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.


Blogger Brad said...

Hey Paul, what are the chances of a AP recording of your Burning Empires game (as you did with Polaris). I'm reading the massive tome that is the BE rule book and I think it would be nice to have an AP recording to listen to before actually playing this monster.

1:21 PM  

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