Saturday, October 31, 2015

Kismet: Rogues, Sorcerers, Warlocks, & Wizards

  • Whether con men or cat burglars, Rogues come with a wide variety of skills and one thing in common: fraternity.  The Book of Fate proscribes how to deal with criminals and it isn't particularly lenient, it's an extraordinary thief who doesn't have back up of some sort.  You brothers and sisters among the Right Folk will be more than happy to assist your more dangerous ventures, for a share of profits and minimal questions asked.  Don't be surprised if they turn around and ask the same of you.
  • Before the Prophet brought the Book of Fate out of the wilderness, the Black Empire was surrounded by a patchwork of eldritch kingdoms.  Their royal bloodlines intermarried with Djinn and stranger things.  With the coming off the Prophet they were given a choice, live under Fate's laws or face destruction.  Those who joined the Prophet found their magical heritage wane, those who defied her rarely survived. Sorcerers are the scions of surviving royalty and are able to draw upon ancient treaties between their lost kingdoms and various supernatural forces.

  • Iram of the Pillars was the capitol of onesuch patchwork kingdom, elbow deep in pacts and diabolic workings.  The city was ruled by a caste of Warlock priests and the architechture dominated by shrines and torture columns.  On their high plinths they would cajole dire forces with blood and bodies, enticing them with death and life.  The Prophet did not offer a chance at conversion, for their perversions there was no mercy.  Today Warlocks persist, secretly trading knowledge and careful to avoid gethering in large groups. Witchsniffers and Paladins are always eager to put them to the sword, but now there are whispers on the wind that sand choked Iram is rising again.
  • Magic once ran like the blood in men's bodies, coursing and vibrant, waiting to be tapped.  But with the Book of Fate and the Great Pact with Djinnistan that is no longer the case.  Those with arcane interests go to University to learn ways to properly harness tthe secret powers of the cosmos. Wizards are the foremost philosophers and scholars ensconced in those halls.  Armed with clockwork devices powered by the breath of angels and invocations, they seek to rigorously test the boundaries of existence.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Kismet: Fighters, Monks, Paladins, & Rangers

  • Fighters are disciplined soldiers and may hail from any of the Golden Caliphate's cities, or any of the locales outside.  The common bond among fighters is their membership to some larger organization; whether it's a Fight House, City Militia, Dogs of War, Holy Slayers, an esoteric Order of the Sword or a Mamluk Society.  Membership comes with perks, the main one is that people can tell you don't mind a scrap and avoid confrontation.

  • The average citizen knows about the Holy Lodges and the paladins they train, but Monks hail from a different tradition entirely.  When the Book of Fate was brought out of the wilderness, many sought to imitate the Prophet and went beyond the grasp of civilization.  In the wilds these rogue philosophers formed groups and shared their insights, and formed the 3 Ways.  Outside the Caliphate, a society as proscribed in the Book, they acquired insight into Fate's Weaving and ways to manipulate the strands.  Since then, they've been nominally brought into the Caliphate's fold and Monks are infrequently seen on city streets performing covert activities.  As a Monk you get an amulet, the Eye of the Leopard, and a mission.  The amulet marks you as an envoy of the Caliph's will, and freedom to do whatever the mission needs but murder.

  • Trained in seclusion behind the high walls of the Holy Lodges, the Paladin is a noble figure dedicated to protecting the foundations of the Caliphate itself.  As Old Chaos wears holes in the Grand Design and spills out, there is greater demand for them to leave their seclusion and return order to the land. Each Lodge is is founded with a specific purpose ranging from rooting out Beast Cults to bodyguards for Djinn emissaries. The War Landers have similar questing knights who seek cuttings from their sacred Tree of Life that lay scattered across the Wide World.
  • Often Rangers are cartographers or seized by wanderlust, questing to find what lies over the next hilltop. Almost exclusively employed by the Salt Cartels to aid them in their long caravan treks into the Grandest Desert.  Those outside the Cartels' employ are given a warning: don't set foot on our trails or you'll lose your feet.  Either way there exists an unofficial brotherhood among wanderers, and you can always find rumors leading to adventure.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Kismet: Barbarians, Bards, Clerics, & Druids

One of the things that enriches a setting, before are the social connections character classes bring with them: if you're a wizard where did you go to school? How does that affect your interactions with others?
The rest of the classes will be posted this week.

