalabists, and forbidden to casual use. Kumar was a follower of the Heavenly Path, but Sanjay was a Kalabist, and immediately launched a tirade about the blasphemy, distracting the guard and allowing Kumar to shift his dagger to an area already searched.

This did, however, focus the guard on the case of Giran, in which Kumar had hidden the poison and potion of Invisibility. As he bent to examine the case, Sanjay thrust it over shouting "Blasphemy! Blasphemy!" Two bottles smashed on the pavement, and the guard shouted at Sanjay, pushing him back from the liquor. Meanwhile Kumar set the case back and pushed aside the broken bottles, using the opportunity to pocket the vials. After a stern lecture from the guard, they were in the palace, and armed.

Meanwhile, Arjuna and Nadila entered the palace by the front door, showing their invitations. Their search was cursory - the fact that they were searched at all indicates the level of paranoia and fear in the land - but the guard used the search as an excuse to grope Nadila. Since she had hidden her knives in just such places she screeched and the guard let her go.

As they walked away, Nadila said to Arjuna "Are you going to let some pissant guard grope your mistress? I thought you were a prince of Daktari?" Arjuna went back, and Menacing the guard, got him sacked by his supervisor. Just to note, Nadila is not, in fact, the mistress of Arjuna, merely playing the part.

Kumar and Sanjay caught a servant about Kumar's size, and knocking him out, took his livery and tied him up, secreting him in a storeroom under a blanket. Sanjay turned his vest inside out, revealing a richly embroidered side, and told Kumar "I have one kill already. You take out Timo Tomah and I'll back you up from the shadows." He handed Kumar back his dagger, and they went to the reception ballroom.

Kumar circulated about the room, looking for Timo Tomah and noshing on the food. All of a sudden, something grabbed him by the collar and hauled him off his feet. Timo Tomah was staring him in the face, flaming red mustachios bristling in fury. Now Kumar was a big man - six foot four and 250 pounds - and no one had ever lifted him off his feet before, but Tomah held him up with one hand like a kitten. Timo Tomah was huge - over seven foot, and with biceps the size of Kumar's thighs.

"What the heel kind o' sairvant are ye, ye gormy cloon? A sairvant doon't walk aboot whistlin' an' gawkin'! Git yersel' a tray and sairve th' guests as ye ought!" Shaken, Kumar went to get himself a tray of drinks, remarking as he passed Sanjay "I had no idea he was so big!" Sanjay nodded. "He looked much smaller on paper in that sketch."

Kumar kept an eye on Tomah as he circulated about the room. He carried a bottle with him, and a glass, and drank only from them, setting them down only as he was talking with a guest. He tried to get in position to slip poison into his glass, but Tomah spotted him and glared him off. In the back room, he swallowed the potion of Invisibility. He looked at his hands and noted no difference. He sidled up to Sanjay "Did the potion work?" Sanjay started. "Apparently it did. I can't see you."

Reassured, Kumar worked quietly into position, and slipped the entire vial of poison into Timo Tomah's drink. Tomah knocked it back in a gulp, and shook his head. Kumar went out of sight as he lost his invisibility, then watched in growing anxiety as a half an hour later, Tomah was still laughing and chatting with the guests. Finally Tomah brought out a huge handkerchief an mopped his bad head. "I'm no feelin soo swell. I thin' I'll take a wee breath o' air." and headed out onto the patio.

The stone railing about the raised patio was waist high on most people, but only mid thigh high on Tomah. He leaned down with both hands on the rail, panting. Kumar and Sanjay followed. No one else was there. With a gesture to each other, each took one enormous leg and heaved Timo Tomah over the railing, pitching him head first ten feet to the stones below.

Kumar discretely circled out of the palace, but several other servants were there when he reached he body. None of them wanted to report it, or even touch the body, so Kumar felt for a pulse. There was none. He walked back inside.

Arjuna and Nadila were chatting with various of the high and mighty when Kumar indicated to Nadila with a sign that Timo Tomah was dead. She turned to Arjuna. "I love those chokers they wear here, the ones that circle the neck like this..." She drew her finger across her neck. "You really should get me one while we are here." Arjuna nodded in comprehension. "We'll be leaving soon."

