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Title: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: shadowcourt on January 23, 2008, 09:04:20 AM
So, I'm at it again. Loving, as I do, all things Near, I wanted to take a crack at the dwarves and Goren setting which are talked about in the design log for TSOY, but left out of the actual book. I'm truthfully at odds with my own instincts here; I think I've resisted posting anything on this in the past in some sort of weird hope that Clinton would pop out of nowhere and post his own amazing ideas, which are always an incredible jumping-off point for my own. I don't think I can hold a candle to his inventiveness, but I also know that if I don't post my own ideas on the matter, we're unlikely to ever have a discussion about it here, and it all comes to nothing.

Right off the bat, I thought I'd ask if others are using dwarves or other dwarf-like ideas in their Shadow of Yesterday games. If so, and you have ideas you'd care to share, I'd love to see them, and I'm sure others would be interested, as well.

In the spirit of sharing, I figure I'll offer my own take, to get the ball rolling. I should warn everyone that this is me riffing heavily off of Clinton's design notes from the oldest version of TSOY, so I can hardly claim the ideas as original. They're my take on the sketchy notes there, and I've twisted some things to suit my tastes. So, here goes:

---

Dwarves are the progeny of elemental entities, alien intelligences who have existed since the formation of Near. These progenitors were not gentle river spirits or wood nymphs, but the elementals which drove the raw engine of creation in the places which are the most inhospitable to life--the hearts of volcanos, the depths of the ocean, the grinding tectonic plates, the frozen poles, and the howling hearts of winds and storms. While they had tended to the greater works of the world for centuries, they watched in fascination as life grew on the surface of Near, and the first humanoid races struggled to survive. The elementals were intrigued by life which approached theirs in intellect, if not in scope or interests, and puzzled over these new species' development of tools, dwellings, varied languages, faiths, philosophies, and national identities. What did these concepts mean? What were these tools for? What secrets about the world did flesh-life understand that the elementals could not?

The elementals were, by their very nature, inhuman minds. Incapable of understanding by mere observation, they are creatures of action and process, who know the world through creation and interaction. Desirious of a better comprehension of their new planet-mates, they utilized the only method which made sense to them whereby they could truly understand "life": they created their own. The elementals created creches where they could unite with others of their kind, harnessing their creative energy to shape flesh-and-blood beings. These were the first dwarves, born of inorganic parentage, a tradition which the species carries on to this day.

The elemental progenitors knew very little about raising their offpsring, and the first generations of dwarves were shaky experiments. With little understanding of flesh life, the elementals had a tendency towards the over-production of males, a trend which continues to this day (though dwarven population maintains a sizable minority of females and hermaphroditic dwarves, as well). Their creations were shorter and stouter than humans and elves, given to swarthiness and prolific facial hair, but built for endurance and raw physical might. The elementals imparted something of their fierce power into the dwarven frame, a durability and might that dwarves have learned to harness over the centuries. Beyond mere strength and endurance, many dwarves find it easy to call on their quasi-elemental nature to sense natural forces and utilize them. Most dwarves are clearly associated with one or more birth elements, which define something of their nature. Flame dwarves often have fiery red or golden hair and beards, gleaming bright eyes, and passionate natures, quick to fly to wrath or inspiration. It is not uncommon for these dwarves to be able to sense heat, and resist the effects of extreme temperatures. Earth dwarves have a keen eye for stonework, mining, gem-cutting, and smithing, and are marked by even more-than-typical burliness, compactness, and solid frames. Their skin is sometimes as dense as stone, allowing them to shrug off blows which would fell another creature.

Despite these birthrights, death tolls in the first generations of dwarves were alarming. Keeping their new offspring close to themselves, the elementals made homes for the dwarves in lonely and remote places--caverns beneath the earth, island chains far out at sea, the peaks of mountains, the barren lands of glaciers and tundra, poisonous swamps, and other even stranger locales. The elementals knew little of food, clothing, shelter, or tool use--all abstract human customs they had watched but whose signifiance they had never comprehended. Those dwarves who were lucky enough to come to maturity did so under the tutelage of elemental patrons who knew something of living creatures--flame elementals which could teach the importance of consuming fuel, water and air elementals which could provide drinkable water, breathable air, and the animal bounty of those environments. Studying the animals around them, dwarves became more instinctually clever and cunning, but also capable of caring for each other and raising their own young. It was only with time, as the first generations of dwarves came to maturity that they were available to nurture the newly-created infants themselves and the species truly began to flourish.

Life was a struggle for these first generations of dwarves; even acquiring food and simple tools required them to utilize everything in their environment, which has shaped the species' reputation for ruthless pragmatism. All too often, other species mistake that willingness to acquire and utilize everything around them for greed; to the dwarven mindset, it is simply a means of survival. Survival in these desolate places taught dwarves hardiness and inter-dependence; every dwarf had to pull his own weight, and be able to trust in his brethren to do the same. Dwarves are more than willing to raid foreign clanholds and the settlements of other species if that's what it takes to survive. Seagoing pirate vessels crewed by water dwarves, skyships of swift-moving air dwarves, and desert raiding parties of sand and flame dwarves, are regular menaces in some parts of Near. When convenient, dwarves are perfectly willing to trade with other communities; the earthen and fiery dwarves have learned that the mineral and metal wealth of their subterranean homes can buy vast resources of food and other worked goods which are essential for the community's survival.

While the elemental creators of the dwarves remained watchful, they had little interest in directly controlling their experiment, and were content to birth new dwarves and leave them to develop in a manner which suited the new life best. The detached feeling is not mutual; dwarven reverence for their elemental progenitors comes close to worship, leading to a curious state of affairs. Dwarves are technically capable of sexual reproduction, but most dwarven clans see the act of creating their own kind as a holy act reserved for the elementals who first birthed them, and thus enforce strong taboos against sex. This causes no shortage of problems: dwarves are born with the sex drives of any other humanoid creature, and most find that their yearnings are at odds with the dire warnings of the patriarchs and clanwardens. Dwarven society has no social norms around romantic love, and regard it as a dangerous aberration which interferes with filial love, the inter-connectedness and reliance which all dwarves should express for each other. Romantic love is a threat--an impulse which would place one dwarf over another despite their relative status or utility; if a patriach would save a "lover" before a clanwarden, he has lost his sense of scope, and has succumbed to a madness which the clan cannot tolerate. Beneath this intense social control are a simmering stew of passions as dwarves struggle to conceal and control their urges for each other; no wonder that many dwarves turn to maniacal obssessions with acquiring wealth or power, or become zealous warriors, finding any other opportunity to spend their emotional turbulence on other pursuits. Some dwarves are forced flee their clanholds to consumate their love for each other, or find secret solace in the arms of members of other species.

Most dwarves are raised to feel intense brotherly love for their own siblings, but they have no parental or material feelings save those directed at their elemental creators. As such, a dwarf who dies is never a revered ancestor or cherished child, merely a fallen brother or cousin. There is no veneration of the dead in dwarven clans; instead, the possessions of the deceased, and even their bodies, are put to immediate use. Dwarves are perfectly content to use items made of the bones of their dead brethren, or entirely reanimate their fallen siblings as gaunts, stoic undead guardians tasked to watch over clan-holds or fight in dwarven armies.

Interactions with other species have been strained over the centuries. Dwarves have a tendency to regard humans as frail and untrustworthy, and elves as contemplative, self-involved dreamers with no hold on reality. The dwarven party line holds goblins in special contempt as sexual prolifigates and hedonists, never seeing just how communal and convivial some goblins truly are; in truth, some dwarves have found the opportunity to consumate their lusts only in the arms of goblin paramours. In the cold south, dwarves have had a grudging respect for the savage vulfen, even though the two species are far from friendly, and more likely to meet in battle than for trade or diplomacy. Dwarven interactions with ratkin are still relatively recent, and vary from individual to individual; it is just as likely that a dwarf would respect the litter-bonds between ratkin as he would revile their duplicitous nature.

----

That's the lengthy sketch I'm working with right now. I'm tempted to throw even more complexity into the mix by saying that since the Year of Shadow the elemental progenitors have become increasingly lethargic, remote, or in some clanholds disappeared all together. This forces the issue of where a future generation of dwarves is coming from to the fore, and requires a species which has never relied on sexual reproduction to consider it as their only option for survival. As such, there would be awkward, heavily controlled and monitored breeding plans established, where dwarves would be expected to mate in ritual chambers under the watchful eyes of clanwardens, who insist on ensuring that no further connection is formed between the dwarven lovers. It puts the society in an even greater turmoil, and while it wouldn't have to be the case in all of the clanholds (some of which still have a low number of dwarves born each year/decade at the hands of the elementals), it could be a fun twist to add narrative challenges for the players who want them.

Any thoughts? Things that people would recommend adding, changing, or scrapping all together? Ideas which people are using which would dovetail nicely? Stuff that I've clearly missed or not considered?

Looking forward to suggestions,

-shadowcourt (aka josh)


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on January 23, 2008, 10:16:57 AM
I like this a lot. It's amazing how much of it is like my original notes for dwarves, which I left out because I couldn't make them fit with the tone. Originally, they were all male and incapable of reproduction. They were the offspring of unions between elementals, all of which were female, and who almost always mated with unlike elementals, so that you have dwarves of earth and fire or dwarves of earth and water, for example.


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Troels on January 23, 2008, 10:41:00 AM
Whoops, cross-posting. Anyway,

Starting out with some ideas of their origins, society etc. is all well and good, but I would tend to start with motivations and Keys. So, how do they fit into the framework of what all the other species are about?

Let's see:

Humans are about love of other individuals (and hate).

Elves are about love of self. Very personally. They may hate themselves too, but that would be love/hate.

Goblins are about love of impersonal activity/substance, addiction & obsession and all it's consequences, and how the self goes soft and out of focus if you don't relate it to real people (be that yourself or others).

Ratkin are about love of the group, in a mostly non-hierarchic way -they just don't distinguish themselves much from whatever group they become part of. In loving the group, they love themselves passionately and impersonally.

Your fine new Vulfen are all about place in the hierarchy of the pack, as I understand them. Loving the army you are part of, and often hating all opponents. Possibly even potential opponents.


What are the dwarves about, in these terms?

Personally, thinking in these terms and grasping for those nice D&D-isms, I would cast dwarves as relating to tradition. What dwarves love is the idea of the family as a multi-generational entity, that has a spirit and family specific ideals. Thus, the tension of playing a dwarf is between the weight of tradition vs. change/rebellion/innovation.

If we go with that, I would toss out the romantic love stuff. In Near, that's human-specific. Sex is OK, and weird ideas about sex make for great, oppressive traditions. Mayyyybee... it could even be possible to plot a fourth corner onto the human/elf/goblin triangle? Families that go for many generations without breaking with whatever traditions they revere, making the traditions stronger and subordinating all other drives and desires to them, might eventually grow short and hairy and have an urge to seek out dark places where their pursuit of the True Way is not constantly interfered with by clamoring outsiders with strange, new ideas and unseemly urges.

This also makes for a basic dwarf PC story as obvious as the afflicted goblin. A restless dwarf, or one driven to wander because of the needs of the family, encounters strange new ideas (like romantic love) and has to reconsider the values of tradition. Will you conclude that your family has wasted generations on a narrow and myopic vision, or will you find your faith in the Ways of the Ancestors stregthened by your confrontation with the temptations, hubbub and treachery of the outside world?


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: shadowcourt on January 23, 2008, 02:35:39 PM
Hellfire, Troels. That's really good stuff.

Even as I posted the initial piece on my dwarf ideas, I was experiencing real "poster's remorse," worrying that I'd done more on background and less on actual dramatic axes of interest. The dilemma the species represented wasn't very-well fleshed out yet. They were a little static, and had more fluff than nail-biting.

One option I was considering, as a modification of my initial one, was to push things even farther into the inorganic sphere. Imagine if dwarves were almost golem-like creatures, a quasi-artificial species which propogated itself through construction and repair. This covers their traditional connection to earth and stone in an interesting new way, and can play to some of D&D's feeling of them as a gruff, traditionalist, and pragmatic race. It'd be easy to include elements of traditional dwarven greed as the material focus of a species which had no spiritual aspirations--if all they believe in is the tangible, then why would anything other than the acquisition of land, wealth, fine goods, and material-world power ever be significant?

In that sense, they feel radically different than elves or goblins, humans or ratkin, and are definitely their own thing. I confess to a love of "tin man syndrome" in my fiction and gaming, and I think some of this may be a product of following the "Battlestar Galactica in a dungeon" threads that have been going on. These dwarves definitely show some new-BSG Cylon inspiration in their conception.

But your idea is amazing. I don't know why, but I never fully clicked to how to do the dwarves as an interesting fourth party to the "human" issue in TSOY. I tried it one or two ways, but they always came out goblinesque or just boring, but I really LOVE the one you've proposed. Makes me feel a little silly for posing that stuff at such length before kicking around more ideas with everyone. But that's the beauty of threads like this. Its never too late to go back to the drawing board, and try new things.

I really like the image of the dwarf as a tradition-bound and family-focused human offshoot. The weird, somewhat inbred dwarven clan living under the ground as a withdrawn, insular and highly-hidebound and focused species is downright creepy... I think you've created the most frightening hillbillies to ever be seen in a fantasy RPG.

I can see the "sex, but no love" niche protection for humans still working nicely; dwarven marriages are matters of pragmatism, arranaged marriages between members of the same clan, but often loveless affairs. This is your responsibility to the clan: marry, make young, continue the traditions, impart the clan's values to your offspring. Your mate is just another clanmate, in some respects, someone who you're working on a project with, as opposed to in love with; no different than if you were building a house, or forging a weapon, together. And you're right in that it makes for great dwarven species transformation as love can bring a dwarf out of that state and into something more human.

Similarly, religion and war are major human axes for me in my TSOY games, traits that are unique to the human species. Other species sometimes gather and fight, but the idea of war for its own sake, of war for nationalistic ideals or faith or commerce, particularly the idea of war as industry, is a distinctly human concept. The dwarves you propose totally fit into that in a lovely way--I can see why they'd never go for unceasing war, as it exposes one too much to the outside world, away from the clan, and is simply a waste of time. Religion, as well, is just a distraction from what's really important; worshiping anything that can't be seen or felt takes the focus off of the traditions of the family and the veneration of ancestors.

Your idea raises some interesting questions as to how to do things like a Species Ability and Species Secret which really draw these ideas out. I'm tempted to just go your route, in a big way, but the crunchy stuff for this version of the dwarves has me puzzled at the moment. How do we make this different than ratkin Litter-Bond with the serial numbers filed off? Clearly, we want their Ability to be something very different. Do you think the True Way ends up being their species ability, or am I barking up the wrong tree? Knowledge of the traditions, history, and such of one's own clan is all well and good, but it makes for a weak ability by comparisson to Litter-Bond or Past-Lives, as its only applicability is among other characters who are likely to be Storyguide characters, and as often allies or supporting cast as foes. Perhaps one of the ability's perks, if we go that route, is to allow it to be chained to appropriate Crafts abilities, to represent the industries that the clan practics? This fits nicely with the D&D/Tolkien tropes of "stonecunning" and "dwarven craft," and might be a good way to increase applicability of a Species Ability.

But maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree, as I said. Hmmm.

The other aspect I'm wondering about is how that dwarven idea you suggest crosses over into other cultures. I've always enjoyed having the opportunity to explore what the various species look like out of the "classic fantasy kingdom motif" of Maldor: Zaru ratkin, Ammenite elves, Qek goblins, etc etc., particularly the ones which aren't represented as traditional in TSOY (a Zaru elf, for instance, or a ratkin in Khale). Does this germinating dwarf idea do interesting things if brought over into other communities? Does a Khalean dwarf have anything different going on than a Maldorite dwarf? Beyond the mere option of taking cultural abilities and Secrets, I mean.

Let me explain with an example: A Zaru ratkin not only has a different set of possible abilities and Secrets than his Maldorite cousin, but different social pressures on him. He might well find people who are desperate for his aid among Zaru, while his far-flung cousin often receives mistrust and contempt from the typical citizen of Maldor. Similarly, a goblin in Ammeni might be a favored pet, whereas one in Zaru is seen as a dangerous spy. Is there enough in the traditionalist-dwarf concept to make them feel different when they come from different cultures? The answer is probably yes, but I want to address the topic head-on, if possible, and not lose sight of it; if dwarves feel the same in every cultural setting, they're carrying too much culture with them already, and not embracing the Y-axis of Culture the way they should be.

My mind is buzzing now. Reforging the dwarves in this new light. Great stuff. Care to brainstorm more about them?

Anyone else have counter thoughts, or additional directions?

-shadowcourt (aka josh)


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on January 23, 2008, 06:13:36 PM
Some random crunch, potentially useful. The following assumes that dwarven families are like esoteric mystery cults, each having devolved and split during long generations into a wide variety of forms that live among different cultures. There might be members of the same family all over Near, or they could all live in one place; members of a family recognize each other by hidden signs and shared family history. Families can adopt people, although usually they do not adopt other dwarves simply because they distrust anybody who'd abandon his family. A family should usually be a colorful, ideological affair, not just a "normal family"; they should hold onto some distinct beliefs and practices.

The following also implies that once, before the Darkness, the dwarves were all part of an extended Dwarven Empire living besides and under the human world; legend has it that it was nobody else but Absalon himself who was the High King of the Dwarven Empire. Due to the way dwarven families structure and transfer authority, the dark times were very effective in splitting up the empire, of which only a few families and some clans survive...

Familia (R)
The character's knowledge of the history, traditions and values of his family, as well as the respect he has with his family in general. This Ability ultimately determines a character's ordination in the family; characters of lower ordination always defer to characters of higher ordination, and when ordination is unknown, it is found out by a resisted Familia check. Ordination is transitive: if character A is is of higher ordination than character B, and B is higher than C, then A is higher than C, and no Familia check is needed. Ordination is only ever re-evaluated when, due to distance or time, mistakes in ordination are made that cause mistakes in the transitive relationship, which is then found out later on. Otherwise ordination is permanent, which for the most part means that older characters always stay on top of the family foodchain. Familia is also used to debate family policy and make communal decisions, whether for the "whole" family (if such can ever be gathered into one place) or a local shard of the same.

Secret of the Kin (specific family)
This is a mandatory Secret for dwarves. The character belongs to a dwarven family (although he may be outcast). The character suffers a penalty die for any actions made when working alone or against the family. When the character refreshes Pools with members of his family, he only gains one Pool point per refresh. However, members of the family group may share Pool points freely with each other when in the same scene; if not otherwise defined, assume that the character may draw on a Familia (R) check's worth of additional Pool points per scene when he's working in harmony with his family. If such a check fails, the character instead loses a Pool point to his kin who need it more. The character is always accompanied by members of his family; when he decides on a new undertaking, a Familia (R) check may be used to find out how many immediate family members rally by his side or are assigned to work with him. If such a check fails, the family resists the undertaking. The character of highest ordinance in any given family group is assumed to lead the group's activities. Requirements: The character is a dwarf.

Secret of Purpose
The dwarf's family, clan, guild and domain are all defined in large part by their purpose; a strong dwarven society is only built when it is composed of families that have, ultimately, harmonious aims. Mere existence, sorry state as it is, does not alone justify the grand structure of dwarven society. This character has internalized a purpose that is in harmony with his family, clan, guild or domain, insofar as he has any. Whenever he would gain experience points from his Keys, he may opt to take the points as Pool points instead. Requirements: Secret of the Kin

Secret of the Family (specific family)
The character is recognized as the leader of his dwarven family, an alder. Other members of his family may, upon meeting him, immediately transfer their potentially higher ordinance to him; should they fail to do so, either party has to declare a split in the family, which is again permanent and only invoked in extraordinary circumstances. In those cases the splitting dwarf needs to immediately buy the Secret of the Family for his newly created family. Consequently, it's not easy to become an alder; usually you need to be the oldest known living relative, or willing to split your family. Most splits in families happen due to two geographically distant family groups electing leaders without the other's knowledge, with neither willing to relinquish their position when they finally meet. Requirements: Secret of Purpose, support from three members of the family, and the new alder needs to declare the purpose of his family.

Secret of the Clan (specific clan)
Several dwarven families may join into a clan, which may be composed of hundreds of dwarves and easily have significant presence in a whole cultural region. The alder of a family determines the family's clan membership. The leader of the clan is called thane, who may or may not be an alder and who needs to take this Secret to hold the position. Members of different families may not determine ordinance between them, but alders and thanes belonging to the same clan may, and their ordinances are then extended upon their whole families when dwarves of the same clan have to work together. The thane must have higher ordinance than any alders of the clan, and ordinance may be trasferred from an alder to a thane the same way family members transfer ordinance to an alder. Requirements: Secret of Purpose, support of at least three alders, and the new thane needs to be able to harmonize the different cultures of the families in his clan into a clan identity.

Secret of the Domain (specific domain)
Just like clans are composed of families, domains are composed of clans. There are no domains in Near now, but if there were, a single domain would probably extend over a third of Near if not more. The leader of a Domain used to be called a king (over which reigns only the legendary High King, the leader of all dwarves), who needs to develop this Secret to reign. The king must hold ordinance over all his thanes, who can determine their relative ordinance under the purview of the king with Familia checks. Requirements: Secret of Purpose, support of at least three thanes, and the new king needs to be able to harmonize the different cultures of the clans in his domain into a domain identity.

Secret of the Guild (a particular guild)
The character has membership in a dwarven guild, which allows him to determine ordinance with his guild-mates using the appropriate craft Ability instead of Familia. Guild members are considered family members for the purposes of Secret of the Kin and other appropriate Secrets, and a craft ability may be used instead of Familia when interacting with them for all purposes. The highest-ordinance character in the guild is the guildmaster, which may determine ordinance with alders of other families, but has no other special rights.

Secret of Brotherhood (a specific character)
In some specific circumstances a dwarven character may be obligated to offer the highest privileges to a friend or an ally, as a matter of hospitality, barter, gratefulness or other concerns. This practice, while unavoidable in many dwarven legends, is still a matter of great disruption and confusion for many core practices of dwarven society, and therefore it is frowned upon when offered lightly. The target of the Secret of Brotherhood is considered kin for the character himself, with "equal" ordinance (otherwise unknown conceit for dwarven society) and all legal and spiritual rights of the character himself. Traditionally dwarves consider brother-bonded characters two parts of the same entity (so they use the name of this character to refer to the other, for instance), which means, for example, that either of the two may slay the other without it being considered murder by dwarven society. Requirements: Secret of the Kin

Secret of True Brothers (a specific character)
The two characters so bonded may utilize each other's Secrets freely, as if they were their own. Also, insofar as this character has separate dwarven status, both characters may now use either one's ordinance and stature when dealing with other dwarves. Requirements: The target has Secret of Brotherhood for this character, and the characters have shared salt, bed and fluid.

Secret of Family/Clan/Domain/Guild tongue (specific tongue)
The character knows a secret language only understood by his kin. It is a genuine language, not a chant, cypher or accent, with unique linguistic features and application. The creator of the language may determine an Ability that gains a bonus die for anybody knowing this Secret and using the language with the Ability. Only the alder of a family, thane of a clan or king of a domain needs to possess this Secret for the language to be understood; the dwarven society is structured in such a (supernatural?) manner that within a year and a day of the leader learning this Secret and teaching it to his kin everybody under his rule has learned to speak and understand it. Even before this time a successful Familia (R) check allows anybody who is supposed to understand it to decipher and learn the language in one day. Requirements: Secret of the Kin

Secret of Law-speak
The character may use his Familia (R) ability to order around anybody of lower ordinance, using Familia as a replacement for a social ability, but only when speaking a mutually intelligible Family/Clan/Domain/Guild tongue.

Secret of the Forge
The character knows secrets that are only expressable in the first place in the secret language of his kin. The concepts, or even the necessary grammatical structures, simply lack in other languages. These secrets allow the character to craft magic items (or rituals, as the case may be for non-craft Abilities) defined by Secret of Imbuement and suited to the specific Ability associated with the language; these items bear the quality of "dwarven", and therefore require one less Advance to own for anybody proficient with the dwarven language in question. Requirements: Secret of Family/Clan/Domain/Guild tongue or an alder, thane or king who has it. Cost: 2 Reason.

Secret of Stature
The dwarf is strong, stocky and short. He may use any Pool instead of Vigor today. Requirements: Secret of the Kin Cost: 2 Vigor.

--

As for Goren... in the Finnish version of TSoY they are depicted as a monotheistic, Calvinistic culture that works deep mines in the western highlands. They believe that to live in the highlands is to live closer to the One God, so the more religious families tend to migrate higher up the slopes, with the most holy of men living in hermitages on hostile mountaintops. Furthermore, the Goren are dependant on trade for the peace of their land, as Maldor needs their iron and smithing and would be willing to take them by force if the isolationist Gorenians weren't willing to trade freely. However, working the mines is considered a suspect and potentially Satanistic occupation by the herd-keeping Goren, as the mines underground are closer to Hell... Then there's a bunch of smithing magic secrets and some stuff about berserks, too. Works nicely in play.


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Troels on January 24, 2008, 05:10:49 AM
The other aspect I'm wondering about is how that dwarven idea you suggest crosses over into other cultures. I've always enjoyed having the opportunity to explore what the various species look like out of the "classic fantasy kingdom motif" of Maldor: Zaru ratkin, Ammenite elves, Qek goblins, etc etc., particularly the ones which aren't represented as traditional in TSOY (a Zaru elf, for instance, or a ratkin in Khale). Does this germinating dwarf idea do interesting things if brought over into other communities? Does a Khalean dwarf have anything different going on than a Maldorite dwarf? Beyond the mere option of taking cultural abilities and Secrets, I mean.

OK, here's a couple ideas for how to make dwarves regional. Some of Eero's ideas on dwarves in general are very nice. Add a Secret and Key or two to represent the specifics of a dwarf tradition, and we might have something. I especially like the idea of splitting families, when a dwarf "finds" the "older, truer Way". It makes the dwarves more peoply.

Let's see:

Dwarves of Maldor, other than the traditional crafts-obsessives, who can fit perfectly well in (finnish?) Goren:

The Chroniclers

The clan of Chroniclers are one of the greatest and most famous of dwarf clans. They used to be court archivists of the Imperial Library, back when there was such a thing. Their Way is to keep the Chronicle, a grand record of all goings-on of import. Exactly what they consider important enough to merit attention is sometimes rather idiosyncratic. Based in a great underground library-vault beneath a ruined city, they sally forth to find out what's going on. This means dwarves gathering news, acquiring texts and stories to catch up with the back-log. Sometimes dwarves kidnapping key players to give them the third-degree on stuff they were involved in before releasing them (or not...). Sometimes they will even break in to steal information, or hire intermediaries to do so. Their treasure trove of knowledge is vast, and the subject of fevered fantasies by both historians, magicians and would-be blackmailers. However the Chroniclers count several puissant Three-corner magicians amongst their number, as well as an aged archivist who holds a number of Zaru syllables ...just for the record. Taking their treasures is not easy. A few people have been allowed to browse their archives, usually after paying dearly and undergoing bizarre tests to prove their worth. They have strained relations with their ratkin neighbours du to a matter of book pages being a very attractive nesting material.

Dwarves of Qek:

The Clan of Head-hunters

Feared and reviled by the people of Qek almost as much as the evil sorcerers who send out the dead as slaves to do their bidding, the Head-hunters are on a mission to eradicate evil sorcery, everywhere, forever. Their method is simple and visionary. They have discovered that it is possible to trap the spirits of the hateful, forgotten dead into shrunken heads. Three or four zamani (iirc?) will fit in a head. Since a trapped spirit cannot be called up by a walozi (shaman), whereas a spirit put to rest can, all they have to do is trap the spirits of all forgotten dead of all time inside heads. Their great cave dwelling is a terryfing place, the walls and ceiling lined with thousands of heads. Of course, they use the heads of their own dead to further the great work, but that is just not enough. They also raid the burial grounds of others to produce reasonably fresh heads, and if the neighbours guard their graves too well, then there's nothing for it. Somebody, somewhere will have to give their heads for the greater good. The local humans of qek revile the Head-hunters not only for their occasional predations, but also because they break the taboo against walozi living with their families, and because the qek do not consider being trapped inside a shrunken head with two or three other screaming, desperate spirits to be the rest that the forgotten dead rightly deserve. But the Head-hunters have a vision, and they persevere.

Khale dwarves have obvious People of the Hollow Hills-tropes to go for.

Another idea: Inbreeding is a constant danger for dwarves everywhere. So most succesful dwarf clans share a custom, the Dwarf-meet. Representatives of two clans will meet, perhaps a score or two on each side. They will each make a grand show of the best that their clan has to offer, in all ways, to prove their worthiness. That concluded, they will exchange a number of babies, with vows that these are true dwarves and not sickly. Thus, freshness of the bloodlines is maintained. Sometimes, of course, the babies traded are indeed sickly, or worse: Changelings! Human babies don't look too different from dwarf babies, and so occasionally humans are raised by dwarves. When the dwarves realize their mistake, they will either cast out these humans or raise them incredibly strictly. And of course, this can be a source of long-simmering dwarf feuds.

Ho-hum. Enough for now.


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: shadowcourt on January 24, 2008, 07:49:31 AM
Wow, guys. Serious major wow. Eero and Troels, you guys knocked that one out of the park. Here are some first thoughts I wanted to get down, before they slipped away.