  • Barbarians are wild warriors, hailing from a place and group outside the 7 Great Cities: among the Nomad Tribes of the Empty Kingdom, the caravan guards of the Salt Cartels, the chill War Lands to the north, the Countless Kings to the south east, the Sea of Grass in the Land of Lions or any other far flung locale.  Places ruled by blood and feud rather than the Book of Fate, when you relate an anecdote from your distant homeland you gain Inspiration.
  • Bardic Colleges all have an initiation before you become a member and gain the benefits.  The College of Lore demands a rare tome from barbaric lands, the College of Valor requires you to win a match at a Fight House, and the College of Honey holds the Feast of Flowers.  Membership means you can draw upon your membership for resources, the College of Lore has access to the University, etc.

  • Clerics' affiliation with the 7 Virtuous Ones is on display in their clothing, each is associated with a color. Men and women of the cloth are under a variety of behavioral and dietary strictures, breaking them may result in a loss of station as the light of virtue no longer shines through their soul.  Restoration of spiritual powers would either require great acts of contrition or conversion to the Elder Cults or worship of the Beast Gods.  Continued good standing allows you to levy aid from the faithful, and the Mamluk Societies within the 7 Cities.
  •  Druids practice the Old Faith, the religion that was practiced before the Prophet emerged from the Empty Kingdom bearing the Book of Fate. These Elder Cults persist on the edges of the civilization, in wayhouses, oases, roadside shrines, and ruined temples where Fate's priesthood visits infrequently.  Offering worship to regional spirits, fey lords of hollow light, or geography once animate; the Elder Cults fall short of the savagery practiced by the Beast Gods and their cults but they are no more welcome within the civilized walls of the Caliphate's cities.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Comics On A Bench: Harrow County

Harrow County; Written by Cullen Bunn; Art by Tyler Crook
This week Harrow County #6 hits stands and if you're a fan of horror and the Southern Gothic, you should ready it.  Writer Cullen Bunn weaves the tale of Esther,a who finds out her family, town, and life have all been a lie, and her role as inheritor of their collective guilt on the eve of her 18th birthday.  She discovers she is the rebirth of a lynched midwife/wise woman/witch named Hester, and some of the town's population were creatures of Hester's creation.  With the veil is lifted from her eyes, Esther must grapple with the misdeeds of her predecessor and the expectations of the community.  Fearing that she will follow in Hester's footsteps, the citizens take up arms to re-enact their past misdeeds and get her dead first.  This is just the first few issues, it gets darker as it goes.

Like most Southern Gothics, the themes of generational guilt and Caledonian Antisyzygy (two warring polarities of spirit in one person) are prominent, and you can tell that the writer is intimately familiar with this genre.  The passion and craft Bunn has put into the narrative will draw you in, even if you've read similar narratives before.  Tyler Crook's art pulls the whole work together, illuminating this tale of haunts and dark things in the wood with vivid terror and disquiet.  A wonderful work of modern horror dwelling in the past, that man is a monster, hands dyed black with past sins.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Kismet: Campaign Rules

 Below are the guidelines used to shape the feel of Kismet's characters, the marked difference from the standard PHB options is the removal of the non-human races and an additional background pick.  I'll do a break down class by class, establishing where they stand in the setting.

  • Kismet is a human-centric setting, all the PC belong to one of the following races:Human, Genasi (a mixed bloodline of human/genie, elemental powers), Tiefling (human/devil hybrids, from Irrem, the city of pillars,) and Goliath (giant humans from heathen lands.)
  • If your race has less than +3 total ability modifiers, add another point to one of your abilities.
  •  Substitute the languages in the PHB with the following options: Trade, Salt, Pillar, Sword, Coin, Dune, and Silk

  • All classes in the PHB are available, there are some strings attached to them.  See below:
  •  Bardic Colleges all have an initiation before you become a member and gain the benefits.  The College of Lore demands a rare tome from barbaric lands.  The College of Valor requires you to win a match at a Fight House.  The College of Honey holds the Feast of Flowers.
  • Clerics' affiliation with the 7 Virtuous Ones is on display in their clothing. Men of the cloth are vegetarian, consumption of meat will cause loss of station as it denotes a spiritual stain.  Restoration of spiritual powers would either require great acts of contrition or conversion to Druidism.
  •  So on, and so forth.  I'll embellish these further on with class specific elaborations.

