Monday, August 3, 2020

Glory To the Deprived Tag!

Electric Bastionland is a fantastik game for so many reasons. Today we're not going to talk about any of them and instead talk about the Deprived tag.

I love the Deprived tag. I love this tag more than I love existence itself. It is pure elegance in design. The pinnacle of anything Chris McDowall has written. It does not get better than this my friends!

Within this single word a myriad of circumstance and situation are open to you!

You're Deprived if you don't wear this tiny hat.
You're Deprived if you don't take this drug.
You're Deprived if you get lonely.

Somehow this tag condenses down what might have been a positive grab-bag of official and house rules that go on for paragraphs into a... single... word...

So Glory To The Deprived Tag! Finest Mechanic To Grace The Pages Of Any RPG!

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Worldbuilding Queerness: Examples

Follow up to this post. Some examples of how to go about it.

High up in the tall mountains where the air is bitter and thin and the snows do not melt there live the Root-Folk who farm the starchy tubers and herd the great hairy yaks. The Root-Folk organize themselves into clans based around their stepped farmlands, essentially being large familial units.

Roles are gendered and split. Men do the work of farming the tubers, repairing structures, and crafting wood. Women do the work of herding the yaks, weaving the wool, and raising children. Both men and women do battle against the other clans. 

Traditionally there are two sorts of marriage, that for the purposes of conceiving and raising a child, which lasts as long as the two parties agree to raise said child together. And that for the purposes of inter clan alliances, which lasts as long as the good graces of the two clans does.

However in both cases partners are allowed, and indeed expected, to keep lovers of either gender. Both forms of marriage are more akin to mutual agreements towards a goal (the first being raising a child, the second being an alliance) with other relationships freely permissible. 

Ancient Mesopotamian Civilization - Sada El balad

Among the Kulnites of the great river cities when a parent is pregnant they will preform a specific ritual to ensure the preferred gender of the baby they give birth too. Of course the result is not always exactly what the parent desired. 

When this happens it is assumed (even to the parents disappointment) that the gods intervened for their own obscure purposes. Such a child is deemed God-Touched and now has two options in life. When they reach the traditional age of adulthood, being fifteen among the Kulnites, they must choose between joining the priesthood and following their parents craft.

Joining the priesthood offers potentially great wealth and influence but comes at the cost of cutting all ties with their family. A difficult choice to make.

Regardless of their choice, all God-Touched are raised to the expectations of their own unique gender. Not quite woman or man, something all of its own. While either man's or woman's work are open for pursuit, they are expected to walk a fine line between not favoring one or other for fear of angering the gods. 

While the priesthood may not sire children without divine permission (granted by the Arch-Priest), God-Touched may lay with those who they please. A freedom not granted to the other genders.

Of course, both of these examples are rather tame and do not even take into account magic and other potential speculative aspects. But they're good examples of how this kind of thing should go. 

If you would like this to be regular thing, creating examples of worldbuilding queerness, please leave a comment!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Make Players Choose To Be Kind

One big advantage to an assumed amoral style of play/setting that not many people talk about is how it forces players to actively have to be kind. 

In other play styles (notably WotC "heroic fantasy") the "goodness" of the heroes is usually treated as default. The players and their actions are "good" because they are the "heroes" and this is part of the reason that such extreme murderhobo behavior can be found in such settings. When players just are the "heroes" not dependent of their actions it can create a disconnect to the reality. 

This often is further worsened by NPCs just ignoring players actual behavior and other railroading problems. It makes players want to have an impact on the world so they start going to extremes, classic murderhobo behavior. 

So instead assume amorality. Treat players and NPCs like their people. Complicated and ultimately ever changing. If players are to do good then they must actual actively do good. 

Salt Lake Valley COVID-19 Mutual Aid | Utah Pride Center

When good deeds arise naturally out of the players choices, especially when players rejected other options that were more beneficial to them, it is immensely satisfying. Far more than if players are just assumed to be heroic by default. It gives agency and meaning to player choice.

It also teaches and reinforces that fact that kindness is something that takes effort which can be an important moral when playing with younger players.

An important thing to remember when putting this to practice, though, is that even if being unkind, cruel, or selfish would net the players more benefits they should still get rewards from the kind option. Just adjust accordingly. Save the thief's life? Brand new best friend. 

Rewards for kindness should be in the relationships the players build within the world.

I think ultimately the key advantage to this is just that it is so much more satisfying for players to decide to be the heroes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Queerness, Worldbuilding Culture, & Ursula K. Le Guin

So this post was prompted by my love for Ewa's wonderful Worldbuilding Notes YouTube channel which you should defiantly go check out, like right now. I'll wait.

River Basin | Getting Dressed by Worldbuilding Notes
From The River Basin: The Queen and her Kings

So, one of the big influences Ewa cites is Ursula K. Le Guin, a favorite author of mine as well. This got me thinking about how we worldbuild culture in our games (as well as more broadly in speculative fiction). And how we depict and include queerness and diversity in our works.

Ursula K. Le Guin - Wikipedia

The most common method I have seen (both in game worlds and story worlds) is the "Everyone" style, where gay, trans, none-binary folk, and all are included and fully accepted in the world. Essentially the no prejudice, no hate model.

Now, and let me be clear about this, There Is Nothing Wrong With This Way Of Doing Things, it creates a more diverse setting and incorporates queer people into the fiction. As well, for many, it offers a safe refuge from real world hate. People can and should still make worlds like this.

