I've got two concepts I'd like to run, and I'll give more details about both of them under the cut-tag. Short version of each:
* Power Enslaved: The PCs are god-like beings held captive by NPCs, their powers largely controlled by their masters. The campaign will be about the PCs figuring out the details of their situation and what they decide to do about it.
* Three Forks: A World Tree game set in the lower branches, where a new prime colony-city is attempting to live more-or-less peacefully with its nonprime neighbors. The campaign will be about the PCs living and working in this area and generally trying to preserve this peace. PCs may be either primes or nonprimes.
Both games will run rules-light: I plan to avoid die rolls and combat situations. Gameplay will revolve around what the players decide to do within the constraints of the game (choosing to help faction A instead of B, for example). I want the game to be varied based on player choice and ingenuity rather than die rolls.
The Three Forks game will use World Tree rules when it's necessary to involve them. (Including beta rules created by the Blooms for playing various nonprime races). For the Powers Enslaved game, I'll write up a general character generation guideline by which you'll make up your character and have an idea what your PC can and cannot do. Close situations may be resolved by die rolls, but mostly you'll be able to describe what your character does and only need GM feedback to give information about the results or NPC reactions and so forth.
My experiences with PC vs PC conflict have been largely bad, so characters will be designed with the intent that the PCs will get along reasonably well and not have opposing goals.
If you're interested in playing, please leave a comment below or email me (my gmail account is LadyRowyn) with the following:
a) Which setting(s) you're willing to play in
b) Which setting you'd prefer (if you have a preference).
This concept is inspired by various stories, including but not limited to Bard Bloom's The Wrath of Trees and N. K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. At the campaign's outset, the PCs are god-like beings held captive by NPCs, their powers largely controlled by their masters. The campaign is about what the PCs decide to do about this.
The setting is Elect, a series of islands hovering at varying altitudes in a vast dark abyss. They are physically separate but connected by the Crystal Bridge. This structure is not a literal bridge: it's an enormous crystalline labyrinth hovering higher than any island, which contains hundreds of portals, at least one leading to each of the known islands. Every known island also has a portal to the Crystal Bridge. The Crystal Bridge also serves as the world's sun: it emits a warm glow, which bathes each of the world's islands in a spotlight glow. These "spotsuns" go on and off, giving each island its own day/night cycle. Favored islands are granted longer "days" and shorter "nights" than those out of favor.
The Crystal Bridge is controlled by Rashida the Lightgiver, Anointed god-queen of Elect. She has a palace, the World's Heart, atop the labyrinth-island that is the Crystal Bridge. Control over all the trade between islands (via the portals), as well as their spotsuins, gives Rashida enormous leverage over Elect. Her rule over the various islands is more indirect. The Crystal Bridge has a few immutable laws for islands which they are not permitted to break. Among those laws:
* There are no gods but the Anointed. (Rashida the Lightgiver and her predecessors; the Anointed god-rulers are long-lived but not immortal). Worship of anyone or anything else is treason. So is denying the divinity of the Anointed. The punishment for treason is death.
* Failure to participate in the high holy day ceremonies (there's roughly one every 20 days) worshipping the Anointed is criminal but not treasonous: punishment varies depending on exact circumstances.
* Flight, flying machines, balloons, even trained or pet birds, and research on the same by anyone from the islands is treason.
* Cross-island signaling -- and any kind of communication that bypasses the Crystal Bridge - is treason.
* Learning or teaching the Divine Tongue is treason.
* All islands must pay tribute to the Crystal Bridge or lose their spotsuns. This tribute includes people, most of whom will become initiates or servants. They're treated as indentures and not slaves: after seven years the people given to the Crystal Bridge as tribute are free, though many remain in the service of the Crystal Bridge.
* All trade and communication between islands is subject to tariffs which must be paid to the Crystal Bridge. The Crystal Bridge also has the right to inspect and search everything that passes through. A (theoretically random) small percentage is actually subject to close scrutiny. Smuggling is not treasonous
Apart from these laws, the islands are generally allowed to govern themselves.
The islands of Elect are populated by different cultures, races, and species (including different sapient species). Some sapient species are more common than others and some cultures are similar across multiple islands, but in most cases they're very diverse. Languages also vary by island.