Ability scores
  • Allocate 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 across your 6 stats.
  • Characters in Kismet choose 2 backgrounds, rather than just one.  This represents the broad life experience of the characters and the Caliphate's cosmopolitan society.
  • Feats are available in Kismet, everything in the book is open.
Moments of Heroism
  • A character starts with 5 hero points at 1st level. When you gain a level, your total resets to 5. Hero points can be spent to add 1d6 to an attack roll, an ability check, or a saving throw, or to turn failure on a death saving throw into a success

Monday, October 12, 2015

Kismet: Flick of the Tail (Play Report)

The Party:
Farida - Topaz eyed paladin, out into the Wide World for the first time.  Paladin of Ancients

Hakim -  A priest of the Adventurous, weak for a pretty face.  Trickery Domain

Zaina - A nomad sorceress carrying a royal legacy in her veins.  Ifrit Bloodline

It's Market Day in Huzabba, the Grand Jewel, and the streets are packed as several caravans have arrived in the early morning or the night before.  The party ambles the crowded thoroughfares of the Grand Bazaar towards Mahmoud, the camel drover, pursuing the rumor he has brought a mystic camel to market.  The air is thick with cloying perfume, spices, and pack animals; but the distinct smell of grilling goat draws Farida down a street, her mouth watering and mind swimming with thoughts of savory delicacies.

As Zaina and Hakim follow her they are accosted by an erstwhile street vendor offering a wide range of jewellery for sale.  One piece in particular draws Zaina's eye, and she is able to haggle the vendor into selling it for 3 gold shekels.  Hakim's book learning recalls a reference to the fabled 7 Tears of the Lion Queen and suspects that the bauble may lead to greater treasure in the fabled Land of Lions.

Following her nose, Farida is blocked from the sought culinary delights by a knot of people surrounding a scuffle.  A fisherman and porter grapple and kick over possession of a beautiful, ruby fish until the fish pops free and lands in a nearby well.  The porter kicks the fisherman and stalked away, muttering curses.  Knocked to the ground by the porter's parting blow, the fisherman tears at his hair and wails lamentations to Fate over this cruel development.  The paladin intervenes before the man plucks himself bald, inquiring why he would care so much about a single fish.  Surely as a fisherman he has seen hundreds of their ilk come through his nets?
Zalid, the fisherman, explains that he is forced to fish because he is ill suited for any other sort of work, and he is terrible at it.  But such a beautiful fish, pleading with him in a voice ringing with silver bells, would surely fetch a high price with the right buyer, and Zalid knew just the noble seeking a fine prize from Lake Hali. As the other two PC's catch up, Farida recalls that Marids of high birth have to spend time as a fish before they come into their inheritance.  Having explained the fisherman's plight to her friends they state they retrieve this fish.  Hakim knows that the ruling families of Huzabba have intermarried with the Marids in the past, the nobleman Zalid mentioned may be seeking to bolster his cache.  Zaina had heard stories of the Marids but never seen them, knowing they were genies of the sea.
They ask him to wait for them at a nearby coffeehouse, while the party compares notes.  Resolving to rescue the fish and disregard Zalid's situation.
After asking some quick questions around the square, the party finds out that the well is connected via cistern to a nearby bathhouse which has fallen into disuse.  Before breaching the doorway Zaina notices cursemarks carved into the door frame, just a few flourishes away from hexing any who step through.  To disrupt their completion she Mends the door, and the party steps through.  Moving quickly and quietly, they see the surfaces have a fine layer of dust and large cat paw prints left behind. 

After some empty rooms that once had purpose they find the once bricked up arch to the cool room, whose pool held a similarly twisted and broken iron grating in its depths.  Eschewing any spelunking they scout out the rest of the floor, finding a large room full of tallied bags of linen, with doors that open to large alleyway.  Turning another few corner they come to a T- Junction with signage pointing them to either the changing rooms or the hot baths, Hakim insists that Zaina should take the opportunity to bathe, she takes exception and fires back.  As they trade barbed quips, Farida notices motion in the changing room.  Shining her light upon it reveals a carpet of animal skeletons surging towards them.

