Thursday, September 27, 2007

Inking and Coloring

We did all of the mechanical creation for our Burning Empires world last week, but this week we fleshed out the color a bit more. Here’s what we came up with.

The Planet

The world is predominantly ocean, though with large polar ice caps. There are a handful of Cuba-sized islands, and uncountable numbers of smaller ones. Because dry land is so scarce, many of islands’ cities extend under the surface of the water. There are also a number of artificial, floating islands.

There is a considerable amount of geologic activity on the planet. Volcanism, and particularly new island formation, is common.

The planet’s habitable zone is in a narrow band around the equator. Islands within this region are much like the South Pacific, though slightly cooler. The polar regions are extensive and inimical to human life. One of large islands is just on the edge of this zone.

The People

With regards to culture, we’ve got a few things going on that form the basis for the game. First, the planet’s inhabitants regard personal, one-on-one relationships and interactions as very important. They tend not to interact much as large groups. These include all sort of interactions, including commerce. There’s practically no such thing as a solitary transaction. You buy your bread not from the person who offers it at the cheapest price, but from the person you’ve bought bread from for twenty years.

Second, the society is polyandrous. This is due in part to biological factors (low male fertility rates, high gender imbalance), but also to social roles. Men are expected to sacrifice themselves for their families. They take the high-risk roles in society, and they may very well end up dead. Women are expected to bind the community together.

Third, generosity is seen as a virtue and a source of prestige. However, it puts the receiver in the giver’s debt. While gifts are supposed to be given without expectation of reciprocity, in practice the receiver usually does all she or he can to respond in kind.

Fourth, the Church occupies a unique role in society. While many of the planet’s inhabitants are followers of Ahmilakh, they no longer trust the Church to rule them. This is because in order to join the Mundus Humanitas, you must formally sever all ties to your family. (This is essentially the only way for a divorce to occur.) The locals believe that this “apartness” is the reason the Church failed to protect them during the Vaylen invasion. They are still held in high regard, however, and they occupy an important role in society as formal observers of important processes, due to their apparent impartiality.

Fifth, the war against the Vaylen was a “Good War.” The Vaylen are seen as a lot like the Nazis. There’s a local variation on Godwin’s Law: the first person to mention the Vaylen in an argument loses. Most of the Church accepts their exile on the southern island as their fate for failing the people in the war.

What emerges out of this are some fun secondary effects.

You get large, complicated family arrangements (we’re calling them clans). Because commerce is based on long-term relationships and there are an excess of males, major business deals are often solemnized with marriage. One measure of a woman’s status is the number of husbands she has.

Women, as guardians of the family’s relationships, are in charge of all mercantile activity, and by extension, transport. Women make up the major of the planet’s Hammer forces, especially the officer corps.

Violent conflict between clans is uncommon, as they often have many mutual interests and common members. The boundaries between clans are very hazy. However, when two clans do eventually decide that an issue must be settled by violent means, they may declare vendetta on each other. This involves a formal ceremony, supervised by the Church, where every member of both clans either declares or renounces their membership in the family group. Those that declare themselves outside the conflict are inviolate. The other clans swear not to interfere until the dispute is settled. This often results in the annihilation of one or both clans.

The other group that’s outside of the social system (though not formally) are the pirates. They’re predominately made of lower-class people who reject the Church’s teachings on fate. They believe their place in society is preordained, and they reject many of the normal social structures of the culture.

That’s it for now. We also made good progress on getting the characters fleshed out, but I’ll talk more about them in a future post.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

This World’s On Fire

Our next game? Burning Empires. Here’s what we came up with last night.

Galactic Location: Casiguran Outworld
Atmospheric Conditions: Human Life-Supporting
Hydrology: Predominantly Liquid
Topography: Broken Terrain
Tech Index: Low
Government: Noble Fief
Factions: Serfs and Slaves, Organized Crime, Merchant League, Theocratic Institutions
Predominant Military: Lords-Pilot
Planetary Attitude Towards Vaylen: Educated
Primary Industry: Raw Materials
Quarantine: Advanced Quarantine (Livestock, pets, offworld labor, travelers, cryonic machinery)
Economic Regulation: Moderately Regulated (Psychology, immigrant labor, sex trade)

Vaylen Disposition: 21/25/23
Human Disposition: 21/26/28

So what we’re picturing so far is a water-dominated planet, with lots of little islands. The oceans of this world produce some sort animal product for export. The Nobility maintains a monopoly not only on Hammer and Anvil, but also on transportation, which they lease out to the Merchant League. This, of course, leads to a thriving pirate community.

The back-story we’ve agreed upon is that the world used to be controlled by the Mundus Humanitas church. However, when the Vaylen invaded previously (a long time ago), the church was ineffective, and merchants banded together to fight off the invasion. The church was shamed, and the leader of the merchants was Ennobled by the Imperial Court (thus driving a wedge between the merchants and their highly effective leader). The current Forged Lady is matrilineal descendant of the resistance leader.

Next step: Figures of Note.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Short Thoughts About A Long Game

Ted, Christina, and I have been wanting to play Here I Stand for quite a while now. Today, we finally got the chance. My brief opinion: The three-player Tournament scenario is probably the best version for me to play. It’s got a lot of cool stuff going on, but it’s a little too long for me. Especially with six players, I don’t think I’d enjoy a full game.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

G Is For Gaming

During August and September, I played games at three different events starting with the letter G.


As usual, I got play one game at GenCon, but it was a doozy. A while back, Judd Karlman from the Sons of Kryos floated the idea of Star Wars Episode LV. It was basically Star Wars reinterpreted through the God-Emperor of Dune lens. Several people, including myself, thought “Heck, yeah!” So we played it at GenCon, using Primetime Adventures for the engine (a game which Judd describes as his “Narrative GURPS”). And it rocked. Hopefully recordings of the game will pop up soon, because it was one of the most satisfying convention games I’ve ever played.


Speaking of satisfying, the game of Grey Ranks I played at Gateway was remarkably fulfilling. It’s designed as a three-session game, but we were able to play out a beautiful little story arc in just one, using Jason’s recommended setup. I talked more about this one over on The Voice.

I also got to play in the third installment of Denys’ Heroes of Middle-Earth game. This time around we seriously derailed Tolkien’s timeline by killing Smaug twelve hundred years before The Hobbit. Sadly, our hobbit companion died in the process. He was buried in Rivendell, a place he greatly loved.

On the last day of convention, I managed to sneak away from the booth long enough for a game of The Napoleonic Wars. I once again took the field as Austria, and after a two-turn game featuring an incredible French attack on Britain (Napoleon was in London on turn one, and Bagration was unable to get him out), I managed to pull off the win. It was definitely a case of being the guy no one was worried about, though I did manage a bit of a finesse at the end of turn two to keep France out of my capital.

Gwen’s Birthday

For Gwen’s birthday party, we had a few people over to play some board games. While we waited for everyone else to arrive, the early arrivals broke out Tongiaki, which I’d played a few times before. I think I agree with Roy: this one is best with three. Otherwise, the chaos and downtime make it not quite as fun as I’d want a game this light to be.

After that, we finally broke the shrink-wrap off of our copy of Amun-Re. We’d all played it before, but it had been a while. I think we all overpaid for auctions early in the game; I know I did, and I saw how badly it hurt me. I was glad this hit the table again, as it really is an excellent game.

Finally, we played a long game of A Game of Thrones, which Gwen had been wanting to try for a while. It went a bit a longer than all of us would have liked, but I still enjoyed it. Once again, I played Stark, but this time my conservative strategy held me back a little. I had a shot at the win, but I needed to have moved a turn earlier to really have a chance.