Technology levels vary by island as well. Machines are mostly man- or animal-powered, with some sophisticated clockwork devices, and some wind-powered and water-powered machines (eg, windmills, watermills, sailcraft on islands that have large enough bodies of water to warrant them). Electrical power is unknown but some favored islands have magical artifacts granted to them by Rashida which will benefit the island as a whole in some fashion. Assembly-style manufacturing processes are common on some islands, while guild systems with controlled knowledge hold sway on others. Literacy and formal education are common on many islands.
The Crystal Bridge has two languages: Supplicant and Divine. "Supplicant" is a common tongue known (to a greater or lesser degree) by most people of Elect; it's the language in which all islands communicate to the Crystal Bridge and in which the people of the Crystal Bridge.
The population of the Crystal Bridge falls into the following categories:
* Visitors: Because the Crystal Bridge is the hub of all trans-island transport, a large portion of the people on it at any time are visitors. They are marked on their palms with the sigil of their visa, which lasts for a set period (usually a few days) or vanishes when they leave, whichever comes first.
* Slaves: there are no hereditary slaves among the Elect, but some islands use slavery as a punishment for local crimes, and sometimes the Crystal Bridge accepts slaves as part of a tribute in lieu of monetary payment. (Slaves cannot make up the "people" portion of a tribute.) Slaves have a sigil of slavery on their foreheads. It's permanent.
* Servants: mostly from the indentures sent as tribute.
* Initiates: also drawn from the indentures sent as tribute, initiates are higher-status than servants but do some of the same work. Initiates are also assistants to inspectors, rank-and-file soldiers, clerks, and other low-level jobs. Initiates are permitted to learn to understand Divine, but not to speak it. They have a sigil on the left cheek.
* Ecclesiasticals: Ecclesiastical status is hereditary: the legitimate child of an ecclesiastical is an ecclesiastical. These do the high-level work and vote in elections for the Ecclesiastical Council. Dedicated initiates often become ecclesiasticals after several years. Ecclesiasticals are permitted to speak Divine. They are also able to use some magic. They have a sigil on their right cheek.
* Ecclesiastical Councillors: drawn from the Ecclesiasticals, a quasi-religious, quasi-legislative body. They determine dogma, set penalties for crimes, and select the next Anointed after the death of the current one. The Anointed are usually selected from the Angels.
* Angels: usually drawn from the ecclesiasticals, but they are hand-selected by Rashida and granted great personal powers, including wings capable of flight. Their wings are marked with the sigil of their sphere.
* Archangels: There are five archangels who have authority over various spheres of governance, including one for the spotsuns.
* Rashida: the god-queen. She doesn't have a council seat but has the option to override any act the council takes, and if Rashida tells the council to do something, they almost always do it. She has direct authority over the angels. She has the sigil-wings of a god-ruler.
* Demons: infernal beings bound by Rashida through unknown means. They must obey any instruction given to them in Divine, in a strict heirarchy starting with Rashida and going through the angels, down to the councillors and other ecclesiasticals. They are not compelled to obey the spirit of an instruction, only its letter, and ecclesiasticals are generally warned against speaking with demons. Mostly, they're sent with angels to intimidate any recalcitrant or poorly-performing governments, or to hunt down insurgency groups when Rashida doesn't deem the entire island they're on as deserving of punishment.
The PCs are all demons.
Demons all have a few common and innate powers:
* Three shapes: generally, demons have one gigantic form as a fantastic creature (eg, a dragon, roc, giant, kaiju, etc), one tiny animal-like form, and one mid-sized form similar to one of the sapient races.
* Flight: all demons can fly.
* Gift of tongues: demons can understand and speak all languages.
* Immense strength, stamina, speed, durability.
Additionally, each demon has some PC-specific, player-determined powers. Players will pick a sphere of influence and some minor powers that fall into it. The sphere of influence will determine how that PC's powers develop over the course of the campaign.
All demons have some disadvantages:
* Must obey orders given in Divine, to the best of their ability. (Contradictory orders resolve according to the status of the ones who gave them. Contradictory orders by the same person must be obeyed in reverse order given.)