Just then they saw a lackey slip up to Willa Doss, who nodded, and placed her napkin on her plate, making her apologies as she rose to leave. Arjuna and Nadila rose as well, angling to cut her off before she reached the door. A flunky moved to intercept them, but Nadila practiced her wiles on him, distracting him with flirtation as Arjuna reached Willa Doss' side. He attempted to engage her in a discussion of trade as he reached to touch her on the shoulder. She jerked as the poison pin in his hand slipped into her skin. Arjuna mimed a static shock and shook the pin from his hand as she made her apologies and her lackeys interposed themselves. As she left the room, she slumped suddenly, and her flunkies barely caught her before she fell.

Arjuna turned and collected Nadila, and moved to the musicians. There was one about his height, who played a huge brass instrument called a shumhorn. Arjuna inveigled him aside, knocked him out, and dressed in his clothing. Nadila he packed up in the shumhorn case, to her complete fury. He dressed the unconscious musician in his very expensive finery, to confuse things further.

Sanjay and Kumar got out before things got weird, and Arjuna and Nadila got out dressed as musician and instrument. They rendezvoused at the arranged spot. Rumors were sweeping the city that Timo Tomah had fallen to his death after drinking heavily, while Willa Doss had a heart attack. While Kumar could confirm that Tomah was dead, confirming Doss' death was another matter. Arjuna went back to see what he could find, while Nadila Faked an entry in the documents Sanjay had captured from the merchant, which now told of how how had murdered Willa Doss and Timo Tomah.

Arjuna climbed the walls of a nearby temple, and watched as both the musician - wearing his finery - and the rich merchant who had gotten his and Nadila's passes were hung from the balconies of the palace. He returned to the others. "I am very confident she is dead, though they could be disguising it. I know they are watching for Nadila and I. We had all best leave the way Sanjay came in yesterday. Sanjay, lead the way!"

They crossed the city walls where Sanjay had gone the day before, dumping the document pouch off the wall where it would be quickly found, and went back to the hills. They watched as messenger birds left the city in all directions, mostly to the north, then left the city, flying north to the region of Straum.

End Part 1

Volant Playtest #2

Played our second game of *Volant - Kingdoms of Air and Stone* last Saturday.

Last week the PCs left the Women's Oasis just after dark, flying on their owls to the north, where the head woman had indicated was another oasis, somewhat south of the city of Kumah. They flew along the track of a wadi which went vaguely in their direction, and eventually came upon the oasis, much larger than the Women's Oasis we had just left. At the edge of the party's sight, to the north, a huge fire suddenly blossomed.

As the group flew closer, they could see, lit by the fire, huge shapes wheeling and darting around, and Sanjay shouted "Those are giant bats! I've heard of them! They suck the blood right out of people and drop the husks like breadcrumbs!" Arjuna said "Circle around and come in from the north. They're all busy here in the south of the oasis with those bats!"

As they circled around the oasis, they saw what had caused the fire. A great stoneship had crashed into  a huge building at the southern edge of the oasis. There were bands of people on the ground, fighting the bats, who would swoop down and carry one off every so often.

They landed in the north, and Nadila and Arjuna got out their long bows. The four PCs walked through the oasis, a rich place, with pools, fountains, and aqueducts everywhere, and many, many food items grown. many women and children were heading north away from the fire, and the PCs avoided them adroitly. From the edge of the light, the party saw a group of fighting men grouped around a leader. Kumar recognized him as Tomar Shen, the great alchemist, and number four on the party's list of seven targets.

Nadila and Kumar waded into the fight from the edges of the firelight, while Sanjay eased over and blended into the crowd around Shen. Arjuna climbed a tall date palm and leveled his bow at Shen. Sanjay slipped behind Shen as he was giving orders, and stabbed him through the back into his heart. Shen suddenly stopped talking, clutched his chest, and toppled forward as Sanjay slipped away into the confusion.

Nadila brought down a giant bat, and Kumar wounded one. Nadila saw  Sanjay and Arjuna slipping back north and signaled Kumar to follow. He did not, and the three had to wait a while for him to show up at the owls. They immediately took off and as dawn was breaking, reached the hills around Kumah, where they settled the owls down for the day. 

Kumah had outgrown it's city walls, and tall houses crowded both inside and outside up against the walls. The group sent Sanjay in to reconnoiter, and - as the guards were only allowing those with permits inside the walls - he entered a building outside the walls, leaped from its roof to the top of the wall, and then down to the roof of an inside building. inside, he learned that Willa Doss, the leader of Straum, and Timo Tomah, a powerful politician, were both in the city for a meeting with the great of Kumah. He also ran across a foreign merchant, and stole his document pouch. He returned to the group in the hills with the pouch.