Eero,

This stuff is great. I really like the idea of the communal pool aspect of the dwarves. It makes them feel quite different than any of the other species in TSOY; you handle it in a really interesting way with how Familia and the Secret of Kin. Secret of Purpose is a similar one which seems to have a lot of interesting potential; I'd considered something like that myself in other situations, but for the dwarves it's just *perfect*.

I like the Secret of Kin's penalty for working against the family, but its penalty die for *all* actions while "working alone" seems... a little intense. Not to resort to LoTR examples, but its a good shorthand for talking about the errant dwarf: would Gimli have constantly taken a penalty die, because he was alone? Does he mitigate this by taking a Secret of True Brotherhood to Legolas and/or other members of the fellowship? Perhaps its appropriate to develop some Secret which represents that a character is working on behalf of his clan even while out of the clanhold? Such as:

Secret of the Dwarf Errant
You are regularly sent on missions on behalf of your clan to the surface world, forced to deal with outsiders and other unsavory types. So long as you are working on behalf of your clan, you can focus your energies each day and operate alone. Spend 1 Reason and make a successful Familia check. You ignore the penalty die for acting alone which is normally imposed by the Secret of Kin for the duration of the day.


While it'll work brilliantly with all sorts of Keys, I'm also mulling over a Species Key or two which would dovetail nicely with the awesome pool mechanics for the Secret of Purpose, as well as represent the flavor of the culture. What do you guys think about any of these?

Key of Myopia
Beyond even the dedication of your clan and guild, you have an all-consuming passion. This usually takes the form of a specific craft, art form, or focus of study, but it could just as easily be a collection of some kind. You talk about this area of expertise endlessly, and will take tremendous risks to master its secrets.
1 XP: Every time you engage in your area of expertise.
2 XP: Every time you divert the prior focus of a scene to your passion.
5 XP: Every time you risk great danger or harm to engage in your passion.
Buyoff: Broaden or change your focus.

Key of the Clan-Heart
You are utterly sworn to the needs and well-being of your clan, placing them before yourself.
1 XP: Gain the praise of a higher ordinance dwarf in your clan.
2 XP: Put yourself, or your possessions, at the disposal of your clan members.
5 XP: Face danger or harm for the good of your clan.
Buyoff: Reject the call of your clanmates.

Key of Kept Secrets
Dwarves are known for being a taciturn and cloistered people. Your lips are sealed; even when tortured or threatened, you won't give up the goods.
1 XP: Learn a valuable secret or piece of lore which is unknown to most.
2 XP: Keep a secret even if revealing it would be to your benefit.
5 XP: Keep a secret even if doing so brings harm or suffering on you.
Buyoff: Reveal a secret to someone who shouldn't know it.

Key of Shame
In a culture which prizes honor, you are a creature of contempt. Perhaps you broke faith, lied, or cheated your family, or shared secrets with
1 XP: Every time your dishonor complicates your interaction with other dwarves.
3 XP: Every time your shameful status endangers your goals or risks harm from other dwarves.
Buyoff: Leave your clan behind or recover your lost honor.


The Guild stuff crosscuts in a really interesting way, as well. I like how that can complicate the politics, but still meshes nicely. Its another axis to explore, for instance, where a dwarf might seek to better his own situation in a family which is overpopulated or where he's been an embarrassment, by becoming an apprentice.

The benefits of the Secret of the Domain seem a little ambiguous to me. Are they simply that Familia checks extend over a vast range of space, so that almost any dwarf you encounter can fall under your ordinance? Similarly, that Secrets like the dwarven tongue one can carry down to a much larger group?

The Secret of the Forge is very confusing to me. If I take this Secret, and spend 2 Reason, what happens? I've created a magical item which has a normal imbuement AND another power of some kind? Which is only temporary, I'm assuming, unless someone buys it with their Advances, but, for instance, that treasure would only cost 1 advance for a dwarf who speaks my tongue? Or am I misreading how this works?

I also don't see what the Secret of Stature is intending to represent, or even what its trying for mechanically.

As a person who's always loved the material culture of fantasy worlds, I've got to add to the Secrets:

Secret of the Clan-Handler
You are trained in working with the animals raised by dwarven clans, including hunting-moles, dwarf-hounds, and the cavern sows raised for milk and slaughter in the subterranean vaults of the dwarves. All such beasts are trained to instinctually recognize and subordinate themselves to dwarves of ordinance. You can use your Familia ability in place of Animal Ken when dealing with these creatures. You receive a bonus die on Animal Ken and Familia checks made when dealing with animals which well beneath the earth.

Secret of Tunnelwise
You are well-acquainted with the subterranean vaults of the dwarven people. You receive a bonus die on any check to navigate underground; similarly, you can use your Familia ability to remember the layout and history of the holds belonging to any dwarven group of which you are a member.

Its probably a little corny, but should we allow all dwarves to see in the dark? It might be something we can just fold into their Species Secret, or it could just be something which gets incorporated into the Tunnelwise secret above, as it might only be interesting to players who want to romp around in spooky old Moria-esque places as part of the whole dwarven "vibe".


Troels,

I like the implication that dwarves "breed true" for the most part, meaning that you can fully have dwarven inherited culture the way that you have goblin culture. It's funny that I was thinking about "changeling" issues last night the same way you were, Troels. What's more, I might even push the idea to say that lone (read: aberrant) dwarves kidnapping human spouses is not entirely unheard of, resulting in some fun situations where hostage-brides/husbands cause a commotion in a dwarfhold, as alders and thanes become angry about contact and pollution by outsiders, not to mention the threat of reprisals from the surface-dwellers. And, of course, dwarves might feel desire or covetousness, but they aren't supposed to feel love in any sort of human sense, so it raises eyebrows in any situation, as family members become worried.

Those national dwarves are great, and it totally shows me how to push into other nations, when it feels right. The blend of cultishness makes them very fun. Scary Qek there; I like it.

Your dwarfmeet stuff is great--I might even push that notion to say that dwarves in those situations exchange sons and daughters of marrying age to intermarry to different clans, both as forms of political alliance and to ensure healthy bloodlines. I like the notion that this is an arduous exchange for both sides--dwarven parents aren't happy about losing their children, hidebound dwarves on the receiving end might resent this new strange outsider who is intermarrying into their clan or family and their "weird, foreign, untrue ways." It makes for a messy situation for a player to be in. Your dwarven in-laws might be VERY painful to deal with.

A possible Key, to represent some of those interesting situations, and more:

Key of the Outsider
You are a new member of a dwarfhold, and are still adjusting to your new home. You might be an exchanged child, part of a marital exchange between clans, an abducted human taken as a spouse or slave, or a "changeling"--a human raised as a dwarf.
1 XP: Every time your outsider status comes up in a scene.
2 XP: Every time you actively participate in family and clan gatherings and rituals.
5 XP: Improve your standing among your new family and clan.
Buyoff: Reject your new family.


Finally, there's the permeable species question. Can a dwarf become a human, and if so, how? Is love the answer, as it is with elves and goblins? Is there an aspect of individualism at stake here, as well, fighting the communal aspect of dwarven-kind?

Similarly, can a human become a dwarf (seems less likely, as it seems like a multi-generational thing which occurs, or else it should be the focus of a major plot point in a game, much like a human-to-elf transformation).


This is super exciting stuff. I really like the way this is developing.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on January 24, 2008, 07:08:23 PM
Great fluff, Troels, you captured the cultish, locally cultural aspect perfectly. The idea I wanted to transmit in those core Secrets was that dwarves are not just blidly, unreasonably parochial, conservative and stupid, like they're often enough represented; they have an unique and extremist vision and psychology mixed with racial magic that allows them to actually build small societies that work with ideas that would simply be too much for humans. More significantly, as each individual family by necessity holds a specific, unique purpose, dwarves have to, by necessity, value clan identity over everything else: it's crucial that the half-dozen families that compose a clan actually can work in harmony with each other, without one family overwhelming the others, as otherwise the clan will fracture beyond recognition soon enough. And when we get to the hypothetical dwarven domain (the equivalent of Jews returning to Israel, as far as the racial identity purpose of dwarves is concerned), it'll take some pretty fancy philosophical work from the involved clans to find common ground with each other.

In general, what I'd like to see is dwarves struggling to adapt to changed circumstances. In many places they have, no doubt, managed to keep onto their ancient clan holds (dwarf cities are something that only domains used to have in old Maldor; I imagine that when the last thanes perished the clans composing a domain would have fallen into disunity and even civil war), as those would have been perfect places to hide from the Skyfire. However, what happened to those dwarves whose domain cities and/or clan holds collapsed in the calamity? I see them as an eroding culture, living in secluded parts of human cities as expert craftsmen and scribes, fiddling with their own pursuits in secret from the surrounding humans. Dwarf families face a constant pressure to raise their young to follow the Way... so OK, it's all about being Jews in diaspora.

I like the Secret of Kin's penalty for working against the family, but its penalty die for *all* actions while "working alone" seems... a little intense. Not to resort to LoTR examples, but its a good shorthand for talking about the errant dwarf: would Gimli have constantly taken a penalty die, because he was alone? Does he mitigate this by taking a Secret of True Brotherhood to Legolas and/or other members of the fellowship? Perhaps its appropriate to develop some Secret which represents that a character is working on behalf of his clan even while out of the clanhold? Such as:

Actually, I was thinking that Gimli can go hang ;) I think it'd be pretty interesting to play a dwarf adventurer, as the implication would be that he'd have to be relatively high in his family to pull off the autonomy required, and he'd have to have a dynamically changing posse of NPC dwarves hanging around as a slightly xenophobic clutch at all times. Seems fine and dandy to me, especially when you consider that it's not a given that the PC dwarf would have the highest ordinance of the group. That's a significant part of a dwarf's "powers", I'd imagine: he's a part of this borg-like living machine wherein he can, for the most part, be assumed to not be acting alone.

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Secret of the Dwarf Errant
You are regularly sent on missions on behalf of your clan to the surface world, forced to deal with outsiders and other unsavory types. So long as you are working on behalf of your clan, you can focus your energies each day and operate alone. Spend 1 Reason and make a successful Familia check. You ignore the penalty die for acting alone which is normally imposed by the Secret of Kin for the duration of the day.

Seems quite fine to me! Change "clan" to "family", though; I'd assume that in Near of today the clan relationships are in flux and there are plenty of families with no clan at all, or that swing between competing clans. The way I imagine the family/clan/domain system to work is that they're not entirely geographically defined like human political instititutions tend to be: it's more like the clan system of Scottish highlands, where lands owned by individual clans are all mixed up with each other. Membership in a clan or domain is then defined not only by geographical distance, but also ideological distance.

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Key of Myopia
Key of the Clan-Heart
Key of Kept Secrets
Key of Shame

Seems good to me. I'd probably change Key of the Clan-Heart into Key of the Family, but it really depends on the local situation: I can imagine an area where the families are the most significant cultural unit, but also areas where clans are such.

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The benefits of the Secret of the Domain seem a little ambiguous to me. Are they simply that Familia checks extend over a vast range of space, so that almost any dwarf you encounter can fall under your ordinance? Similarly, that Secrets like the dwarven tongue one can carry down to a much larger group?

Well, scale is a big part of it, but there's also in-setting significance: a dwarven family would hold, at most, a hundred members before going completely out of control. The family would probably live all in one place or in a small enough area to travel to family meetings consistently, as a family cannot live without determining ordinance for most members pretty compherensively. A clan, on the other hand, could have even close to a thousand members, and might well live with families all intermixed in a large geographical area. A single clan could have compounds or family holds all over Zaru, for example; the clan would keep coherense as long as all or most alders of the clan could meet every few years to determine ordinance of new alders and to discuss policy with the thane.

The Secret of the Domain is taken by a dwarf king, who wields ordinance over thousands (potentially tens of thousands) of dwarves and is in prime position to effect changes in the overall purpose of his kingdom. The dwarf kingdom is below and intermixed with human settlement, composed of hundreds of closed conclaves, underground holds and secret pathways overland or underground, stretching over a huge geographical area, like the whole of Maldor, or all coasts of the northern sea. Rulership over this machine dedicated to a purpose (what could be the purpose of a domain that would unite the Chronicles and Headhunters?) seems like a pretty big deal to me, even if it's all fractitious and stretched thin over the lands.

Also: the purpose of a dwarven societal unit gets more abstract when you go up the ladder, simply because a more exact purpose won't likely be able to unite the different families under it. So while a family might be dedicated to "crafting the finest of weapons" and a clan dedicated to "fighting evil zamani", a domain would be dedicated to something rather abstract, like "opposing evil" or "building the grandest of things". Thus it's simply cool to be the King of Builders or whatever such a king might take as his sobriquet ;)

Absolon, who united the lands, had an even higher position in the dwarven realm, that of a High King:

Secret of the Empire
Dwarven domains, when united, create an empire. By ancestral definition all dwarves are automatically considered members of the dwarven empire (the purpose of which is always, more or less, to simply unite all dwarves under the sway of one), although it's not obvious that any given dwarf will bow to the High King when the issue comes up. Any dwarf, when meeting the High King, must transfer ordinance to him immediately unless he succeeds in a Familia (R) check to resist. The last dwarven empire at the time of Absalon was centered on the human empire of Maldor, but it also stretched far outside the borders, to all dwarves who had a connection to the extensive web wielded by Absalon the High King. At this time dwarves made great service to the purpose of Absalon, helping him police and expand his human empire as well. Requirements: Three kings in unity, a purpose for the empire, and to never meet a dwarf of higher ordinance.

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The Secret of the Forge is very confusing to me. If I take this Secret, and spend 2 Reason, what happens? I've created a magical item which has a normal imbuement AND another power of some kind? Which is only temporary, I'm assuming, unless someone buys it with their Advances, but, for instance, that treasure would only cost 1 advance for a dwarf who speaks my tongue? Or am I misreading how this works?

Well, there's two benefits here: one is that you can create magic items at all, which in my games has traditionally been a matter of having a Secret to do it. The other is that a magic items created with this Secret has a discount for owning it, but only for those who know the language it was created with. I imagine that this has to do with the user interface of the item, which is easier to control and understand for somebody already familiar with the specialized way the given language works.

Thus, for example, one might create this item:

Dwarven Head-taking Axe
An extraordinarily sharp weapon produced from bone by a guild of weaponsmiths affiliated with the Headhunter clan. It has a balance and aerodynamic well-suited to quick swings at a specific "whistling" speed, which is just enough to sever the sturdy dwarf neck once mastered. Human heads go flying at the whistling speed in a very cinematic manner. The axe is worth +2 Weapon rating when trying to remove a head from a body, living or not. Cost: 1 Advance to own, or 0 for those who know the language of Grama, the guild tongue of the Headhunter weaponsmiths.

I hope that clarified it.