Swarmed by diminutive attackers and facing a death by a thousand cuts, Hakim open the windows of his soul and shines the Light of Adventure to Turn the undead.  Animated by the party's negative energy but rebuked by their unity of purpose, the swarm recoils and skulks in the shadows of the changing room waiting another opportunity to strike.  Not giving it to them, Zaina forces the door closed as Hakim wards it against undeath.

Heading in the opposite direction, they come upon the hot baths proper which contains another mauled iron grate.   No longer able to avoid getting in the deep end, the party links hands, casts Light, and holds their breath as they scuttle down the sunken tunnel.  Barely able to maintain their breath, they break air upon entering a larger copper cylinder with a 3' hole in its side.  Distorted humming fills the air around them as they shimmy out of the copper tube and onto the empty, flooded floor of what has once the boiler room.

Announcing their presence, the party dives under the copper boiler and come upon an old woman kneeling on a mat.  Shelves surround the walls behind her, cluttered with odds and ends, but separate from all that is a bowl with a gasping, ruby fish.  Conversing with the party she asks Hakim to leave her some food for the fright they gave her, muttering nonsense under her breath ("ytterp hsif".)  Hakim grows suspicious of her but Zaina, ever bold, steps past them and seizes the bowl as Farida moves between the crone and her friend.  The elderly woman snarls and her illusory masks drops, revealing a horned, green skinned head full of yellowed teeth.  Her lunge reveals her folded legs unfurl into the lower part of a lion as her weight bears down upon Farida.
Zaina gets a face full of venomous snakes for her trouble, Burning Hands saves her from any further harm though she passes out from poison.  Farida mixes it up with the hag as Hakim rushes to Zaina's aid.  With Zaina stabilized he then rushes to bolster Farida's efforts, getting eviscerated in the process.  Farida's steel and Zaina's sorcery prove to be too much and the foul beast flees into the darkness beyond the boiler.  Farida calls upon the Moon to restore Hakim's rent flesh and gets him on his feet.  Stumbling into the flooded room seeking their foe, Zaina sees the fish is still dying.  Realizing they will need to return her to the water she was taken from, she scoops up the fish and the party makes their egress.

Hakim ponders out the logistics and tells the others that without camels they will not make it in time.  Reminding the others of Mahmoud's rumored mystic camel, Zaina leads them to his corral and pleads with him for his aid.  As Mahmoud is married to her mother's sister twice removed they are family and he will loan them the camel for 25 gold shekels.  Hakim readily pays him, and the party clambers onto the mighty beast of dunes.  Riding like the Traitorous Angel is chasing them, they blitz past the coffeehouse where Zalid was waiting for them.Seeing them ride past with HIS fish, Zalid runs out after them but is soon left eating their camel dust.  Avoiding any further complications through Zaina's expert camel handling, they deposit the fish in Lake Hali.  In thanks she sings them a song and swims away. The party makes camp on the lake shore, eager to nurse their wounds and avoid any further dangers.
The morning reveals a bundle of kelp containing 11 pearls and piece of broken pottery bearing the word "MULUK."

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Kismet: The College of Honey - A Bardic College

The Golden Caliphate is an empire replete with entertainers of all stripes, practicing their craft on public street corners and at private affairs.  None draw as much attention or as much obsession as those affiliated with the enigmatic College of Honey.  Raconteurs beyond compare, they beguile the mind with the spoken word.  Distinct among the crowded bazaars and sukhs due to the bright honeycomb pattern of their kaftans.
Sticky Words
When you join the College of Honey at 3rd level, you may learn the Enthrall spell.  This spell doesn't count against the number of bard spells you know or can cast per day, and may cast it once per day per 5 Bard levels (1/day at 3rd, 2/day at 8th, etc.)
The Wisdom saving throw is made at disadvantage.
Also at 3rd level, your soft words and enchanting gaze can magically captivate another creature.  As an action, you can expend a use of Bardic Inspiration and choose one creature within 30 ft.  If the target can hear you, it must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw against your bard spell save DC or be charmed by you until the end of your next turn.  The charmed creature's movement drops to 0, and the creature is incapacitated and visibly dazed.
On subsequent turns, you can use your action to maintain this effect, extending its duration until the end of your next turn.  However the effect ends if you more more than 30 feet away from the creature, if the creature can no longer hear you, or the creature takes damage.
Piercing Speech
Starting at 6th level, your Sticky Words class feature affects even creatures that would be immune to its effects.
Casting the Net Wide
Starting at 14th level, when you use your Storyweaving ability, you can target a number of creatures equal to your Charisma modifier.  The charm effect lasts one more turn after you stop Storyweaving.