Nadila read the contents - in addition to a paid access pass to the country, she found a set of correspondences in which the "merchant" discussed the ripeness of the nation of Straum for civil war, what with the great discontent over the unending wars for conquest. "He wasn't a merchant," she said, "He was a spy!"

Using the real permits as a guide, she Faked a set of papers for each of the PCs, and for the Birdmaster. With these, the party went into the city openly that night, with the Guards stamping the papers routinely. they rented rooms at a caravansarai, with Arjuna as Prince Arjuna, Nadila as his mistress, and Sanjay and Kumar as their lackeys. Sanjay and Kumar went off, and met up with some of their countrymen in a bar, while Arjuna and Nadila had dinner with a rich merchant, who - impressed with meeting a real foreign prince, wangled the two of them an invitation to the meeting with Willa Doss. Sanjay and Kumar, with the help of their countrymen, hired on as porters for a liquor merchant supplying the meeting.

The session ended there.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Creating a Bird

For my Volant world building stuff! In this section, I will create a giant riding bird from scratch, illustrating the use of the random bird creation system.
I roll an 82, for a result of Horse sized. A middling bird, the size of the ancestral wild giant birds. This result gives me the following modifiers:
Const Adj. +5
Damage Base +20
Maneuv Modifier +2
Accel. Modifier +3
Ceiling Modifier +6
Break 3
Range Modifier X5.5

Damage Track
I roll a 63 for a base Constitution of 12. Added to the Constitution Adjustment above, this gives me 18 points on the Damage Track. I divide it onto 4X4, with 2 left over. I decide to apportion the Damage Track as 5,5,4,4.

Special Abilities
I roll a 94, giving me a result of Speech with Communicate 2 for Edges. Very useful! The bird can speak as well as understand commands!

Bird Flight
Here’s a long line of rolls to define the bird’s flight characteristics.
Base Accel. Roll 9, for a result of 5. Add to the Accel. Modifier (+3) to get a total of 8. Pretty fast!
Base Ceiling Roll 7, for a result of 7. Add to the Ceiling Modifier (+5) to get a total of 12. Good height too!
Max Speed Roll 6, for a result of +3. Add to the Acceleration (8) to get a total of 11. Sweet! This is a nice package here!
Base Maneuv Roll 3, for a result of 8, add Maneuv Modifier (+2) for a 10. Subtract from 20 to get a Stability of 10. Very good! A bird equally maneuverable as it is stable. I can see where this bird would be valuable.
Base Range Roll 6, for a result of 19. Multiply by the Range Modifier (7.5) to get a total of 104.5, rounded up to 105. Passable range, but not great. Maybe an Achilles Heel.

Armor Base
I roll for Armor Base - a 84, for a 2.0 base. Good.
Outer Covering I roll 70, for a result of Medium Feathers, and an additional 0.7 of Armor. Added to the base is 2.7, round up to 3. Solid - this one’s a keeper.

Natural Weapons
Roll of 86 - Beak and Talons! Sweet! This is a good attacker! Damage bonuses of +10 and +5, so when added to the Damage Base of +20, that’s +30 for the Beak and +25 for theTalons.
Attack Skill Roll of 57. That’s a +3. Solid, competent.

Particular Diet
Roll of 78. Result is Fish. I’ll have to do a lot of lounging on river banks!
Aggression Mod. This is +10 - Great! I don’t want a too-fierce bird!
Aggression Roll of 18 - plus 10 is 28 - Wary. Could be a lot worse!

Bird Intelligence Roll of 91... Whoa! Int of 4! That is one smart bird! So far I love it! This one’s a keeper!
Bird Attributes The next bunch of numbers are derived from the stuff we’ve already generated.
STR Horse Size gives a STR of 9. +5 Modifier.
COOR Maneuv of 10 gives a COOR of 10. +5 Modifier.
AGY Acceleration of 8 gives an AGY of 10. +5 Modifier.
END Range of 105 gives an END of 11. +10 Modifier.
CHAR Aggression of Wary gives a CHAR of 12. +10 Modifier.

Small Animals - I give it Meadow.