I would also consider it an implied benefit of this Secret that a character might create magic "items" with or for Abilities that usually don't use tools, if it should happen that he knows Secret languages with Abilities not well-suited to smithing. (We don't want to punish the academic dwarf, after all!) I'd call such a "magic item" a "ritual". Like this:

Dwarven Head-taking Rite
A war-dance of the Headhunters that allows the performer a +2 weapon bonus for taking heads. His pupils turn into tiny pinpricks until he next sleeps, at which point he loses the bonus as well. Cost: 1 Advance to learn, or 0 for those who know the language of Chedu, the clan tongue of the Headhunters.

(So a rite is just like a magic item, except that it's not an item. The -1 surcharge for a magic item is balanced by the necessity of performing the rite often to retain the benefit. I find this useful for allowing non-craft skills to create stuff similar to magic items.)

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I also don't see what the Secret of Stature is intending to represent, or even what its trying for mechanically.

Well, dwarves are usually depicted as short and sturdy, capable of withstanding great exhaustion. This was just a throw-away Secret along those lines; the idea is that you can pay two Vigor to be able to use other Pools for Vigor payments, which benefit represents the dwarven ability to keep on going, draining all resources before crumbling down from exhaustion. Makes sense to me.

Makes sense, except the length of the effect needs to be fixed:

Secret of Stature
The dwarf is an untiring physical body. He may pay Vigor costs from any other Pool until his next refreshment scene. Requirements: Secret of the Kin Cost: 2 Vigor.

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Secret of the Clan-Handler
You are trained in working with the animals raised by dwarven clans, including hunting-moles, dwarf-hounds, and the cavern sows raised for milk and slaughter in the subterranean vaults of the dwarves. All such beasts are trained to instinctually recognize and subordinate themselves to dwarves of ordinance. You can use your Familia ability in place of Animal Ken when dealing with these creatures. You receive a bonus die on Animal Ken and Familia checks made when dealing with animals which well beneath the earth.

How about:

Your clan raises unique animals used in your way of life. The animals owned by your clan are all trained to respond positively to ordinance; they themselves as a a communal entity have ordinance in all the clan families as well (separately in each one), and a dwarf who becomes an adult needs to pass an unresisted Familia (R) check to test his ordinance against them (unless he already supercedes them according to transitive relationships, of course); should he fail, he becomes what is called a "sub-animal" by dwarves, which is not a happy position to be. (Only the most hated young dwarves are made to go through this ordeal in animal-raising clans without a skilled family patriarch supporting him with bonus dice; thus, only rarely anybody fails to master the clan animals.)

A dwarven domain could, in theory, have a similar extensive relationship with specific types of animals. A dwarven domain centered on cattle-keeping, while not currently existing, would be entirely conseivable. Single families are too small to keep large enough herds to uphold the dwarven animal-raising techniques.

Secret of the Clan-Handler
You can use your Familia (R) Ability to handle animals raised by your clan or domain. You gain a bonus die to handle animals that are familiar to your clan tradition, tamed to your clan or not.

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Secret of Tunnelwise
You are well-acquainted with the subterranean vaults of the dwarven people. You receive a bonus die on any check to navigate underground; similarly, you can use your Familia ability to remember the layout and history of the holds belonging to any dwarven group of which you are a member.

Again, I like to keep the doors open for non-subterranean dwarves. Thus:

Secret of Tunnelwise
You are well-acquainted with the secret pathways of your dwarven people, subterranean or not. You receive a bonus die on any check to navigate the clan lands; similarly, you can use your Familia ability to remember the layout and history of the holds belonging to any dwarven group of which you are a member.

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Its probably a little corny, but should we allow all dwarves to see in the dark? It might be something we can just fold into their Species Secret, or it could just be something which gets incorporated into the Tunnelwise secret above, as it might only be interesting to players who want to romp around in spooky old Moria-esque places as part of the whole dwarven "vibe".

Quite so. Make it a secret, I say:

Secret of Under-ground Dwelling
Your family/clan/domain has adapted to living underground, which is pretty typical of most dwarves, who need to isolate themselves from other peoples and might have made the undergrounds lifestyle a matter of tradition and cultural identity. For the vast majority of dwarf families taken to this way of life it is a living hell, freezing in dirty earth-burrows eating worms and only coming out at night. Clan holds fare better, while old dwarven cities were clean, warm and luxurious by human standards; generally speaking, you need a lot of dwarves with plenty of unique skills to make the underground lifestyle work well. You gain a bonus die to resisting the difficulties of the underground life, such as raising crops, building, keeping warm, not suffocating and not getting any sun. You also see in the dark almost perfectly, albeit not in color. Requirements: Secret of the Kin, and this needs to be actually part of the Way.

Secret of City Dwelling
Your family has adapted to living among humans, albeit in a slightly strained relationship and often enough self-limited to specific conclaves with carefully chosen spokespersons communicating with the outside world. Generally speaking, this means a great improvement in living conditions compared to the traditional under-ground dwelling and the near-subsistence lifestyle forced on most dwarves by the era of kinstrife. You gain a bonus die to diplomacy with and understanding non-dwarven peoples. Requirements: Secret of the Kin, and this needs to be actually part of the Way.

As can be seen, I like having the underground thing be exceptional in itself, instead of a humdrum matter of repeating cliche.

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Key of the Outsider

Most fine.


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on January 24, 2008, 07:09:13 PM
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Finally, there's the permeable species question. Can a dwarf become a human, and if so, how? Is love the answer, as it is with elves and goblins? Is there an aspect of individualism at stake here, as well, fighting the communal aspect of dwarven-kind?

Similarly, can a human become a dwarf (seems less likely, as it seems like a multi-generational thing which occurs, or else it should be the focus of a major plot point in a game, much like a human-to-elf transformation).

A dwarf becomes human via the Key of Love, the same as the others. Dwarves hold love in great disdain (it is an irrational, individualistic emotion, with no reasonable purpose), so sooner or later a dwarf is driven out by his kin if he continues to profess love. After that he needs to get rid of the Secret of the Kin to become a human; the process is not unlike surviving and recovering from a cult experience, and it cannot be done if the dwarf continues being in contact or living with his kin. As dwarfness is primarily and most significantly a mental condition, the dwarf retains his external appearance for the most part when he becomes human; the beard drops off, though, as it is a symbol of commitment to the Way, while the stooped demeanor vanishes when the dwarf lets go of his ancestral burden, making him appear slightly taller ;)

A dwarf usually takes years to become human, and the process needs to be started anew if he ends up visiting with dwarves who remind him of home; specifically, hearing any dwaft tongues he used to know causes an immediate, traumatic set-back as the old ways of thought come rushing back. An ex-dwarf has to forget all dwarf tongues to ever become human. When he succeeds, the dwarf does not retain Advances from dwarven Secrets; they remain dormant in case the ex-dwarf ever goes back.

As for humans becoming dwarves... a human child taken young enough (certainly no more than five years old) may be raised as a dwarf. He gains the Secret of the Kin after years of living with dwarves, and when he is pronounced adult and given his ordinance (which only happens when his beard is hands-width long and it's clear to all how he has stooped under the weight of tradition), he is a full dwarf, albeit he might look more human than most. It is also possible to fake this; a human child could be taught Familia (R) with his dwarven family, but if he for some reason does not take Secret of the Kin (perhaps has to do with beating his Resistance), then he will not become a real dwarf, but only a petty dwarf: the beard grows and the form stoops, but without help or escape from the dwarves he will become twisted:

Secret of the Petty Dwarf
The character has become a twisted, small, dwarf-like being, with none of the benefits. He gets Key of the Petty Dwarf for free, but cannot refresh Pools at all. The petty dwarf may check Familia (R) to gain Pool points equal to check result, but each time he also gains a petty dwarf penalty dice pool equal to the result; these dice must be distributed as penalties in checks by the SG (generally speaking, used to make the petty dwarf fail in important conflicts concerning his diminishing physical or mental stature) or removed with a Refresh scene with a non-dwarf character; if there are still dice in the pool the next time petty dwarf gains penalty dice, the old penalty dice are deducted permanently from Vigor; should Vigor fall to zero, the petty dwarf turns into a log. Requirements: Have Familia (R) without Secret of the Kin, and still try to follow a dwarven Way.

(Some Secrets need to be rewritten for this: the Secret of Purpose is one I'd like petty dwarves to be able to get, just to give them some hope. Generally speaking, any Key or Secret that doesn't actually require dwarven community should be available to these solitary creatures bend to self-destruction.)

Key of the Petty Dwarf
The character was destined to be a dwarf, but he lost the filial support of his dwarven community. The weight of tradition is heavy upon him and without help he will be crushed by the psychic weight of the dwarven ideological ancestry he carries within. A Petty Dwarf does not have the Secret of the Kin. He becomes a small, twisted, clubfooted creature, ultimately turning to a dead log when he becomes completely isolated in the wilderness.
1 xp: Try to have a Pool refreshment scene.
2 xp: Suffer from your status as a petty dwarf, either socially or in the form of penalty dice.
5 xp: Take a significant step towards humanity, dwarfness or logness. (Wake up one morning with one leg turned to wood, say.)
Buyoff: Become a dwarf, become a human, or die. Remove the Secret of the Petty Dwarf as well.

(Obviously enough, a dwarf seeking to become human could well end up as a petty dwarf as well, if he loses the Secret of the Kin without shedding the purpose and values of his family...)

However, a human might become a dwarf without being raised by dwarves as well, although this is very rare and somewhat legendary. (Dwarven legend says that Absolon started as a human and became a dwarf in dedication to justice; most other sources that recognize Absolon's quasi-secret role as the dwarven High King disagree, claiming that Absolon became the High King as a human, chosen by the nine kings as the only candidate fit to unite their dominions.) For an adult human to become a dwarf, he would have to dedicate himself to an abstract purpose of life in a long-term, deadly serious manner; most humans just become fanatics and start seeking death in the service of their goals, unwilling to do the work of the generations, so this is no small feat for a human. Such a man-originated dwarf will gain Familia (R) based on his own Way; he only gains Secret of the Kin when he teaches others his Way and forms a dwarven family. Should he fail, he will become a petty dwarf in the long run, although generally this is a theoretical and slow progression; the Way served by this lone human has little weight yet, as it is not weighted by untold generations of dwarven zamani, so it'll take him many years of dedicated service to slip from humanity in this manner.


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Troels on January 25, 2008, 05:04:18 AM
... so OK, it's all about being Jews in diaspora.

Quite my thinking. Speaking as a professional historian, what an amazing feat of cultural tenacity! That kind of dogged persistence in pursuit of a vision that seems flawed to most outsiders is very much what I have in mind.

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Actually, I was thinking that Gimli can go hang ;) I think it'd be pretty interesting to play a dwarf adventurer, as the implication would be that he'd have to be relatively high in his family to pull off the autonomy required, and he'd have to have a dynamically changing posse of NPC dwarves hanging around as a slightly xenophobic clutch at all times. Seems fine and dandy to me, especially when you consider that it's not a given that the PC dwarf would have the highest ordinance of the group. That's a significant part of a dwarf's "powers", I'd imagine: he's a part of this borg-like living machine wherein he can, for the most part, be assumed to not be acting alone.

Fun stuff! I would consider adding this option for playability though:

Secret of the Talisman of Kin
You have an object of ritual significance to your family. If you perform daily ritual observances involving this object, you are exempt from penalty dice for being amongst non-dwarves, and you can use Familia (R) with the Secret of the Kin to gain Pool points in a scene (provided you follow the Way of your family in the scene) at the cost of one Instinct, as the nearness of the talisman painfully reminds you of your family's absence. Prereq: Secret of Kin

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Secret of the Dwarf Errant
You are regularly sent on missions on behalf of your clan to the surface world, forced to deal with outsiders and other unsavory types. So long as you are working on behalf of your clan, you can focus your energies each day and operate alone. Spend 1 Reason and make a successful Familia check. You ignore the penalty die for acting alone which is normally imposed by the Secret of Kin for the duration of the day.

Hmm. Could do too. Has the peculiar side effect of requiring you to regularly refresh Reason with non-dwarves in order to stay in touch with dwarf-ness. Cool? Perhaps. Jury out. And right, in general "clan" should read "family".

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Key of Myopia
Key of the Clan-Heart
Key of Kept Secrets
Key of Shame

Like. Very nice (but see above re. clan).

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Also: the purpose of a dwarven societal unit gets more abstract when you go up the ladder, simply because a more exact purpose won't likely be able to unite the different families under it. So while a family might be dedicated to "crafting the finest of weapons" and a clan dedicated to "fighting evil zamani", a domain would be dedicated to something rather abstract, like "opposing evil" or "building the grandest of things". Thus it's simply cool to be the King of Builders or whatever such a king might take as his sobriquet ;)

Yes! The arguments dwarves have...

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Well, there's two benefits here: one is that you can create magic items at all, which in my games has traditionally been a matter of having a Secret to do it. The other is that a magic items created with this Secret has a discount for owning it, but only for those who know the language it was created with. I imagine that this has to do with the user interface of the item, which is easier to control and understand for somebody already familiar with the specialized way the given language works.

Like.

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Secret of Stature
The dwarf is an untiring physical body. He may pay Vigor costs from any other Pool until his next refreshment scene. Requirements: Secret of the Kin Cost: 2 Vigor.

This version I like.

Snipsnip stuff I like.

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Its probably a little corny, but should we allow all dwarves to see in the dark? It might be something we can just fold into their Species Secret, or it could just be something which gets incorporated into the Tunnelwise secret above, as it might only be interesting to players who want to romp around in spooky old Moria-esque places as part of the whole dwarven "vibe".

Quite so. Make it a secret, I say:

Secret of Under-ground Dwelling
Your family/clan/domain has adapted to living underground, which is pretty typical of most dwarves, who need to isolate themselves from other peoples and might have made the undergrounds lifestyle a matter of tradition and cultural identity. For the vast majority of dwarf families taken to this way of life it is a living hell, freezing in dirty earth-burrows eating worms and only coming out at night. Clan holds fare better, while old dwarven cities were clean, warm and luxurious by human standards; generally speaking, you need a lot of dwarves with plenty of unique skills to make the underground lifestyle work well. You gain a bonus die to resisting the difficulties of the underground life, such as raising crops, building, keeping warm, not suffocating and not getting any sun. You also see in the dark almost perfectly, albeit not in color. Requirements: Secret of the Kin, and this needs to be actually part of the Way.

I wouldn't have them see in the dark. It's a pest to have to give two differrent descriptions of the same scene. Let them be really good at managing in the dark. But I like the image of the dwarf walking in the dark counting steps and doorways, or peering ahead by the light of a guttering candle or handful of fosforescent moss.

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As can be seen, I like having the underground thing be exceptional in itself, instead of a humdrum matter of repeating cliche.

*Sound of me rejoicing*

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Key of the Outsider

Fine. Seconded.


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Troels on January 25, 2008, 05:36:27 AM
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Finally, there's the permeable species question. Can a dwarf become a human, and if so, how? Is love the answer, as it is with elves and goblins? Is there an aspect of individualism at stake here, as well, fighting the communal aspect of dwarven-kind?