* Cannot physically harm anyone marked with one of the sigils of the Crystal Bridge, except if ordered to do so by Rashida or an archangel.
* No matter what shape they shift to, they're always wearing the enchanted harness that symbolizes enslavement to Rashida.
* Severely impaired memories. Most of the past is a long blur to demons. They know they've been around for a long time and they remember interacting with previous Anointed god-rulers, before Rashida. They have some memories that make no sense in the context of the world of Elect. They have some memories from before they wore harnesses. When they were free. These memories are all fragmentary, not contiguous. Very recent events are just as blurry as long past ones: demons do not remember what they did an hour ago, or yesterday, or last month. (The inability to recall recent events applies to pre-game: a change happens at the start of the game which lets demons remember new events normally). Their sense of the past is not much like amnesia: demons have a kind of habituated memory of much of their surroundings, so they'll often recognize places, individuals, and know things about them without being able to remember any specifics about how or why they know it. At the game outset, the demons will feel somewhat like they're starting to recover from a very long drugged stupor.
Geography and Distinctive Features
Nrastheia is several branches down from the top of the World Tree, far below Dentheia and Choinxeia, and roughly between them, going straight down. About four thousand mile outwards along Nrastheia is Three Forks, where Nrastheia forks into three smaller branches. Shaded as it is by higher branches, Three Forks' weather runs to cool and damp. The plants and crops that grow in the Flats here are very different from those of Ketheria. Some kinds of fungus that only grow in the Verticals or below ground in Ketheria are grown in the Flats here.
The most unusual of those crops are rock blossoms. Rock blossoms grow on the misleadingly-named "stone trees", which are trees with trunks of grey wood and black and orange-striped leaves, both of Herbador as with standard trees. However, the flowers that bloom on stone trees are of solid granite. In the wild, the blooms usually break off before they reach the size of a small fist, but under careful cultivation they can grow to the size of a Prime's head, or larger. (This involves a variety of techniques, such as tying down the tree's branches so that the the blossoms rest on the ground as they grow, or weaving nets on poles through the branches to support the individual blossoms. It's pretty labor-intensive.) Stone trees also fruit small nuts with shiny red shells. The nuts are edible but dry and bitter. They're an acquired taste for most sapients, but Wherriwheffle, Conlee, and many ordinary birds are very fond of them at first taste. (Possible more for their shiny shells than actual flavor).
Even in Three Forks, there are only a few places where the soil is
right to grow stone trees, and stone trees take many decades to bloom.
There are a few large stone tree orchards and perhaps a score of
small ones, scattered between several different towns.
Background and History:
Three Forks is far enough from the Birthing Field that, until 4252, Primes were a rarity. Many of the locals did not even know what Primes were. The Yuldekai did, and for centuries whenever a few Primes adventurers or explorers would venture close enough, the Yuldekai would fight and kill them if they could.
In 4252, several different species of civilized nonprimes had towns in the Three Forks area. The division of the territory on the Flats was reasonably well established. The Verticals were true wilderness, untamed and untameable, populated mostly by nonsapient monsters. Four of these towns had enchanted protective walls, though none of them were up to the standards of what Primes consider a "city wall". They were mostly adequate to the task of keeping out nonsapient monsters, and competent to aid defenders in the event of any serious threat.
One such town was Inamasa, populated by Pahaxa who worship four angels -- Ra, Mel, Es, and Lei -- whom the Pahaxa believe sometimes favor their chosen people with divine help. The Pahaxa have four moving temples to the "four angels". Inamasa controls one of the largest stone tree orchards, and has historically enjoyed cordial relations with most of her neighbors.
On the opposite side of Three Forks was Ulkoro, a prosperous Yuldakai town containing one of the other big stone tree orchards. The Yuldakai were warriors who were not above raiding their neighbors from time to time, but most of the time the various towns of Three Forks functioned under a ceasefire, if not at actual peace.
In 4252, a group of Prime explorers successfully avoided or defeated all of the dangerous monsters around and made contact with the Pahaxa. There's a great deal of stonework in Inamasa, and the Primes soon found out about the stone trees. They purchased as many rock blossoms as they could afford and their sky ship carry, at rates much better than Inamasa was getting from their other trade partners on Nrastheia. The Primes promised to return to trade for more; the Pahaxa said they'd be welcome.