I roll a 7, then roll seven times for Sight, Sight, Smell, Smell, Hearing, Hearing, Touch.
Discern Get the average for Sight, Hearing, and Smell - 6/3 is 2, so it gets Discern+2

Pattern Roll 10 - Tipped over Gradation! Interesting! I’m seeing a sweet stippled look.
Carrying Capacity 90 kg without penalty. That’s about 200 pounds - good!
Ornaments Roll of 10 for a result of Choose any two. I decide to roll twice, and get a 5 (Unwieldy Beak) and a 6 (Long Neck). Cool!
Surface Texture Roll of 1 - Glossy! Oooh! This baby is shiny!
Colors I’ll roll three times on the Colors table, for tip, dark gradient, and light gradient colors. I roll 14 - Creme de Menthe, Sky Blue, or Pale Pink. I’ll go with Sky Blue. for the tip color. Next roll is a 53 - Dark Auburn, Leaf Green, or Dark Copper. I’ll take Dark Copper for the dark gradient color. I roll once more and get a 5 - White, Off-White, and Pale Pink. I’ll take Off White for the light gradient color.

Bird Growth Sizes OK - This bird is Horse sized, so a hatchling will be the size of a small dog, a youngling will be the size of a large dog, and a birdling will be the size of a pony.
Vigor Rating Now, we cross index the size of the bird - Horse - with its Constitution - 18 - and get a vigor of 25. Not great, but it could be worse.

Name the Breed
Sky Blue tipped over a Dark Copper to Off-White gradient, eats fish, with a big beak and long neck. I’ll call it Copper Heron! Great name!

Another Example Religion

 This one is the dominant religion in the same region as The Heavenly Path - Daktari


Conception of Deity - Hard Polytheism There are many different, individual, discrete gods.

Communications With Worshipers - .Chance is how the gods express themselves in this world.
Superstition Evil gods will get you through certain actions, which would best be avoided
Ancestors give you guidance, following their good examples.
Ritual is how you plead to the gods for something.
Priests are the Chosen Ones, who are closer to gods, and may become gods themselves. All priests are alchemists.
Intersession is performed by legendary priests, who are just below the gods. If they intercede enough, they will become gods.

Organizational Hierarchy - Democratic selection by popularity among worshipers elevated the best priests to power.
Episcopal structure rewards those more popular priests with higher positions within the religion.

Influence - Nationally Strong representation among the people ensures political power.

Taboos and Obligations - Funereal rites of mummification are given those in power. Others are buried with representation of their wealth.
Recreational time is regulated as too much of any good thing is a poison.
Alchemical power is key to the effectiveness of the priests' works, and thus their popularity.
Professional entrance is tightly bound by caste. All priests are alchemists, but not all alchemists consider themselves priests.
Ritual perfomances are rigidly specified , both calendrical and situational
Dietary ingestion of a special spiced liquor called Giran, made by the priests, is obligatory for any and all rituals.
Matrimonial arrangements may not cross caste lines.

Places of Worship - Shrines are located in what are considered spiritually strong places, and worshipers must go to them to perform certain rituals.
Open Altars are located in central areas of the cities, where certain important rituals are performed by the priests and attended by the people.
Amphitheaters are where the people come to hear the teachings of the great priests.

Orthodoxy and Heresy - Toleration of the Heavenly Path is standard, but there is no great love for it.

Duties of Faith  - Service by the priests to the people is key to their elevation to sainthood after death.
Fasting is a part of Sacrifice, cleansing and disciplining the worshiper.
Sacraments are performed as public rituals.
Sacrifice is needed for a healthy soul.
Protection of the nation from those who would harm it is a holy task.
Scarring/Mutilation is by certain tatoos and scarifications, which denote priests. This practice has deeply penetrated the culture at large.

Paraphernalia of Worship - Devices of clockwork are used in the performance of certain rituals.
Images of the gods are omnipresent.
Candles are symbolic of light in the darkness, and are lit in remembrance of ancestors.
Jewelry is used to visually distinguish castes.

Themes of Religion - Propriety maintains proper place in the scheme of the world.
Punishment by the gods has removed the people's  natural magic, as it was thought anyone could be a god, but they approve of those using magic properly.
Renewal is by the reincarnation of good lower caste people into a higher caste, and possibly even sainthood and godhood.
Chosen priests may become saints and eventually gods.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Example Religion - the Heavenly Path

Lets create an example religion for Volant, the Heavenly Path.

Conception of Deity - Ethical Philosophy

Communications With Worshipers - Ancestors give you guidance, following their good examples.
Superstition tells you things to avoid.
Chance is how God shows his hand.
Astronomy is stories about the constellations.

Organizational Hierarchy - Independent priests relate stories about the local level, and every temple has its own stories.
Monastic members retreat for spiritual enlightenment.
Teachers are priests who pass their knowledge on to the people.