Similarly, can a human become a dwarf (seems less likely, as it seems like a multi-generational thing which occurs, or else it should be the focus of a major plot point in a game, much like a human-to-elf transformation).

...And here we are at the heart of the matter.

A dwarf becomes human via the Key of Love, the same as the others. Dwarves hold love in great disdain (it is an irrational, individualistic emotion, with no reasonable purpose), so sooner or later a dwarf is driven out by his kin if he continues to profess love. After that he needs to get rid of the Secret of the Kin to become a human; the process is not unlike surviving and recovering from a cult experience, and it cannot be done if the dwarf continues being in contact or living with his kin. As dwarfness is primarily and most significantly a mental condition, the dwarf retains his external appearance for the most part when he becomes human; the beard drops off, though, as it is a symbol of commitment to the Way, while the stooped demeanor vanishes when the dwarf lets go of his ancestral burden, making him appear slightly taller ;)

Agreed about love.

I like the idea of letting the burden go, but actually I would say dwarfishness is quite physical. It is part of the magic of Near that quite tangible states such as species membership are in most cases also states of mind.

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A dwarf usually takes years to become human, and the process needs to be started anew if he ends up visiting with dwarves who remind him of home; specifically, hearing any dwaft tongues he used to know causes an immediate, traumatic set-back as the old ways of thought come rushing back. An ex-dwarf has to forget all dwarf tongues to ever become human. When he succeeds, the dwarf does not retain Advances from dwarven Secrets; they remain dormant in case the ex-dwarf ever goes back.

I'd say that truly human-transformed dwarf is human for keeps. Probably marked forever, but once the bond is broken, you don't just meander back. I agree about the advances though, that's how it works for elves and goblins too.

As for humans turning dwarf, I agree in general, and I love the Secret and Key of the Petty Dwarf. Heart-rending stuff.

Also, dwarf/goblin transformations should be on the table. Goblins would be highly unlikely to become dwarves, but I could see dwarves on the ropes (going for human but failing?), with their obsessive natures and tendencies towards repetitive acts, falling into addiction and becoming goblins. I could certainly see Petty Dwarfs going that way!

OK, general crunch:

Key of the Doubter
You are a dwarf, but the worm of doubt gnaws your heart (my favourite DitV trait btw).

When you loudly defend the Way to silence your own doubt: 1xp

When you take action to test and compare the worth of the Way against outside values or pleasures: 2xp

When you take great risk or come to great harm to compare the worth of the Way against outside values or pleasures: 5xp

Buyoff: Become goblin, human or elf, or fully embrace a dwarven Way.

Also, here's an idea I just had for a way to hold on to the Way:

Secret of Steadfastness
Many have tried to sway or drive your people from the Way, but you remain true. If failing a Resist (R) check would cause you to act in a way incompatible with the traditions of your ancestors, you may spend a number of points of Reason equal to the margin of failure to improve your check. Prereq: The Secret of Kin (or Purpose?)


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: shadowcourt on January 25, 2008, 10:30:37 AM
Troels and Eero,

Great stuff there. Thanks for the clarifications around some of the ideas I was feeling murky on. Just a few points to comment on; the rest of it is such good stuff that it falls under the general "Wow! Awesomeness..." banner of comments.

The whole "stooped under the weight of their own traditions" motif is genius. Eero. It's little things like that which have always made TSOY seem like a fresh new way to look at classic fantasy material. Very Lugh of the Long-Arm; very cool. Similarly, the Jewish diaspora motif makes a lot of sense. It really highlights some interesting ideas to play around with in terms of assimilation and interactions with an outside culture of foreign species and ideas. Just how you would represent a dwarven settlement inside, say, a Maldorite or Ammenite one becomes much more clear to me now.

The Talisman of the Kin is a really cool idea; I like the externalization of this, as its loss or theft can become a major plot point which motivates a dwarf. You both targeted my mistake on labelling everything "clan" correctly--it should start at the family level. Perhaps we even need a generic term which means "organization" or "group" which becomes the blanket for talking about dwarven group, family/clan/guild/domain/empire/etc. "Sodality" seems a little too formal, but might work. "Mob" or "gang" is tempting, but probably too laugh-worthy. I'm also tempted by "ring" just for its fantasy irony purposes, and because it creates this image of concentric or interlocking circles of dwarven culture--if families are rings ensconced by clans interlocking with guild rings which turn within greater domain rings, etc etc.. Might just be a term I end up using that no one else likes, but it could be fun.

In terms of magic items, I guess I just wasn't sure what you considered to be the extent of what a magic item really was, but rereading your Secret makes more sense. As I'm gathering, a magic item is either something which a.) carries a +/-1 to 3 imbuement of some kind or b.) allows you to use a Secret for one pool point less (basically, the two options covered under the Secret of Imbuement). So, the implication is the dwarf can make an item like this for 2 Reason? Isn't that under-costing it slightly, as it allows access to potentially any Secret for 2 Reason plus the usage cost of that Secret? Similarly, it means forging a +3 weapon to kill the Potentate of Ammeni for the cost of 2 Reason. Considering the Secret of Quality Construction costs a whopping *5* Reason, I agree that a Secret like this is wicked cool, but I think you might've been too generous in its cost. Even for wanting to stack the deck in favor of magical artisan dwarves.

I do love your suggestion for how it works in terms of Rites, though, as well as magical objects. I agree in that I don't want to burn the scholastic dwarf--or the performer dwarf, or any of the other unsual ideas which step outside the blacksmith box. So, full speed ahead on that.

I like the revised Secret of Stature. That makes more sense now. Ditto for your suggestions for the Handler and Tunnelwise Secrets (which I'll rename as something else), and the thoughts on the Underground and City-Dweller Secrets. I think its interesting that the City-Dweller one becomes a way to alleviate that floating penalty die for acting independent of your kin; again, it makes for dwarves who can leave a Maldorite dwarven ghetto and accomplish something interesting outside.

I'm with Troels in that I think that physicality and mentality go hand-in-hand in Near; its why being a goblin is both a physical phenomenon and an emotional one, and becoming a human means shedding both your gobliny body and your gobliny mind. Ditto for elves. But, then, thats such an icing-on-the-cake scenario that it should never interfere with how anyone wants to play this.

I was thinking in the same vein as Troels that the dwarf-to-goblin transition probably happens, as traditionalism becomes mania. The Petty Dwarf creates an interesting variation on that, with a lot of flavor. Just to make sure I understand its ramifications, though, the idea behind it is a dwarf-convert (from human, or goblin, for instance) who wants all of the profit with none of the inter-responsibility, correct? He gains knowledge of the family ways, and can steal some of the dwarven Secrets, but without the required Species Secret, he ends up not feeling the reliance on other dwarves. Basically, he's after the trade secrets without identifying himself with other members of the group. Hot. There's something about the "turning to wood" thing which is just spooky and wonderful. Does that come from a myth or folktale somewhere?

Troels, the Secret of Steadfastness is a really cool way of addressing that dwarven trope. I love that as an alternate mechanic which hasn't been explored yet, and it seems to work really well for the dwarven stubbornness idea made manifest in an interesting way, through their traditionalism. The Key of the Doubter also seems great.

I have some ideas I'm kicking around, as well, but I might include it in a second post, just to keep the exchange here from muddling too much.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on January 25, 2008, 01:08:06 PM
You're right about undercosting the magic item making. That was mostly because we haven't discussed how magic items are made, and many people just allow their creation for free (a character wanting a magic item just invest sufficient advances, and there it is); I was working from that assumption. In my own games it's substantially more expensive, and there are a bunch of Secrets controlling what kind of items a given magic smith can make. But that's another, more general discussion. The appropriate cost for the specific effect here (letting a character with specific semi-esoteric knowledge get a one Advance discount on an imbued item) is up in the air, really, as Secrets that burn Pool to avoid Advance costs are very rare. I might hike the cost up to 3 Pool, but no higher; the intent here is that dwarves (who are pretty much the only ones likely to learn these hidden, magical tongues) will simply have lots of moderately powerful equipment lying around, or are able to make such, as part of their power profile. I like how using this stuff is everyday for the dwarves themselves, while the items actually are no more efficient to use for anybody else.

For dwarves vs. goblins, it seems obvious that a petty dwarf is, in some manner, in a liminal state between a dwarf and a goblin. They even shapechange into logs (no specific myth back there, just generic fairy-taleness). Probably should add to the petty dwarf (gully dwarves they are actually called in English, I seem to suddenly remember; oh, well) description with a note that if the petty dwarf gains the Secret of Addiction, then halleluja, he becomes a goblin and gets rid of his wretched, degenerative state.

"Ring" is a fine generic term for dwarven societal units, very Scandinavian. Which does no harm, Near is eclectic enough already.

Talisman of the Kin is a great idea, I like. I was intending for the gaining of Pool points from Familia checks in Secret of the Kin to be a social ability, not magical, though; the dwarf actually interacts with his peers in the scene and we're just simplifying the interaction (which might well involve NPC dwarves that have not had any stats made) by rolling a check and seeing how much Pool the other dwarves can spare. Doesn't of course mean that the Talisman couldn't replicate this effect in a supernatural or psychological way.

Secret of Steadfastness is cool. Overall, though, there's probably enough crunch about dwarven stubborness now... There's enough to play with here, but it's all a bit over the place, mostly due to me searching for the essential things by making lots of crunch. Which doesn't necessarily hurt, some races are like that... but I'd like it if this stuff had some common logic and explicitly worded background explaining what it is that dwarves do. What I like about elves and goblins in TSoY as races is that they're pretty clear about what the player can get with them: with one he gets the aura and long memory, with the other he gets body modifications and an addiction. There are some less focused Secrets for both, but in both cases it's pretty clear where the mechanical heart lies and what is mechanically unique with them. The dwarves here have a lot of Secrets that detail their society but don't themselves do much, and several ideas about things dwarves might be good at... but the whole of it is a bit complex and going to all directions, not a short list of essential Secrets. I don't know what to do about that exactly, though. Would probably be a lot simpler if I left the Secrets concerning social roles implicit and just described the idea of concentric societies as fluff... then whatever is the central trick of the dwarves could get on the foreground. I suspect that it is either something to do with ordinance (which has the weakness of being relatively irrelevant outside the dwarven society), or the language trick, which is relatively easy to expand.

Anyway, definitely playable. Perhaps play would also answer the question about what's central and what's not.


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: shadowcourt on January 25, 2008, 01:19:44 PM
I notice that I didn't comment on "the era of kinstrife", which is just a little random thing which Eero mentioned in one of the Secrets. Its little things like that which really set my mind blazing. We've made even minor references in the book, like the rumor that there were no elves present on Near during the Year of Shadow, really add interesting historical content to our games. The idea that, post-Absolon, the dwarven empire fell apart and turned to internecine battle seems full of fun historical ideas. Dwarven families seceeding from clans, and votes of "no confidence" for thanes. Clans at war. The crumbling of the Empire's lost dwarftongue, as the High King perishes, and suddenly clans cannot understand the fellow clans they once were allied with. It's got a great Tower of Babel feel to it.

But, on to other subjects.

Secret of ...?
(My instinct is almost to calll this the Secret of the Pater Familias, but that's terrible, and not generic enough)

You are accorded important status within a specific ring of dwarven society. You might be the alder parent or grandparent of a family, the master of a guild, or a thane of a clan. You receive a bonus die on Familia checks with dwarves of one of the specific rings to which you belong. Prerequisiste: Secret of Kin, or an appropriate Secret for the ring to which you belong.

(The idea behind this is that playing an alder, thane, or guild higher-up should be possible, but one doesn't want to constantly leave ordinance issues to chance or the height of your ability rating.)

Secret of Social Dynamics
You are used to dealing with complex social politics and positioning, figuring out the ordinance of dwarves of various interlocking and clashing rings; as such, you find power politics among other races easy to interpret, as well. You can make a Familia check and spend 1 Reason to determine the relative social position of a character you are interacting with, relative to others present. You can determine one fact per Success Level, distinguishing whose status is higher than whose and where that power comes from. Cost: 1 Reason.

Secret of Dwarven Construction
You know the secrets of dwarven artisanry, and can make beautiful objects which are of excellent functionality and durability. Choose one Craft ability when you take this Secret. Any item you create using this Secret gives one bonus die to a particular ability when using this item, permanently. Additionally, the item is treated as if it were more durable; any attempt to shatter or break the item takes an additional penalty die. Cost: 4 Reason.

(An incentivized Secret of Quality Construction, with a little more flair to it. Something to dovetail with Eero's magical construction Secret; perhaps even as a pre-req for it. We use durability and shattering mechanics sometimes, so that's why it's here. Actually, in my home game, that part of the Secret would read "The item's durability is treated as if it were one SL higher.")

Secret of Communal Health
You can use your nearby kin to mitigate harm before it affects you. Effectively, your kin are more than willing to take a blow on your behalf, or pull you from danger at their own expense. A Familia ability check and the expenditure of 2 Reason allows you to mitigate a number of points of harm equal to the Success Level of the check before it hits you. However, you take a penalty die on any Familia checks to call on your kin for bonus dice or pool points for the duration of the scene. Cost: 2 Reason, plus a penalty die to appropriate Familia checks for the scene.

(This one may not translate over for 2nd edition TSOY players at all. Your Harm system is *very* different than ours. Discard or redesign as suits you guys best.)

Secret of the Dwarf Linguist
You can understand and decipher dwarftongues which are spoken in foreign rings, or those rings which are now broken, such as the fallen dwarven empire of Maldor. Spend 1 Reason and make a Familia check to interpret these languages when they are encountered. Cost: 1 Reason.

(For any dwarf who wants to plumb the depths of history, read ancient inscriptions of their people, or serve as the odd dwarven diplomat.)

I'm tempted to create a different set of dwarven Secrets, as well, which fill the same niche that the elven Aura Secrets do. That is to say that they're not directly connected to the Species Secret or Ability; Past-Lives, and the concept of reincarnation, doesn't directly inform what the Aura is or does, but the two types of Secrets mesh quite nicely, and create a more interesting whole, essentially a different axis to explore. I'm tinkering with ideas which could be used to create something similar for dwarves.

One option could be to explore the idea of dwarven ancestors in an interesting way. Some of the stuff about dwarves being crushed under the weight of tradition could be fun to play with not just in responsibility to living members, but also the dead. It could be an interesting route to explore to say that dwarven family-ties are so strong that sometimes the dead manifest through the living in interesting ways; whether this is inheritance of shared traits, actual possession (the zamani in a Qek sense), or some sort of strange blood magic, I haven't quite settled. Calling on dead ancestors for aid, or even just some semblance of their memory, has a neat kind of feel for me.