In mid-4253, the next Prime skyship returned to trade with Inamasa, and regular trading voyages were established for every two months thereafter, omitting Surprise. Soon, Inamasa's neighbors were envious of her new influx of wealth. A couple of them made arrangements to trade with the Primes themselves.
In 4254, the Yuldakai discovered just whom Inamasa was trading with. The Yuldakai methodically scouted the Prime's route, crafted their battle plans, and ambushed the Prime skyship and their escort on the way out. The Yuldakai captured both ships and slaughtered nearly everyone aboard; only a few managed to survive by escaping unseen.
The Pahaxa of Inamasa were furious when they learned of what had befallen her new trading partners. The Yuldakai were unrepentant; they refused to apologize or make restitution, and stated that they looked forward to doing it again if the Primes returned. Frustrated, Inamasa sent a message to warn the Primes that they needed to avoid the Yuldakai at all costs if they ever returned.
Some months later, in 4255, the Primes returned with a small scouting skyship, heading directly for Ulkoro. They flew a parley banner and announced in common that they wished to talk, not fight. The Yuldakai used their best ranged weapons to attempt to destroy the Prime ship. The Prime vessel dodged, and threatened dire consequences for the Yuldakai if they did not honor the flag of parley. The Yuldakai tried to destroy the ship again. It teleported out of range and flew off.
A couple of hours later, a Prime warship sailed in. It shattered holes in Ulkoro's (admittedly unimpressive) city wall, blanketed Ulkoro with living, thrashing, thorn-covered vines, then rained fire and poisonous snakes upon it. Prime archers and mages targeted any armed Yuldakai who attempted to flee. Those Yuldakai who managed to survive long enough to surrender were allowed to depart.
The Primes took possession of what remained of Ulkoro, including her now-badly-damaged stone tree orchard.
None of the other monster races in the area attempted to stop them.
The surviving Yuldakai have scattered to the other nonprime towns, after pledging to follow their laws and not to provoke the Primes. Most of the Yuldakai are sincere about this. Most of them also harbor dreams of vengeance anyway.
In the years since, colonists have trickled in to found a new Prime city, Durucort, on the site of Ulkoro, lured by the promise of easy amber in the land where stone grows on trees. An enchanter from Ketheria was contracted at great expense to construct city walls around the site; those were completed in mid-4258, and while they don't compare to the walls of an established Prime city, they're better than anything the monster towns possess. Since then, the trickle of colonists has increased considerably.
The Pahaxa curse has not yet manifested, or if it has, it's been kept quiet by the people involved. [[The GM does not promise that the Pahaxa curse will work as described in the beta rules. ]]
The existence of Durucort, which has already grown beyond the bounds Ulkoro occupied, has upset the balance of power in the area and it has yet to settle back. No one really wants to fight the Primes, after what happened to the Yuldakai, but no one wants to let the Primes crowd them out or take over. So the various monster towns and communities are generally pulling together more tightly, to make sure the Primes see them as a force to be reckoned with.
So far, Durucort and its representatives have been cordial and respectful of most of their monster neighbors. The Primes do not let nonprimes live in their city, but they'll grant visas to nonprimes from the local cities to visit.
For now, there is peace among the different sapients. No one knows how long it's going to last, but in an effort to maintain it the different leaders have organized a Interspecies Guard, comprised of members of all races, including Primes. The Interspecies Guard's purpose is to keep the peace, investigate disputes among the different communities, and protect the peoples of Three Forks from hostile monsters.
Communities of Three Forks
Name: Inamasa (town)
Population: 3400 Pahaxa, 30 Yuldakai, 0-20 Wherriwheffles
City Walls: Inamasa has a physical wall, about 10 feet tall wade of meng, reinforced with pieces of rock blossoms to make it sturdier, and also to make it harder to affect with magic. There's also a mindful Pyrador enchantment around the city, which can set unauthorized intruders and unwanted fliers on fire.
Government: Inamasa is ruled by a Council of elders, who generally represent various interests in the city. Council members choose their successors, subject to veto by the Council. All of the councillors are currently Pahaxa.