 Membership is extended via dinner invitation to an annual gala held in Surakhet, the City of Flowers, attendees are treated to a spread that's sticky sweet and aromatic.  After the 8th course, the groggy and stupefied male guests are separated to lounge and rest in a side room.  Those guests able to stand and tell the Tale of the Hunchback and all of its framed narratives (The Broker's Story, The Reeve's Tale, Tale of the Jewish Doctor, Tale of the Tailor, The Barber's Tale of Himself, The Barber's Tale of his First Brother, The Barber's Tale of his Second Brother, The Barber's Tale of his Third Brother, The Barber's Tale of his Fourth Brother, The Barber's Tale of his Fifth Brother, and The Barber's Tale of his Sixth Brother) with panache become full members and taught the inner secrets by the College's Hidden Mistress.
Those men who fall asleep are never seen or heard from again.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Book Review: God's War by Kameron Hurley (Book 1 of the Bel Dame Apocrypha)

When God's War,  Kameron Hurley's debut novel, was published in 2011 science fiction communities moaned and wrung their internet hands about the increasing prevalence and prominence of lady genre writers.  Since then Ms. Hurley has won a Hugo, and those fearful discussions evolved into the Sad/Rabid Puppies bloc.  God's War was a hand grenade when it was published and introduced us to the new breed of brutal women.

In the opening scene Nyxnissa, our heroine & ex-government assassin, sells her womb in order to survive and doesn't look back. From there Nyx becomes our guide through the scuzzy, bug riddled, Islamicized marble that provides the backdrop for the series to follow.  Whether it's her team of bounty hunters, two nations continually at war, shapeshifters, or all the bug powered technology, Hurley's world building is top notch.  Did I mention the bounty hunters?  There's a lady-loving shapeshifter (the process is messy - which is great), a conscientious magician (if Jedi had mutant pheromones that controlled bugs), and a hacker who worries for his sister.  Their dynamic is great, the dialogue and interactions are stained with familiarity and disappointment in equal measure.

Opening with the visceral surgery where Nyx's unwanted organ is literally held up to a light and an object of admiration, the narrative rockets along and doesn't let up.  Every few chapters we are given a recollection from Nyx's past, providing insight into the team's primary case and the team itself.  There are some rough patches, it was a debut novel though, and the pacing keeps the pages flipping through them.

Pick it up next time you see it; you won't regret it.  There were two other books in this series, I'll review them in the coming weeks.

To get an idea of her writing I recommend: We Have Always Fought (an essay) & The Women of Our Occupation (short story)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Kismet: Tangled Strands - 20 Questions

1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?
All of Creation is a tapestry woven on Fate's loom encompassing the material and the elemental in the Great Weaving.  Though Fate does not often bend an ear to the pleas of mortals, the Seven Virtuous Ones comprising the spiritual elements do heed mortal request.  The Seven Virtuous (NAME (VIRTUE/DOMAIN)) are: The Courageous (Bravery/War), The Sea Breezes (Honesty/Tempest), The Floods (Fruitfulness/Life), The Venerable (Wisdom/Nature), The Adventurous (Curiosity/Trickery), The Moon (Beauty/Light), and The Learned (Intelligence/Knowledge).
Before the coming of the Prophet these 7 forces were personified by humanity as gods unto themselves, some heresies continue to do so while others worship the Foul Beast Gods in secret.
2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?
Mahmoud's stall in yonder souk is the place to find reliable steel and trustworthy leather.  However, his prices cannot match the nomad arms dealer, Badiat, though her wares may fail you. 
3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?
Bahija the Smith and her 5 sons craft all the parts commissions for the wizards' clockwork contraptions.  I'm sure they could craft a wearable stew pot for your beastly companion.
4.Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?
Diyab Ibn Akbar is the mightiest wizard, his gizmos and inventions are second to none, though the sorceress Halima is rumored to rival his arcane might, she has a Djinn in her thrall.