The other option could be to explore some of the elemental stuff which sits there in Clinton's original idea, and which I was kicking around at the beginning. I'm less tempted by that, because I wouldn't want to overshadow what's so interesting about the dwarves-as-family stuff we've got going now. I also might hold natural world stuff in abeyance for the *third* leg of this little foray into "new" species on Near (yes, there's a third one; details forthcoming).

That's it for now.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: shadowcourt on January 25, 2008, 01:36:24 PM
Eero,

It's very funny that you and I were working on posts musing on the same ideas at the same minute, albeit expressed in different ways. What I see as a second axis you see as the external focus, and we're both spot-on there. The rings of society, the interaction of Familia, is great, but its very internal, similar to the Past-Lives of the elf and the Addiction of the goblin. We need to figure out where the Aura/Adaptability/"here's my external aspect" is.

I don't think its as disorganized as it seems, anyway. If anything, that may be much more my fault than yours and Troels, in that I have a penchant for overly long Secret lists. As an example, in my homebrew games I have 29 new Secrets for Maldor, none of which rely on Three-Corner Magic (always felt that was a sore spot in the game that it was Three Corner or nothing for Cultural Maldorite Secrets), and 17 new Secrets for the elves. Don't even ask how many goblin ones I added. Its embarassing. So, some of the lack of focus may be rambling all over the place in search of interesting Secret ideas.

When we get through with brainstorming, if you and Troels (not to mention anyone else who contributes) are comfortable with the notion, I may take our language clarifications and cleaned-up mechanics and ideas and repost all of this as a Species Splat in a quasi-final post. I suspect it'll look much more organized at this point. We've just been in "throw it all at the wall and see what sticks" mode here, so don't worry too much about lack of clear focus.

But I'm with you, in that a second, externally-focused axis for the dwarves would be interesting. You might have something in your magical smithing rules you discussed (we should perhaps talk about this in a seperate thread, if you're game), but I suspect we should go beyond that, even.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: oliof on January 26, 2008, 06:11:40 AM
Hey Josh,
did you just admit that you are keeping more than 50 near-specific secrets from wanting minds?


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Adrian F. on January 26, 2008, 01:54:51 PM
I think that their birth elements would work as the second axis.

Secret of the birth element <Fire,Earth,Water,Air>
The old elemental blood is strong in the character.
He always gets a bonus die when he does something that involves his element and a penalty die when he does something that involves his opposite element.And can sense significant quantities of his element from afar.

Secret of the Earth skin
The skin of Earth dwarfs is sometimes as hard as their element.The earth dwarf can spend 1 vigor and every attempt to cause physical harm to him receives 1 penalty dice during this scene,
Cost: 1 Vigor
Requirement:Secret of Birth Element <Earth>

Secret of Fire Skin
The skin of Fire dwarfs is very resistant to fire.The fire dwaf can spend 1 vigor and he is immune to the effect of fire and smoke for one scene.
Cost: 1 Vigor
Requirement:Secret of Birth Element <Fire>

Secret of Water skin
The skin of Water dwarfs filters air from their element.The water dwarf can spend 1 vigor and he is immune to drowning during one scene.Additional he gains a bonus dice for every swim or dive checks.
Cost: 1 Vigor
Requirement:Secret of Birth Element <Water>

Secret of Air skin
The air dwarf can spend 1 vigor and he is immune to damage thought falling during one scene.
Cost: 1 Vigor
Requirement:Secret of Birth Element <Air>

Secret of Earth heart
A earth dwarf how has learned to be one with his elemental nature can reach thought meditation on his a state where
his whole body with the exception of his heart turns into stone.
He don't need to breath,eat,sleep or perform any other organic functions to stay alive in this state and has the protection that the earth skin grants,but he can take no action.He stays in this state until someone with a higher ordination commands him to awake.
Requirement:Secret of Birth Element <Earth>,Secret of Earth Skin

Secret of Fire heart
A fire dwarf how has learned to be one with his elemental nature can burst into flames when his anger is strong enough,He can spend 1 instinct and than cause 1 harm to anyone who touches him in BDtP.He stays in this state until the source of his anger is gone or someone with higher ordination commands him to calm down.
Cost: 1 Instinct.
Requirement:Secret of Birth Element <Fire>,Secret of Fire Skin

Secret of Water heart
A water dwarf how has learned to be one with his elemental nature hears the song of the sea in his heart.Whenever he touches a bigger body of water he can communicate with every other water dwarf who touches the same body of water.
Requirement:Secret of Birth Element <Water>,Secret of Water Skin

Secret of Air heart
A airdwarf how has learned to be one with his elemental nature can exactly predict the currents in the air and the weather they cause.
Requirement:Secret of Birth Element <Air>,Secret of Air Skin












Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Troels on January 26, 2008, 05:24:42 PM
The rings of society, the interaction of Familia, is great, but its very internal, similar to the Past-Lives of the elf and the Addiction of the goblin. We need to figure out where the Aura/Adaptability/"here's my external aspect" is.

Count me on board with the term "ring". And the internal/external thing. The Familia and the pool-sharing community is great. I think we almost have the outline of adequate external stuff in hand.

If we keep one theme of mental and physical perseverance that is shared by all dwarves, concretely represented physically by the Secret of Stature and mentally by the Secret of Steadfastness. What if we make the magic item creation and perhaps a sort of template for rituals to give dwarves externally useful stuff closely associated with the concrete tradition of their ring? You have been sort of dancing around that already. OK, so:

As part of the Secret of Kin, you get one free Secret, like the dwarven Head-Taking Rite, +2 damage when taking heads, or any other plausible weapon/armour/bonus die secret closely associated with the activities of the ring. Also, you can take further dwarven rituals that are Secrets with a pool cost of 2+, with a point off the cost for dwarven dedication, and they have to represent somewhat time-consuming activities. And they would have to be associated with the Way of your Ring. The Secret of Dwarven Construction is an example. Various divination-type activites could also be nice. That would seem reasonably satisfying and useful, and would bring out the ritualistic and tradition-oriented nature of the dwarves in play.

Adrian F.:
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I think that their birth elements would work as the second axis.

Adrian, unless the elements can be solidly connected with the concept of traditions, I think an elemental race deserves to have it's own personality shtick that is firmly, thematically connected with the elements. Of course this would all make potentially nice stuff for Clinton's original elemental dwarves that we have deviated quite considerably from by now, so hang on to it for now... And welcome to the party :)

Quote
When we get through with brainstorming, if you and Troels (not to mention anyone else who contributes) are comfortable with the notion, I may take our language clarifications and cleaned-up mechanics and ideas and repost all of this as a Species Splat in a quasi-final post. I suspect it'll look much more organized at this point. We've just been in "throw it all at the wall and see what sticks" mode here, so don't worry too much about lack of clear focus.

Good idea. There needs to be a post you can link to and read stuff that's useable right away. I'll cheer you on!


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: shadowcourt on January 27, 2008, 10:16:11 AM
Adrian,

Those are really cool, though I stand with Troels in that I want to move farther away from the quasi-elemental nature of the dwarves. I agree that its something which is deserving of its own species.

In truth, I'd already developed out about two-dozen Secrets for the dwarves-as-quasi-elementals, but I wasn't really happy with where it took them. They felt like the X-Men, and it was a real mismatch. There was flying and walking through walls and breathing water and flame powers, and it was just mutant-power mayhem. It felt like serious drift away from what is cool and earthy about Near and TSOY. My desire to get back to that was my impetus in starting this thread.

Adrian, if you're really keen on them, I can post the original version of that if you'd like, but I'll probably do it in a variant thread to this one, as I want to keep some things popping here along the lines we're working on.

There was, similarly, a second draft of that which I had been contemplating which straddled the two ideas, which was something like this: dwarven culture has been driven to the fringes of society for generations, forced to subsist in strange places such as the tops of mountains, underground caverns, or lost island chains. As such, dwarven magical research has discovered that there is intelligent magical life there, and met with elemental spirits, which have been similarly intrigued by the flesh life of the dwarves. The dwarves have been so impressed with the single-minded dedication of the elementals (consider that all a fire elemental does, for instance, is ignite and sustain and shape flame; it can only conceive of the world through the lens of flame; what’s relevant to it is very different than what’s relevant to us) that they have undertaken rituals for sharing “unity” with elemental spirits. Effectively, a dwarf would be bonded to an elemental, and would gain some benefits thereof. You might play a dwarf who shares his soul with an entity of gemstone, then, or iron, or precious metal, or something more like ice or water.

There was something about the “two minds, one body” idea which seemed to mesh nicely with where we’re taking the dwarves in this discussion. I was conceiving of a few Secrets which I was kicking around, but was always leery of straying back into “dwarves as super-powered mutants” land.

Again, if it’s the sort of thing people would really like to see further developed, let me know, and we can talk about it here or in a splinter thread.


Troels,

We’re clearly vibing around the same ideas these days. Sitting on the train, I was taking notes on what to do as the dwarven second axis, and “social rituals” kept coming up in my brainstorming. There’s something about the idea of their communal identity that seemed to fit in an interesting way with the idea of rites, just because they are group and community phenomena by their nature, and serve as interesting social markers.

I couldn’t decide just what to do with them, though. One option is to create Secrets which are about rites of passage, and mark developments in a dwarf’s life. So these would be Secrets you take when you reach a milestone, such as coming of age, getting married, mastering a trade, or becoming the alder for a family. The other option is to have Secrets which represent the power and privilege of officiating over the major turning points of other dwarves’ lives (i.e. a Secret which lets you marry people and/or annul their marriages if they fail to produce offspring or in other ways fail to benefit the rings of dwarven society).

The problem is that both of these seem really boring and myopic, even to me. What’s worse, they run the risk of just being more internally focused in the second option, as it still is dwarves just being all about other dwarves. So the idea is still very half-formed, and hasn’t gained a lot of traction yet.

I think there may be some heat still to the idea of exploring ancestor stuff as this secondary Secret axis, and I’ll let my wheels turn on it for a bit longer. The idea of channeling your dead ancestors for insight, assistance, and energy is always one which is near and dear to my heart.

You may be closer to what we want with your suggestions about forge-craft and ritual-craft. It could be fun to play with their magic item creation rules. Eero, do you have any interest in sharing your expanded version of that, even if its in another thread?

It’s interesting that one thing we’ve stayed away from throughout most of this is the image of the dwarf as appetitive, acquisitive, or greedy, which is such a mainstay in Tolkien and the Tolkien-inheritors. If memory serves, it’s the central defining axis of dwarves in The Burning Wheel. The magic item/magic ritual method might well serve as a fresh way of breathing new life into that old conceit without making it fall back on something more banal, like forcing dwarves to take the Key of Glittering Gold all of the time.


oliof,

Honestly, it's more like 500, if I had to guess. Sick as that seems. I'm fond of homebrew Secrets, and I've a penchant for creating them in places where I feel like I wanted more variety--so Maldor's cultural non-Three Corner Secrets are a good example. I did a lot of expansion stuff on the Zaru, as well, both so that there were some fun Uptenbo Secrets to pick and choose from, and some stuff which wasn't about either Uptenbo or Zu at all, so that different characters would come to the fore. I've got a bunch of Ammeni stuff, full cultural abilities and Secrets from my homebrew Oran, and maybe three other countries which aren't canon, of which Vulfland is one and I'll probably post another in about two weeks, as this brainstorming process has been brilliant for refining them.

There's been a criminal amount of Secrets added to my Open list, as well. I have a problem. I'm the first to admit it.

In the interest of being generous to a board that has been so awesomely generous with me in recent weeks, I might start another post offering up the Maldor Secrets, as its a great setting, sits in many ways at the real core of Near, and its fun to give something back.

But more on that tomorrow.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Adrian F. on January 27, 2008, 12:32:47 PM
Here are some replacement secrets:

Secret of the Halfed dwarf
The character lost half of himself.The family of the characters shows pity for your crippling wound.He can now use Instinct instead of reason for his Familia (R) checks concerning his family.
(He get this secret for free when He qualify for it,it replaces Secret of the true brothers)
Requirement: Secret of True Brothers (a specific character),The brother died

Secret of the Lone Survivor
Something destroyed the whole family of the character and left him behind.He is  now cursed, the demise of his family follows his wherever he goes and brings bad luck to every dwarf around you.A lone survivor is feared by every dwarf,but nobody dares to harm one,because when he is murdered the demise will strike at his murderer and destroys his dwarfhood.
Every dwarf who is in a scene with the lone survivor gains a penalty dice for one check determined by the SG in this scene.A dwarf who kills a lone survivor turns into a petty dwarf.
(This secret replaces Secret of the kin.This secret is replaced with Secret of the kin,when the character regains a family throught adoption or forming a new family)
Requirement:Secret of the Kin (specific family),The character is the lone survivor of his family




Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Troels on January 28, 2008, 06:43:44 AM
Adrian:

That's the kind of stuff I can get behind.

Josh:

What I had in mind was rituals that would fulfil the external aspect function, ie let an individual dwarf amongst non-dwarves do cool and useful stuff in play. No doubt dwarves have a ton of social rituals and rites de passage, that undoubtedly do nifty things as well as social/psychological functions, and my little internal Sim gamer is itching to detail them. But I don't think it would necessarily be wise to do so. Better to just assume them and get on with it, detailing their effects as necessity arises in play.

The rituals for individuals could be based on a variety and/or mixture of dedicated specialisation, psyching yourself up to perform extraordinary things, and downright magic. And they ought IMO to be ring-specific, meaning that what we should make is examples, and guidelines for creating your own ring.

Your remarks on dwarven greed got me thinking about Tolkien's lovely characterisation of dwarves in "The Hobbit", that could really apply to a lot of people in Near:

"Dwarves are generally decent people, as long as you don't expect too much."

...and I think you are completely right that it might be cooler to feed the trope with item-oriented powers than to focus on greed itself. Between tradition-focus and greed, we might end up inadverdently producing a bunch of horrible little "greedy jew" caricatures, which is not what I want!

And might I say, both this and the Vulfenland stuff has been a ton of fun! Thanks for bringing it up, Josh.


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: shadowcourt on January 28, 2008, 07:53:12 AM
Adrian,

Those Secrets do rock. Nice. My (very minor) suggestion is that the language of Secret of the Halted Dwarf should be retooled so that even when reading the first line, you have a sense of which characters should be taking it. It wasn't until the end that I realized who it was for and what it represented. So, perhaps a minor edit:

Secret of the Halted Dwarf
You are emotionally crippled by the loss of a dwarf with whom you shared True Brotherhood. This might have been a spouse, sibling, guild-mate, or anyone else with whom you were spiritually united. Your Familia ability is now linked to Instinct rather than Reason. You are a creature to be pitied among most dwarven rings, though some dwarves may bear a grudge for the loss of one of their own (such as your True Brother's relatives).
Prerequisite: Secret of True Brothers to a specific character who is now dead.
Special: This Secret can replace the Secret of True Brothers when your bonded brother dies.