Religion: The Pahaxa worship the four angels Ra, Mel, Es, and Lei, in four movable temples.
Appearance: A very pretty town with a lot of small, cute houses and well-groomed gardens. They do not have enough stone from rock blossoms to build with it exclusively, but the town center has a floor set with polished granite tiles sliced from blossoms, and stone statuary or accents on buildings are common.
Name: Kinnawheffle (village)
Population: 200 Wherriwheffles
Government: None to speak of
City walls: None
Description: Kinnawheffle is a collection of poorly-constructed and worse-maintained sprawling longhouses, separated by pastures and farmland, dotted by barns. The barns are usually in better shape than the longhouses, and the farms and livestock also get more care. Everything in Kinnawheffle is regarded as communal property among the Wherriwheffles, although most of the time the Wherriwheffles will defer to whoever's taking care of it. This is how most Wherriwheffles think all towns work. It's not true that "Wherriwheffles always steal"; most of the time, Wherriwheffles will not take something if it looks like someone else is taking care of it/made it/etc. It's just that no one ever remembers the 95% of things you didn't take when they're obsessing over the one little thing that you did.
Population: 2200 Taptet, 170 Pahaxa, 40 Yuldakai, 30 Wherriwheffles, 100 Conlee, 1 Nyacanth
Government: The Nyacanth, Dread Lord Inyocoryo, rules the city with advice from a cabinet of Taptet. The Dread Lord selects candidates for the various cabinet posts. Final selection from among the candidates is made by general election by Taptet citizens.
City Walls: Physical walls of meng. A mindful enchantment detects unauthorized fliers and other intruders, and warns the Wiloto guard.
Description: Taptet take the Cabinet elections quite seriously; others regard them as a kind of sporting event of no practical effect. The Cabinet never disagrees in public with anything Inyocoryo wishes to do. In other cities, it's assumed the Cabinet is a puppet government of Inyocoryo.
Wiloto has three tiers of citizenship: first, second, and third. First-class can vote in the cabinet elections. Second class have the right to own real estate and animals, to operate businesses, and employ other sapients. Third class have the right to live and work within the city and to apply for second-class status. Noncitizens and foreigners may only stay in the city for a maximum of two weeks at a time, unless sponsored by a first or second-class citizen, or indentured to one.
All sapients born legally within Wiloto are automatically third-class citizens. A foreigner may become a third-class citizen by being sponsored, or by living as an indentured servant in Wiloto for four years. Anyone can become a second-class citizen by being unindentured and passing a written and oral exam covering history, natural science, math, literature, and any skilled profession of the subject's choice. Many sapients go through a period of indenture as payment for their schooling; the populace as a whole is literate and well-educated. Only Taptet may become first class citizens. To do so, they must already be second-class, and must take a pledge to defend the city with their lives, and to drink Taptet potions if necessary in the town's defense. About a third of Wiloto's adult Taptets are first-class citizens. Another third of adult Taptet are second-class citizens. Most of the non-Taptet are third-class, as are all children. (Legally, if you can pass the tests to become a second-class citizen, you are an adult regardless of age.)
Wiloto is not as prosperous as some of its neighbors. It does not have its own stone tree orchard, for instance. But it has a well-earned reputation for being orderly and safe, and a high degree of class mobility. It has many skilled craftsmen and tinkerers, and the First School of Three Forks, which has two departments of magic: Practical Magic, which focuses on feather-casting and those spells which are useful even at very low-power, and Life Enhancement, which is devoted not so much to Healoc Corpador as to research in the treatment of disease, deformity, and life prolongation -- especially for the city's conlee population. The city has very few enchanted devices compared to a Prime city, but they've been able to afford some useful city-wide spells like the alarm system for their wall.
Population: 3000 Cyarr (urban) 2500 Etsevvi (rural), 20 Wherriwheffles, 200 Pahaxa, 200 Taptet
Government: All of the land in Brieholt is owned and controlled by nobility (occasionally plots of land will be bequeathed to non-noble individuals, in which case they will receive a minor title along with the bequest.) There are several Great Houses that each control various aspects of city government: one Great House is chartered with Defense of Brieholt, another with the City Guard, one with Upkeep of Public Places, and so forth. A Great House may be Challenged by another noble house for the right to perform that duty instead. Each noble house gets a number of votes proportionate to its authority in the town's Council of the Exchequer, which determines how taxes are levied and allocated among the nobility.