Influence - Inconsequential because they do not concern themselves with politics at all. They feel the ethical precepts and stories they relate will influence politics organically.

Taboos and Obligations - Alchemical magic, as all magic, corrupts, as evidenced by the past, so too much reliance on potions is not a good thing.
Recreational time is regulated as too much of any good thing is a poison.
Ritual Meditation and prayer as a regular regimen will cleanse the soul.

Places of Worship - Shrines are located where momentous things happened, and are for general worship.
Temples are located in cities as places of worship and teaching.
Home is where your ancestors are honored.

Orthodoxy and Heresy - Big Tent of orthodoxy includes many separate and independent traditions.

Duties of Faith  - Alms teaches the worshiper compassion and humility.
Sacrifice is needed for a healthy soul.
Service is an extension of Alms, helping others.
Pilgrimage is done only by the most religious, traveling to all the many shrines to deepen the teachings.
Fasting is a part of Sacrifice, cleansing and disciplining the worshiper.

Paraphernalia of Worship - Holy Books hold the stories which are interpreted by the local teachers.
Music lifts the soul closer to God, and contains the oldest and deepest teachings.
Special Clothing marks out the teachers, monks and nuns as special.
Candles are symbolic of light in the darkness, and are lit in remembrance of ancestors.

Themes of Religion - Balance leads to a better world, reducing strain, both personal and public.
Protection stems from service and alms, extended to all of the worshiper’s nation.
Renewal is personal, changing one’s selfish ways to follow the precepts of the religion.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Marriage and sexuality in the StarCluster

A question was raised by a customer about marriage and sexuality in the StarCluster, prompted by President Obama's recent words on the subject. My response was as follows:

I am just the game designer, not your group, but here are my thoughts on the matter, speaking as the GM for more than one group. Generally speaking, the Cluster is an extremely high tech place. On many worlds, gender is an entirely elective, and temporary, thing. Within a relatively short time period, a biologically male body can be transformed into a biologically female body, and vice versa. A soul from one body can be transferred to another body, either switching with another soul, or multiply cohabiting that body, and either permanently or temporarily. Body shape is arbitrary - it can be changed before or after birth into whatever is wished - if you can afford it. In that kind of environment, legislating restrictive barriers to interpersonal relations is futile and unrealistic.

Generally speaking, what we currently call marriage is considered two separate issues in the Cluster. One is contract law, and the other is religious. In the Cluster, you can make any contract you wish, with anyone you want, so long as the participants meet the local - as in legal jurisdiction - definition of "adult", and are entering into the contract of their own free will. You can contract a relationship with 2 female humans, one male human, a heavily modified genderless human, two Olphalects from Jom, an uplifted cat, and a robot. That's your choice, and reflects only your taste. These contracts spell out the restrictions, benefits, and responsibilities of that relationship. There are standard legal *types* of relationships, which can save time and money in setting them up, but a legal relationship is entirely arbitrary.

Some people also have religious relationships. These, of course, vary enormously with the religion, but tend not to vary much within the religion. All religions have at least one type of legal relationship which is encouraged, and may have some which are forbidden. That's up to the religion, and religious relationships have no legal significance. If the religion's standards are not for you, you can agitate for change from within, or leave the religion as you choose. If you violate those standards while within the religion, that is a religious matter, and not a legal matter.

Some worlds have idiosyncratic views on such matters, which is an item of possibly great concern to those of that world, and a matter of utter indifference to everyone else. Local standards always apply in those cultures.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Religion in Volant

Religions in Volant are much like our own religions. There is no proof of the existence of God/the gods, depending on the religion. The existence of higher beings is a matter of faith. Priests and holy people cannot perform real, repeatable magic. Faith healing sometimes works, as it occasionally does in our world, but it seems quite random.

Religions are defined by several parameters, each of which has ten options. These parameters are:

Conception of Deity - Monotheism, Duality, Polytheism...
Communications With Worshippers - Prayer, Saints, Ancestors...
Organizational Hierarchy - Democratic, Autocratic, Familial...
Political Influence - Negligible, Local, Regional,. Pervasive...
Taboos and Obligations - Dietary, Sexual, Sacrificial...
Places of Worship - Grove, Temple, High Places...

Orthodoxy and Heresy - Big Tent, Splintered, Paranoid...
Duties of Faith - Pilgrimage, Prayer, Fasting...
Paraphernalia of Worship - Holy Books, Ritual Implements, Special Clothing...
Themes of Religion - Punishment, Guilt, Love, Propriety...