I love that Lone Survivors are such omens of doom, and yet everyone is afraid of acting against them. That's going to make someone an awesome character concept. Great stuff.


Troels,

Uh huh. You and I are on the same wavelength about the caricature potential, and its inherent grossness. Best to move that elsewhere. All of D&D, for a long time, was primarily about acquisition of gold, so it only made a gigantic niche for the dwarven stereotype to fall into. As TSOY mostly tosses that out the window to do things which are dramatically and personally more significant (not to completely look askance at things like the Key of Glittering Gold, of course, which is hella fun in play, but still doesn't require one to track character wealth fastitdiously), there's no reason to not develop in more interesting directions. Materialism as a sociological conceit--the culture of craft and artisanry, considering one's tools and possesions to be an extension of oneself, are far more interesting ideas, really.

It's really fun now to brainstorm up dwarven enclaves and their personal obssessions. None of these are the sort of things that need to be part of the core dwarven write-up, but they're fun models on how to mesh them in new ways with a setting once play starts, like the Qek and Maldorite dwarves above. Even just wandering around thinking about it, I've considered how to take the "miner" trope and turn it into something frightening in Khale--consider dwarves who eschew the naturalistic and tree-hugging human culture of Khale to instead focus on its mineral wealth. They would happily strip-mine the woodlands for what they see as worthy, which would terrify the human Khalean population, who see the trees as their ancestors. The current obssession for said dwarves would obviously be Moon-Metal.

Dwarves with a focus on immortality could be similarly charming. I can envision dwarves whose obssessive goal is to abolish death forever, through one means or another. Their aged and withered thane remains propped-up by alchemical cocktails and the continued doting of his people, while the rings below him pursue greater understanding of medicine, necromancy, spying on elves, and countless other studies, all with the ultimate goal of "killing death itself."

Similarly, I can imagine a contingent of Zaru dwarves who believe that Zu has broken the world, and only hastens its destruction. They are similar to the Watchers in some of their philosophies, but their commitment to their cause has forced them into total silence, communicating only by gesture, sign language, and other non-verbal methods. These dwarves are not above the use of violence to accomplish their goals, assassinating Zaru elders and those gifted with a great many syllables. When the Zu language dies forever, the world might be able to heal itself once more. Their opposition to unifying magical languages, and the peril they impose, might make them dangerous foes of any agenda to unite the fractured dwarven clans into a great domain or empire once more, for fear that a unified dwarftongue poses the same risks that Zu did before its breaking.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Adrian F. on January 28, 2008, 10:08:00 AM
Here are some dwarven key:

Key of the Scavenger
When you take and use a object that was discarded by someone else: 1 xp
When you use a discarded item to create something that is more useful than the original 3 xp
Buyoff:Buy or trade something new

Key of Xenophobe
When you are afraid of a non-dwarf: 1 xp
When you run away from a non-dwarf: 2 xp
When you run attack a non-hostile non-dwarf out of fear: 5 xp
Buyoff:Thrust a non-dwarf

Key of the waybringer
When you teach your way to another dwarf: 1 xp
When you teach your way to a non-dwarf:2 xp
When you teach your way even if it means harm for you: 5 xp
Buyoff: Keeping your way to yourself

Key of the empire
When you acts follows the laws of the old dwarven empire : 1 xp
When your force someone else to follow the laws of the old dwarven empire: 2 xp
When you act to reestablish the dwarven empire: 5 xp
Buyoff: Act against the laws of the old dwarven empire

Key of the Ring
When you meet someone who is a member of one of your rings,that you haven't meet before: 1 xp
When you get a outsider to support one of your rings: 2 xp
When you gain a new member for one of your rings that isn't your family: 5 xp
Buyoff: Act against the will of one of your rings

p.s:It is Halved Dwarf not Halted Dwarf.He lost half of his spiritual self and didn't stopped walking.








Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: shadowcourt on January 28, 2008, 08:10:36 PM
Adrian,

Sorry about the misread there. On my screen, it looked like a "t", and it was the misspelling of "halved" which threw me.

Eero,

Do you have any interest in posting your magical item stuff for TSOY? We can do it here or in another thread, but I didn't want to just start that thread without your buy-in.

While we're on the topic of dwarven craft in general, here's a possibility, albeit a relatively dry one, I think. Still, it might have a niche somewhere:

Secret of the Artisan's Eye
You have a talent for examining any creation of art or craftwork and determining things about its creator and the person who has recently used it. This can tell you facts about a singer as well as the balladeer who first wrote the song he is singing, just as it can impart secrets of a warrior's life and history by examining his blade, as easily as it could tell you facts about the blacksmith who forged it. An appropriate Crafts or Artistic ability is used for the check, and 1 Reason is spent. Every Success Level on the check imparts another fact about the current owner or the person who crafted it. Cost: 1 Reason.

Could be fun in the right circumstances. I can imagine it being interesting to reveal interesting facts and mysteries just from the keen eye of a craftsman, who studies every nick in a blade, and every brushstroke of a painting.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Adrian F. on January 28, 2008, 10:09:39 PM
I don't think that any secret that allowed a grand Admiral of the empire to conquer several worlds is dry.

Secret of the Artisan's lie
You learned to manipulated the traces of you on your work,that the tell any story you want.Any Secret of the Artisan's check must beat the craft check you used to create your work,or they only learn what you want.

Cost: 1  Reason



Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on January 28, 2008, 11:28:58 PM
Go ahead and start new threads! I haven't posted now due to other business, but I'm following the discussion. Perhaps magical craft is, after all, the external power leverage for dwarven-kind. They just need some clear qualitative advantage/difference from other craftsmen, not just random bonus dice here and there.


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: oliof on January 29, 2008, 03:52:24 AM
I like the Artisan's Eye because it is along the Veteran Secrete and complements  the Hidden Meaning Secret that already exists… which leads me to the question of what the difference between Artisan's lie and Hidden Meaning is.

Regards,
    Harald


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Adrian F. on January 29, 2008, 05:04:10 AM
Artisan's lie is a direct counter-secret for artisan's eye.

A dwarf with artisan's eye will know that the sword was made by a human with blue eyes,the creator will maybe able to persuade him with sway that he is really a elf if he created the weapon with inner meaning,but he is able to do this because he is a good liar,not because he is a good craft men who was able to produce the sword like a lefthanded kobold with a terrible fear of crocodiles ,would produce it.




Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Troels on January 31, 2008, 03:11:06 AM
Oh, I just came up with a "title" for our dwarves. You know, like humans are "masters of war", elves are "monsters of heaven" etc. Or to be precise, Eero came up with it.

Dwarves: Stooped beneath the Burden.

So, do we do a summary post here, or in it's own thread?


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Adrian F. on January 31, 2008, 04:33:39 AM
Another possible title is "Lords of the rings" :)


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: shadowcourt on January 31, 2008, 07:53:20 AM
Troels,

Probably here, but I'm letting the pie cool for a few days, just because I'd ideally like to post some of the "external axis" stuff with them, if we can. I'm kicking around what sorts of Secrets would be best for the magical object/rite design, if thats the direction we go in. Regrettably, I don't have a ton of them hammered out yet (no pun intended), but I figure we should start laying some out.

Laying out Secrets which are about buying an item with powers are one thing (see the Secret of Imbuement), but I think Eero off-handedly mentioned one of my concerns, either in this thread or a different one, which is that letting pool expenditure take the place of XP expenditure always has potential risks to it. Pools can refresh much more quickly than XP does, in some cases, and so it can create a weird economy. You don't want to make any Secret which is about building cool magic items so prohibitively expensive that no one ever uses it, but make it too cheap and it devalues the utility of ordinary items and the standard way of purchasing Secrets. Consider the Secret of Quality Construction as an example, where you can effectively buy something which is about as good as the baseline Secret for the expenditure of 5 Reason. That's arguably the most expensive (non-Three Corner) Secret in the game, with only Sudden Knife coming close.

So, I'm musing on some ideas that are stackable, like Three-Corner Magic Secrets, and work something like this:

Secret of Crafting: Animated
You can create items which are semi-sentient, and possess some ability of their own. Choose one appropriate Ability to bestow on the item you are creating (such as Dueling for a sword, or Theft for a set of lock picks. The item has an Ability rating equal to the Success Level you achieve on the appropriate crafting check. The item bestows a bonus die when anyone is using the object, as it subtly corrects its own usage using its own insight. Additionally, for the expenditure of 3 Reason, the item can leap to life, so that animated swords fight on their own, and lockpicks open locks, freeing you to perform other actions. Creation Cost: 3 Reason, 1 Vigor.

Secret of Crafting: Creative
You can create items which produce a quantity of a raw natural manifesation, such as a bottle which consantly pours water from it, a staff which produces smoke, or a sword which glows with brilliant light. The Success Level achieved on the crafting check works as the Creation ability from Three-Corner Magic, but can produce one specific manifestation. In some situations, these manifestations may provide a bonus or penalty die, as necessary: a fiery sword might provide a bonus die on an Intimidate check, while a cloak which emits darkness could provide a penalty die to anyone trying to see the wearer clearly. Creation Cost: 2 Vigor, 1 Reason.


I don't know. They work fine enough, I suspect, but I'm just feeling a little uninspired about them.

I'm waiting for lightning to strike, I guess.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: oliof on January 31, 2008, 08:03:50 AM
I dunno, I have a feeling some of the ideas that were kicked around regarding the Petrana Clockpunk Setting (http://random-average.com/Petrana/HomePage) might be an inspiration.


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Troels on January 31, 2008, 12:28:08 PM
Pools can refresh much more quickly than XP does, in some cases, and so it can create a weird economy.

A bit of sim speaking here, but the logical consequence is industrialisation. If you have a couple rounds of chess with your buddies and suddenly everyone in the group has a flying, fiery sword ...ick!

Quote
So, I'm musing on some ideas that are stackable, like Three-Corner Magic Secrets, and work something like this:

Otherwise nice.

How about this for fluff/principles: To make the legendary artifacts of the dwarves, you need to put a bit of yourself into the artifact, in a grand ritual celebrated by many of your fellows. With the bit of you (advance(s)) comes the blessings of the honourable ancestors on enterprise serving the ideals of the Ring. Blessings flow upon those who serve the Ring, curses fall upon those who seek to usurp it's treasures for their own ends.

Oh, and BTW any Ring needs a specific Key of the Ring giving xp for attempts to serve the Ring's purpose.

So:
Secret of Dwarf Treasure
This object is dedicated to serving a specific Ring. Any dwarf of that Ring taking action to further the Way will receive a number of bonus dice for the scene equal to the number of xp he gets. Also, any dwarf of that Ring may use Familia (R) to bless a rightful wielder or curse any wielder. 1 Vigour buys a pool of bonus dice equal to the Familia check, two Instinct buy penalty dice.

Also, feel free to go wild with Signature Item, Imbuement, Inner Meaning and what-have-you. Stackable fancy magic could well be built on top of this. Maldorite dwarves might well put in actual 3<, Our dear qek Head-hunters could put in walozi stuff. Sounds good?


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: shadowcourt on February 05, 2008, 11:46:03 AM
Had some Dwarven inspiration last night. Let me show you all what I'm kicking around, in terms of some fun crafting Secrets.

I'm going to combine Eero's suggestion about reduced experience costs, and perhaps run the Crafting Secrets as things which can be added to items that are appropriately prepared by being Imbued / Quality Constructed  / Inner-Meaninged etc. So, it might work a little more like how I've done it below.

First, let's update some prior posted Secrets, for clarity and alignment with the new ideas I'm kicking around:

Secret of the Forge
The character knows secrets that are only expressable in the first place in the secret language of the rings to which he belongs. The concepts, or even the necessary grammatical structures, are simply missing in other languages. These secrets allow the character to craft magic items (or rituals, as the case may be for non-craft Abilities) using dwarven Crafting Secrets. Items you create bear the quality of "dwarven", and therefore require one less Advance to own for anybody proficient with languages spoken in your ring or rings. Requirements: Secret of Ring-Tongue or an alder, thane or king who has it.

Secret of Dwarven Construction
You know the secrets of dwarven artisanry, and can make beautiful objects which are of excellent functionality and durability. Choose one Craft ability when you take this Secret. Any item you create using this Secret gives one bonus die to a particular ability when using this item, permanently. Additionally, the item is treated as if it were more durable; any attempt to shatter or break the item takes an additional penalty die. Cost: 4 Reason. Special: This Secret counts as the Secret of Quality Construction, for the purposes of any Crafting Secrets.

and now, to the meat of the matter:

Secret of Crafting: Animated
You can craft items which are semi-sentient, and possess some ability of their own. The item must be created with the Secret of Quality Construction, or in some other way confer a bonus die for the use of a specific ability, due to its fine workmanship. Choose one appropriate Ability to bestow on the item you are creating (such as Dueling for a sword, or Theft for a set of lock picks. The item has an Ability rating equal to the Success Level you achieve on the appropriate crafting check. Additionally, for the expenditure of 3 Reason, the item can leap to life, so that animated swords fight on their own, and lockpicks open locks, freeing you to perform other actions. Creation Cost: 3 Reason, 1 Vigor. Special: The item to be granted this power must have the Secret of Quality Construction applied to it.

Secret of Crafting: Creative
You can create items which produce a quantity of a raw natural manifesation, such as a bottle which consantly pours water from it, a staff which produces smoke, or a sword which glows with brilliant light. The item must already have some other form of Imbuement attached to it. The Success Level achieved on the crafting check works as the Creation ability from Three-Corner Magic, but can produce one specific manifestation. In some situations, these manifestations may provide a bonus or penalty die, as necessary: a fiery sword might provide a bonus die on an Intimidate check, while a cloak which emits darkness could provide a penalty die to anyone trying to see the wearer clearly. Creation Cost: 2 Vigor, 1 Reason. Special: The item to be granted this power must have the Secret of Imbuement applied to it.

Secret of Crafting: Perfected
You can craft items which are made with superior elegant designs, almost carrying an inherent skill of their own. The item must be created with the Secret of Quality Construction. The item provides a +1 bonus to the final check result, not the Success Level, of any ability check you make when wielding it for its quality construction purpose. This +1 is added to the dice result of the ability check. Creation Cost: 5 Reason, 1 Vigor, 1 Instinct. Special: The item to be granted this power must have the Secret of Quality Construction applied to it.

Secret of Crafting: Destined
You can craft items which are made with superior elegant designs, almost carrying an inherent skill of their own. The item must be created with the Secret of Quality Construction or the Secret of Imbuing. The item has one Key built into it, a purpose for which it was shaped. The wielder of said item receives XP as if he had that Key, so long as the object is in his possession. However, the item applies a penalty die to any action the owner takes in defiance of the Key's goals, including the Key's buyoff. The Key cannot be bought off without the object being reforged using this Secret. Creation Cost: 3 Reason, 2 Instinct. Special: The item to be granted this power must have the Secret of Quality Construction or Secret of Imbuement applied to it.