5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?
Huzabba's own Sahib Yezeed is the most boastful  of his skill and wields a beautiful blade. The 5 Fight Houses each have their own champions of varying prestige as well.
6. Who is the richest person in the land?
The richest person is this city is easily Aziz Ibn Bahil, you can hear the coins jingle every time his household door opens. To rob him may be folly, the Night Marketeers claim he commissions Monkey Paws with regularity.
7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?
The Everfruitful Mosque would be more than happy to ease your woe, their calling is to help those in need.
8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?
Any particularly strange afflictions would need the attentions of a scholar, such as clerics of The Venerable or The Learned.  Given time they may formulate a potion or a bug that would aid you in the long term.  Death would require the intervention of a cleric of The Floods to undo, and that is a dicey proposition.  Escaping your just reward after your time was ordained opens a window for Old Chaos to peek through and then who can say what may happen.

9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?
There are several competing fraternities of wizards, each with varying initiations.  I would recommend the Lodge of the Open Book if you're interested in that sort of thing.  Sorcerers on the other hand channel mystic power in an older, ecstatic fashion.  You may find a mentor may be willing to take an apprentice of sorts,  but there are fewer opportunities for that.
10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?
 In Huzabba, Jewel of the Caliphate, if you venture over the Bridge of Lilies and enter the Scholar's Quarter you can find those given to a life of study.  The University has moved so the populace there are not all as learned as you may like, but those in academia proper can be insufferable.
11. Where can I hire mercenaries?
For trust worthy sellswords I would recommend visiting one of the 5 Fight Houses, they each have an attendant warrior society.  If money is an issue, your other option is to drop by a nearby precinct house.Though the mamluks will not fight for your coin, most inmates will if you pay their bond.
12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?
The Warlanders are invading from the North, and as they claim territory they lay down a myriad of new laws.  The most onerous of which is "No Wizardry. No Sorcery." Their own peculiar shamans and practitioners go about unmolested though.
13. Which way to the nearest tavern?
You will not find the public consumption of alcohol, and thus taverns, widespread as most drink in the comfort of their homes.  However you can find a good coffeehouse just on the corner if you would like a bit of smoke or drink.
14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?
 A large shadow blotted out most of the moon earlier this week.  Astronomers claim its the Black Moon only visible to ghouls and the servants of Old Chaos or the Traitorous Angel.  The nomads claim it's an Ahzi Dahaka, a demon possessed reptile with wings like an eagle and breath of the asp.  A few caravans have gone missing, if such a beast is responsible then its death would surely garner prestige.
15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?
 Skirmishes are increasingly common as the Warlanders press closer to the Holy City and their coastal raids grow increasingly bold.  A war host is amassing at Hiyat, the City of Eyes, under a charismatic University teacher. Maybe they will break the siege?
16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?
 Within Huzabba there are 5 Fight Houses, each with their own policies.  One may require you to fight bare fist and naked, while another may give you each a spear but tie you together.  The payout is pretty good but few are desperate enough to pursue them.

17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?
 There are many worms tunneling in the flesh of the Golden Caliphate. The Skyward Tower wishes to pierce the Sky's Dome once with an architectural construction, now with flying machines that go higher and higher.  Cults of the Foul Beast Gods have once good folk mewling, begging to suckle at their teats for material wealth and parlor tricks. And that is not even mentioning the Eaters of Knowledge or the Broken Pillar, societies with long histories stretching back to the Black Empire of Khem and Irrem, the City of Pillars respectively.
18. What is there to eat around here?
Here you can find smoked lamb, goat stew, shawarma, tabouleh, and any other delicacies you could desire.
19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
The Banner of the Ivory Scimitar was been missing for some time, with it you would be able to seek out the Infernal Machine beneath Casbah Roslof.
20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?
If the nomads are right, then this Ahzi Dahaka surely has amassed some materials goods and loot you could add.
The 20 Questions come from Jeffs Gameblog and can be found here. Much thanks to him for that, they are a great tool for hashing out a setting from the adventurer's perspectives. I want Kismet: Tangled Strands to mix the 1001 Nights' fairy tale vibe and the urban savy found in Lieber and Achmed's writing.  There are a lot of cues in play taken from Kameron Hurley's excellent Beldame Apocrypha and Worldbreaker Saga.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Kismet: Tangled Strands