Description: The Cyarr and Etsevvi of Three Forks are the closest allies among the nonprime races in the region. Legend among the Etsevvi says that the Etsevvi were driven by the Singularity from their ancestral home in a branch high above. The Singularity was a plague of vicious many-bodied monsters, like Chromodon, except each body was different and there were thousands of them. The Etsevvi were rescued from the Singularity by a group of Cyarr, who were led by a powerful seer, Orara the Farsighted. Orara foresaw that there could be no security for either sapient race on this branch, and promised to lead them to a new and fertile land.
Orara wrote the legendary Book of Visions, wherein she wrote down numerous prophecies for her people. The Book of Visions, along with most of their early written history, was destroyed during a civil war between Etsevvi and Cyarr. Most of the details of Orara's prophecies were lost at that time, with only a handful being retained in Etsevvi song-stories. One that remains: "Cyarr and Etsevvi will prosper for a hundred generations, so long as they remain united. But when they let divisions set them against one another, they will know only hardship and pain" -- a prophecy proven true multiple times over the many centuries since the two peoples came to Three Forks. The most famous incident is the first,, which started when the leaders of Etsevvi and Cyarr, Hooniyah and Nrurath, quarelled over whether their prosperity was due to Etsevvi farming and healing, or Cyarr warriors and protection. The resulting war was so destructive that both leaders are reviled by their descendants, and their names are synonymous with folly and idiocy.
Orara also foretold that a new species would come to Three Forks, that would "have a seeming small and weak, yet you must not cast them out nor enslave them. Make of them your allies, for with them will lie your only hope of salvation, when the Singularity comes to take and destroy all that you have built upon this green branch."
Various species have been considered to be fulfillment of this prophecy: Taptet, Conlee, Pahaxa, and most recently even Primes --- although most Cyarr and Etsevvi think the Primes are (a) not one species and (b) hardly weak, although they certainly didn't "seem" as powerful as they turned out to be. But Brieholt tries to stay on reasonably good terms with all of those races, just in case.
By tradition, the Cyarr of Brieholt are its protectors and guardians. Cyarr enforce the laws and protect the city from invaders and nonsapient monsters. The Cyarr are the most powerful ritual mages of the Three Forks region, and Brieholt has the Orara Foundation of Knowledge, regarded as the best school of magic in the area. Its focus is mainly on spellcasting and ritual magic, not enchanting or spellweaving, and it does not teach feather-casting at all.
The Etsevvi raise livestock, train animals, and do almost all of the farming in Brieholt Mene. Brieholt has the safest mene in Three Forks, protected by regular Cyarr patrols. In addition to farming, Etsevvi make up the majority of Brieholt's priests, for all seven Verbs and Corpador. They train healers at their own small guild, and are quite good at it. Most of the judges in Brieholt are Etsevvi
Population: 800 Rassimel, 1600 Orren, 700 Herethroy, 1200 Cani, 62 Khtsoysis, 28 Gormorror, 0-3 Zi Ri, 0-6 Sleeth
Government: Durucort is chartered by the Vigalla Expedition and Colonization Company. Their charter requires VECC to provide for the city's defense (VECC had their city walls built, for example) and Durucort to send twenty tons of stone or 10% or their stone crop to VECC (whichever is higher). Additionally, there's a 10% transaction tax in Durucort, payable to the VECC. There's also an elected mayor and a council, neither of which have the power to tax. The city services (such as they are) are funded by a property tax enacted by a general vote. Mayor and Councillor are unpaid positions: the city funds generally go to services like trash disposal and road maintenance. The VECC pays the city guard.
Description: A frontier town with a high percentage of adventurers and a lot of female Herethroy eager to make a name for themselves and perhaps win a family. Durucort primes are generally polite, friendly people who're happy to help out other settlers and kindly even to nonprimes. Reputation is everything in Durucort, however: if word gets around that you are a liar/thief/cheat/etc., you may quickly find the locals become hostile.