But for the purposes of this post, I'd like to explore a different method of doing things

When endeavoring to make stranger, more interesting cultures it is important to keep in mind that much of what we consider as normal is utterly baseless and only a symptom of our culture, not necessarily a universal. This applies to almost all matters from gender to warfare. What is and isn't considered obscene. What is and isn't masculine or feminine. All of these things are potentially points to vary and change in pursuit of a more unique culture. 

However one must also consider the ways in which the environment will shape a culture. Things do not exist in a vacuum after all. It is here where I would recommend watching Ewa's videos again for they contain many examples of how environments, and especially magical or supernatural influences, can shape how a society develops. Also they are just a delight to watch.

So, when making cultures for fictional worlds one should take the time to consider ones personal bias and cultural norms and decide how this cultural may differ to those. Is weaponry obscene? How does marriage work? 

Now back around to queerness. It should go without saying that modern (and especially "western") ideas about gender and sexuality are far, far, so very far from being universal. In many real societies across the globe queer people have often been deeply tied into cultural practices.

Essentially the point I'm making is to Include Queerness In Your Cultures As Integrated Parts Of That Culture. Consider how sexuality and gender tie into spirituality. Consider how they don't tie into spirituality. How does gender work? Do people stay the same gender over time? How does this tie into what work people do? Are their groups that are marginalized in this culture?

So this post was a bit ramble and probably not as concise or clear as it should have been. I'll probably do a followup sometime. If you have any questions about my reason please feel free to ask!  (also go watch Worldbuilding Notes. Dooo itttt.)

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Mister Slip


You can find him fishing off the end of a pier down in the Red Quarter on sunny days. Elsewise you can find him selling his catch down at the fish market. 

He's an older, well muscled man skin turned a deep brown from decades of sun. An ancient unkept beard obscures his near constant frown. A loincloth and a bright, golden-yellow turban are his only clothes. His fingers are long, gnarled, and incredibly quick.

Mister Slip's customers respect him well for he sells the finest fish this side of the Old Wall and does not take kindly to rudeness. 

He is a kind man though despite his omnipresent frown and little tolerance for insult and often gives gifts to struggling customers.

Mister Slip is also one of the finest thieves ever born.  

A lifetimes worth of practice has honed his skill to a point. He is far more agile than his age would imply and if so inclined can contour his way through the narrowest of gaps. Picking your pocket is a trivial matter to him, you won't even notice an item is gone till he's holding in front of you.

He does not thieve often, and frankly finds the whole matter tedious nowadays. He much prefers to spend his time fishing in the sun. 

Mister Slip
Dex 18, Cha 16, A Well Placed Smack (d6)
- Wants to peacefully fish and help his neighbors
- Says he is "far to old to fight" but can and will still beat your ass

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Salt Mummies

Those who in eternity serve the Salt God, he who Preserves, become Salt Mummies and are set to guard the ancient temples and preservation tombs of their faith. So long has it been since they were mummified that little of their faith remains. Yet they soldier on.

Ancient Iranian Salt Mine Mummies - Ancient History Encyclopedia

A Salt Mummy is created by first either drowning the volunteer (and they must be willing) in salt water or suffocating them. No blood must be spilled. Once deceased the body is carefully cut open and all the organs are removed and preserved in a canopic jar full of salt. Then the body itself is placed to mummify in a barrel or pit of salt. 

On the third month of this process the body blemishes and wounds will began to knit and be filled by cysts of salt. When the entire body is intact the newly reborn Salt Mummy will awaken for eternity.

Despite their shriveled, papery form a Salt Mummy is very much alive and aware of their surroundings. They are lucid and usually well-spoken (seeing as only the most prestigious would be interred) and more often than not are polite and welcoming to visitors.

However they will fly murderous rages and easily butcher the unwary if you seek or have disturbed or profaned their sacred places.

As long as their canopic jar is intact a Salt Mummy cannot die. Any wounds they take will knit themselves over with salt cysts. Some of the more ancient ones have almost completely been replaced with salt. The others greatly honor these sorts for they have been replaced almost entirely with the truest essence of preservation.

Salt Mummy-
Str 12, Cha 13, HP 6, Clawing (d6)
Any injury will heal at 1 Str/1 hp per round if not actively prevented.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

The Elephant's Revenge

Philadelphia Museum of Art

A smooth, elegant flintlock pistol carved from ivory. To it is bound the tortured, ill-content ghost of the very beast killed to make it's polished white stock. The gun's shot echoes with the death wails of that elephant and its bullets gouge victims like tusks.

The pistol's maker died not longer after its completion. They flung themselves under the feet of a local circus elephant. The client who commissioned it was said to have acquired a disturbing love for dueling afterward. Not many realized that she would consistently pick fights with hunters and poachers. Particularly those of big game. 

The pistol has since wound its way through many hands till it ended up in the private collection of the Duke of Violets, noted collector of esoteric weaponry. There it sits in a locked glass case only occasionally emitting a low mournful trumpet for its terrible fate.

The Elephants Revenge (flintlock pistol)
- does d6 dmg normally, d8 dmg against hunters and poachers
- owner recognizes hunters and poachers as such on sight
- owner feels the urge to kill these sorts
- if the owner is such themselves on a 1 they suffer a misfire and later that day they will suffer some tragic mishap while cleaning their weapon