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Sample Character Sheet from Volant

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Stuff from the Volant Playtest

Giant Owl

Group has 3 with them.
Size Draft Horse - Carrying Cap 120 kg without penalty.
Constitution 28. Vigor 8
Maneuv = 11 Stability = 9
Acceleration = 5
Max Speed = 7
Ceiling = 13
Break 3
Rage = 126
Night Vision/Hearing - Edge Night 2
Armor Medium Feathers, 3.3
Talon+3, Beak+3 Damage +25
Discern+2, Flying+3, Survival+2
Habitat forest, Hunts small herd animals
Aggression: Ready to Strike
INT 4, STR 10, COOR 11, AGY 8, END 13, CHAR 9
Senses: Sight 3, Smell 1, Hear 3
Ornament - Curved Beak
Soft spotted ash gray and dove gray feathers

Potions Carried by the Group

Healing Potions
2 X Blood Berry, Heal Cut 1
2 X Temrin Bark Heal Bash 1
1 X Feverwort Heal Disease 1
3 X Heartleaf Heal Cut 4
2 X Choke Nut Heal Bash 1

Other Potions
Temrin Bark - Revive 2
Moonflower - Calm 1
Heartleaf - Pattern 1
Hangman's Vine Sap - Binding 3
Razor Root - Dig 2
Spiderkin Venom - Climb 1
Saltgrass - Swim 3
Snatchweed Pollen - Night 5

Combination Potions
Giantkin Bone + Lionweed - Turn into Lion
Spiderkin Venom + Hangman's Vine Sap - Shoot Webbing
Bonewrack + Giantkin Bone - Fly
Runner Vine + Coluba Leaves - Invisibility
Hydra Humor + Brain Fruit - Luck
Glow Moss + Jaeger Leaf - Become Spectral


Volant Playtest #1

Started the playtest of Volant today. The characters were informed by their "Elders" in the Company that they had accepted a contract from a single region nation. This nation, a mineral rich country, knew that the powerful and militaristic Electorate of Straum had targeted them for assimilation into its rapidly expanding empire, so they contracted out hits on the seven most powerful people in Straum. The PCs had a month to take these people out, or the invasion would launch.

The PCs took passage on the Company's merchant ship, and launched off to Straum on giant owls. They landed in the southern mountains bordering the region of Ar Jinnyeh and did some hunting - their cover. Ar Jinnyeh is a desert region, bordered by mountains, but there are scrubby forests in those mountains. There, at their campfire, they had a terrifying encounter with a herd of camels. When the camel herder, coming up behind, saw they were hunting, he told them in primitive, badly broken Trade that they needed a pass from his boss to hunt here. Instead, the PCs flew north into the desert.

They desperately tried to find a place to land before the sun came up, and came across a small oasis. They landed and were greeted by hissing, angry geese, and a pack of women with bows. The leader, Arjuna, tried t talk to them, but their leader insisted the PCs take their owls out of the oasis. They finally compromised on allowing the owls and PCs in two at a time to water up.

While watering, Sanjay made the acquaintance of one of the women over a bottle of Betaljuce. She told him that the government had called all the men of the oasis into the army for some invasion, and that the headwoman was afraid to let them in lest they be molested, but as far as she was concerned, her husband had been gone for far too long, and Sanjay could park his shoes under her bed any time. Sanjay assured her he felt the same, then told Arjuna what he had learned.

When she realized her women were selling her out, the headwoman let the PCs into the oasis for the day. Sanjay invited Kumar to spend some quality time with him and the oasis woman, and Kumar accepted. Arjuna and Nadila spent their time separately. Arjuna lightly working out  and sleeping, Nadila brooding alone in he bedroll. End of Session.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Volant playtest coming!

I'm prepping to run the first Volant playtest this weekend. This is an alpha test - I'm running it, as it has a number of new bits that need testing. I only go to beta testing if the rules are solid. The players *love* the new "template trees", as you can visually see where you are going. We will be creating some younker trainees and some older  members as we go - this kind of game is always better with troupe play!

I've never run an assassins game before. This could be awesome or it could be stupid. I think it depends a lot on the group. They all seem hot for it. I need to make a religion generator next. That will be interesting!


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Template Trees

Here is the Template Tree for the Avian Squire base template:

These are the template choices you can take once you take Avian Squire. There are 11 of these base templates, though only Thief is as full as this one. This is thanks to my son Klaxon, who took the time to set it up.