Once upon a time, there was the Golden Caliphate, a great and just empire that stretched wide from sea to sea. Every day, everything was in its place according to the Almighty’s Grand Design: the farmers worked the land, the barbers traded gossip, the merchants grew fat, the Genies took to their tasks, the mamluks meted out justice, the imams guided the faithful, and atop it all the Grand Caliph ruled with a fair and even hand.

But Old Chaos is ever patient, and nigh impossible to contain though once banished. Complacency allowed strands of Fate’s Weaving to snarl, marring the Grand Design and allowing It to influence the World once more. Now slumbering monsters awaken, civil unrest stirs, slavers stalk the frontiers, Warlanders lay siege to the Holy City, and the Djinn no longer honor the Pact.

This Unraveling is not inevitable, in times like these that you may upend the Kismet set for you and forge a heroic legacy, or become one of Old Chaos’ many instruments in the World.
The Party are drifters, on the fringe of society for their own reasons.  Each finding themselves drawn deeper into the roiling tumult.

Inspirado: the Arabian Nights, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Thief of Baghdad, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, Desert of Souls by Ross Thomas, Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley, The Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber, Rose of the Prophet by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman and the Al Qadim campaign setting.

Looks like:
Tastes like: chicken shawarma and tabouleh Sounds like: Beats Antique - Egyptic

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Book Curses

Book curses are a deterrent against manuscript theft or vandalism, records show that they were employed in Assyria from 668 - 627 BC by King Ashurbanipal.  It went something like this:

"I have transcribed upon tablets the noble products of the work of the scribe which none of the kings who have gone before me had learned, together with the wisdom of Nabu insofar as it existeth [in writing]. I have arranged them in classes, I have revised them and I have placed them in my palace, that I, even I, the ruler who knoweth the light of Ashur, the king of the gods, may read them. Whosoever shall carry off this tablet, or shall inscribe his name on it, side by side with mine own, may Ashur and Belit overthrow him in wrath and anger, and may they destroy his name and posterity in the land."

In Fate a book curse would require a resistance roll from the cursed character to avoid having a "Marked By Doom" Aspect put on them, something nebulously bad that can be compelled and invoked against them in myriad ways.  Another option would be a "Geased" or "Alien Hungers" as a way to jerk character behavior around that's akin to an insanity spiral.

In D&D we see instances of this in the explosive runes or snake sigil spells, both are damaging outcomes, and underutilized.  Plain damage is dull though, what if a plague of locusts does descend on the countryside as ancient malice against they tomb raiders?  It certainly fits the mummy's curse model of cause and effect. Below are 8 book curses for use in whatever you want to use them for.

D8 Book Curses
1 -  The cursed finds his hair, teeth, ears, etc. sloughing away, revealing the appearance of the historical or fictional figure central to the stolen text. -4 reaction in the interim.
2 - When cut, the cursed individual no longer bleeds.  Closer inspection reveals that their flesh has become blood soaked paper.  They take double damage from fire as they are now quite flammable.
3- Everything they read is the text of the stolen book from a first person perspective, placing them inside the work.  In time all conversation also fits into the narrative in some way that's only intelligible to the cursed individual.
4 - A swarm of locusts follow behind the cursed by about a day, devouring all crops in their wake.
5 - Whenever any book is opened in the cursed one's presence, an invisible stalker emerges and bides its time to strike.
6 - The night after the theft, the character's skin is empty and left behind, a python is in the rafters.  If you can read snakes then this one embodies the stolen text.

7-Every enemy slain by the cursed raises 1 round later as a zombie, necessitating the destruction of the heart and brain. The zombies spout quotes from the stolen/damaged work.
8- Wounds dealt to the cursed reconfigure themselves into passages from the text. Take an additional 1d4 damage as the flesh swims around to more literary configurations.