Secret of Crafting: Selective
You can craft items which are designed only for specific users. This is famously used in dwarven neighborhoods in larger communities to make their alleyways and roads impossibly complex for outsiders to easily navigate. The item must be created with the Secret of Inner Meaning. The item applies a penalty die on users the creator does not specify at the time of creation, such as "anyone not in my family or clan" or "anyone other than myself." Creation Cost: 2 Reason, 1 Instinct. Special: The item to be granted this power must have the Secret of Inner Meaning applied to it.

Secret of Crafting: Reserve
You can craft items which are designed to store the energies of mortal hearts and minds within them, granting strength and confidence to their wielders. The item must be created with the Secret of Quality Construction. In game terms, these items serve as pool point "batteries", containing 2 pool points within them. The wielder can tap these items for the pool points, so long as he is using them for a purpose appropriate to the item in question. The pool in question, such as Vigor or Reason, is specified at the time of creation; the item replenishes its pools when the wielder does, so long as he has the object on his person at the time. Creation Cost: 3 Vigor, 1 Reason. Special: The item to be granted this power must have the Secret of Quality Construction applied to it.

Secret of Crafting: Multipurpose
You can craft items which are designed for more than one use. This might be as simple as a cloak which provides a bonus die to Stealth in shadows and a bonus die to Etiquette checks to impress under sunlight, or a hammer which provides a bonus die to Rough Crafts and Dueling checks. It could even be an item which transforms from one shape to another, such as a walking stick which becomes a whip-thin blade. The item must be created with the Secret of Quality Construction. This second quality is added when this Secret is applied. Creation Cost: 3 Reason. Special: The item to be granted this power must have the Secret of Quality Construction applied to it.

Secret of Crafting: Wyrdling
You can craft items use abilities in unusual ways, refocusing the strengths of the wielder. This might take the form of a belt which confers enhanced strength to a character, or a book full of ancient lore which obligingly answers questions you ask of it. Like the Transformation Secrets of Three-Corner Magic, the wielder of this flips either his best ability rating for an ability specified at the time the object is created, or else flips two pre-specified abilities (chosen when the object is created). The item must be created with either the Secret of Quality Construction or the Secret of Inner Meaning. Creation Cost: 3 Instinct, 1 Reason. Special: The item to be granted this power must have the Secret of Quality Construction or Secret of Inner Meaning applied to it.

Secret of Crafting: Vicious
You can create items have the furious energy of destruction bound within them. The item must already have some other form of harmful Imbuement attached to it.Outside of Bringing Down the Pain, these items deal 1/2 the total Success Level in harm on their successful use. During Bringing Down the Pain, the item behaves normally. Creation Cost: 5 Instinct, 2 Vigor. Special: The item to be granted this power must have the Secret of Imbuement applied to it for harm.

Secret of Crafting: Obliterating
You can create weapons which penetrate even the hardest forms of defense, ignoring the defensive imbuing from anything except those with the Adamant quality. The item must already have some other form of Imbuement attached to it. The item ignores the defensive bonus from any imbued item but an Adamant one, dealing its normal damage plus its weapon bonus. Creation Cost: 3 Reason, 1 Instinct. Special: The item to be granted this power must have the Secret of Imbuement applied to it.

Secret of Crafting: Adamant
You can create defensive items which prevent the benefits of Piercing Imbuings. These defensive items are treated as if they had a +2 imbued defense against Obliterating attacks. The item must already have some other form of defensive Imbuement attached to it. Creation Cost: 3 Reason, 1 Vigor. Special: The item to be granted this power must have the Secret of Imbuement applied to it for defense.


The idea behind this is that you could create, say, a Destined Imbued object, and if you had the Secret of the Forge, it would require only 1 advance for a dwarf in your ring to own (including yourself), not two. I think the synthesis of these ideas makes some potentially really doughty objects craftable, that you can use for a little bit and discard (not bothering to pay the advances for them), use for a while and buy cheaply if you're a dwarf, or give to someone else who buys more dearly (multiple advances), but they're still pretty bad-ass. Hopefully not world-breaking, though.

Does this make sense? Maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree, but its an attempt to try and create objects which are genuinely unusual, non-specific to any one culture, and don't totally break the game mechanics into pieces. Some of them I definitely like more than others.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on February 05, 2008, 05:38:23 PM
This needs to be honed a bit, I think. Some issues:
  • Craft items shouldn't need to have Quality Construction or other such requirement Secrets, as that decreases flexibility and requires perhaps inappropriate Secrets on the item in question. I appreciate the idea that an exceptional item can't be "shoddy", but mechanically it's too much if I can't have a craft effect without needing to take a bonus die as well when I don't want to have that bonus die. It's better to require the creator to have the appropriate Secrets but not force them to be included in the items created.
  • While you don't comment on it explicitly, these Craft Secrets probably should require an Advance to own the item created with them.
However, more problematically, this is all a bit vague mechanically as long as we're not exactly clear on the larger magic item issue. Let me rewrite all the magic item -related stuff from ground up, perhaps that will help with making this solid. The following is partially from the Finnish edition, partially from my own files and partially created on the spot to match with the dwarven stuff.

Item qualities

The costs of item qualities are base costs for including the quality in an item when creating the item; separate Secrets are actually used to create the item itself. The actual Pool used depends on the Secret used to include the item quality.

Imbued Item
An imbued item is an item that has the power of a specific Secret. The Secret's usage cost, if any, is discounted by one from any pertinent Pool determined at the time of creation. The Imbued item costs Advances equal to the number of Secrets for a character owning the item on a permanent basis; losing or giving away the item frees these Advances for other purposes. A character going to Advance dept due to an Imbued item has difficulty controlling the item, suffering penalty dice equal to the amount of dept in any use of the item. Cost: 2 Pool

The Secret of Imbuement has always been a bit weird in that it's denoted as a Secret while it doesn't actually give a character any special ability. This could be understood as the Secret of Imbuement giving the character having it the power to create these items or something like that, but that's apparently not what Clinton intented. It's therefore more logical to characterize imbuement as a special property of the item itself. I'm also taking the opportunity to address what happens if a character insists on owning an item out of their range.

Rated Item
A rated item is an item that has a guaranteed (not contingent on a SG call) equipment rating at any level. An item may only have at most three +1 ratings, two +2 ratings and one +3 rating. The rated item costs Advances equal to the number of equipment ratings it possesses for a character owning the item on a permanent basis; losing or giving away the item permanently frees these Advances for other purposes. A character going to Advance dept due to an Imbued item has difficulty controlling the item, suffering penalty dice equal to the amount of dept in any use of the item. Cost: 1 Pool

I separated the two functions of imbuement into two Secrets in the Finnish edition for simplicity's sake. As above, an item having an equipment rating isn't really a Secret, so I rewrote it as an item quality for our purposes; we need to establish a clear distinction between item qualities and Secrets if we want to have a heavy-duty item rules system.

Masterwork Item
A masterwork item is one that gives a free bonus die for a character utilizing it for its intented purpose. Owning a masterwork item does not cost an Advance, which puts it in the box of mechanically significant but merely fictionally controlled features alongside herbs, poisons, contingent equipment ratings and probably several other things I can't think of right now. Cost: 5 Pool

Profound Item
A profound item has a quality rating equal to the check result made to create it. The item also has a specific meaning expressed at the time of its creation, and a specific audience for which it is intented. When faced with the profound item for the first time, the audience accepts the message of the item (at least fleetingly) unless they can beat the quality rating of the item with an appropriate check. Owning a profound item does not cost an Advance. Cost: 2 Pool

These two are simply extensions of the above principle of writing it out when an item works with some special rules. The profound item is a rewrite of the Secret of Hidden Meaning; while some will probably prefer the original with its flexibility, I like it more when it works like a poison or any other thing with conflict significance; simpler that way.

Rules for imbuing items with item qualities

Any item may be declared with a specific item quality by the SG when introducing the item, of course. Additionally, players may determine that an item actually has some quality when it becomes pertinent, provided that this makes sense for a mundane item and the SG judges it so. Mostly this is about equipment ratings. This option is used for items that "always had" the quality in question; for example, a player might want a suit of plate mail to have an equipment rating against weapons, which certainly makes sense in the setting, and thus requires no special procedure to declare, even though it will have immediate effects. As we know, TSoY frequently has fictionally identical items that differ mechanically from each other, like when one character's suit of plate actually has an equipment rating while another's is just color. All part and parcel of a formalistic rules system.

(Declaring an item quality in this manner doesn't actually cost any Pool points, despite the costs listed above; they're just used for the heavy-duty crafting Secrets I'll introduce soon.)

However, when we get to exceptional or even magical items and procuring them, the rules are silent; how does one create a magic item? TSoY implies that this happens via the above procedure, or perhaps by obtaining the item from NPCs who just happen to have them or just happen to be able to create them, but of course I have some Secrets for characters who want to be their own smiths. The Secrets below all assume that creating an item takes around one day per Pool point spent.

Secret of Quality Construction (Ability)
The character has an eye for details and is thus able to laboriously create items with the masterwork quality when using the designated Ability. Cost: 5 Reason

Secret of Inner Meaning
The character has the gift necessary for true art. He can create items of profound quality with suitable Abilities. Cost: 2 Instinct

Secret of Craftsmanship (Ability)
The character can create rated and imbued items with the designated Ability due to long experience or special education. He can create any item the SG considers representative of mundane possibilities of the local industrial and technological environment. This limitation is independent of the Advance cost of such items; while Secret of Flying Leap is probably outside the technological acumen of any Near cultures to replicate in an item, it is relatively trivial to load almost any type of item with multiple equipment bonuses. The item can have different qualities at most equal to the Ability check made the create the item. Cost: per quality from an Ability-appropriate Pool.

Of course, different magics can also be conseivably used to create items with qualities, and different cultures might have specific means to overcome the above limitations. And the SG can, of course, introduce pre-skyfire era artifacts with whatever amazing powers he wants. This is just the minimum for what we need to make the dwarves work.

Secret of the Great Project
When crafting an item with item qualities, the character does not need to pay Pool costs for the item all at once. Instead, he may stop work for research or rest and continue it whenever he feels like it (that is, when he again has Pool to spend). The player may decide how much of his Pool the character spends at once on creating the item. Requirements: Secret of Craftsmanship

This becomes necessary if somebody wants to make a really powerful item.

Dwarven Item Construction Crunch

Now, on to the actual topic at hand. Here's how I see the dwarven craft stuff:

Secret of Obsessed Crafting
The dwarf can use his Vigor Pool to pay the Pool costs of a particular crafting project. Cost: 2 Vigor Requirements: Secret of Purpose

Secret of the Ring-Tongue (Ring) (Ability)
A Ring-Tongue is a dwarven language based on common experiences and convictions of a Ring; it is a genuine language with its own lexicon, ortography and grammar, all crafted with care to mold the patterns of thought when using the language to think and express things. The creator of the language determines an Ability which gains a bonus die for any character with this Secret for that specific language, but only when the Ability is used for the Purpose of the Ring. Additionally, the Ring-Tongue is virulent: if the leader of the ring learns this Secret, all dwarves in the Ring have learned to speak and understand the language within a year and a day. Any dwarf of the ring may make a Familia (R) check to learn the language in a day from a willing source. Note that knowing the language and having this Secret are separate issues. Requirements: 5 Reason and a successful appropriate Ability (preferably some sort of linguistics, I'd imagine) check to create the Ring-Tongue in the first place; an appropriate Ring membership to learn.

Secret of Wondrous Craft (Ring-Tongue)
The items the character creates are not limited to mundane effects when the creation is undertaken with the designated Ring-Tongue; any quality combinations are possible insofar as the resulting item has an appropriate form for the qualities it has, and the character has access to the qualities from other Secrets; this Secret merely lifts the mundanity requirement. The upper limit to the number of allowed qualities in the item is doubled, as well. Any item created with this Secret will have special effects that make its magical nature obvious. Requirements: Secret of Craftsmanship, knowing a Ring-Tongue. Cost: per item quality from an Ability-appropriate Pool, +1 per quality.

This one is actually significantly more open-ended than the systems I've set up for my home games; I have huge problems with the idea that a character could take any Secret and put it into an item, even when the same Secret is rare or non-existant in the setting otherwise. Lots of quality control is therefore recommended; my own system is a bit too heavy for most, probably, unless your game actually revolves around magic smiths and what they can or can't make.

Secret of Ritual-craft (Ring-Tongue)
The character can create dwarven rituals with the Ring-Tongue specified; the ritual itself consists of actions pertinent for the Ability associated with the Ring-Tongue, so it's ritual singing for a singing Ability, ritual oaths for a poetic Ability and so on. A dwarven ritual is considered an item for the purposes of adding item qualities; a character can "lose" the ritual by forgetting it, but obviously enough it cannot be stolen. A ritual can, however, be taught to another character. Each ritual, when executed, requires an appropriate Ability check from the character performing the ritual; failure causes a penalty die for situations the ritual was intented to help until the next time the ritual is reneved. Success allows the character to wield the item qualities of the ritual as his own inherent abilities. When creating a ritual, the creator specifies how often and in what manner the ritual is executed: there is always a certain balance between frequency, regularity, obviousness, expense, convenience and effort involved.

I decided that this is exotic enough to need a Secret to faciliate; there's a reason that dwarves prefer material crafts.

Secret of Dwarven Construction (Ring-Tongue)
Dwarves naturally have an eye for details; the character can create items with the masterwork quality when using the designated Ring-Tongue. Cost: 3 Reason

Secret of the Forge
The character knows how to create items that make sense, if only the user has the necessary mind-set. Any such item created will have the Dwarven (Ring-Tongue) quality for the Ring-Tongue used in creating it. Requirements: Knowledge of a Ring-Tongue pertinent for crafting the item.

Secret of the Craft (item quality)
The character has mastered one item quality and may include it in any items he makes with the Secret of the Forge as long as the resulting item is considered mundane in its effect as per Secret of Craftsmanship. Requirements: Secret of the Forge Cost: per quality, Pool to be determined based on the type of craft case-by-case.

This last Secret is the pinnacle here (alongside Wondrous Craft, certainly), pretty much; as qualities cannot be really brought into play unless a specific Secret allows such, the Secret of the Craft is actually pretty flexible with the right qualities. It still doesn't make sense on the level of detail I prefer in my own games (where I like to have stuff like crafting proceed pretty realistically), but mechanically it's balanced.

Dwarven item qualities

I fixes some of these for balance and removed the ones that were irretrievably broken or simply piled on more bonuses without any interesting in-fiction purpose. They're listed separately from the others not because only dwarves can get them (if something here is appropriate for others, it's easy enough to make a Secret that gives access), but because I didn't want to mix the old and new stuff together.

Dwarven (Ring-Tongue)
A dwarven item costs less Advances to own for anybody who has the Secret of Ring-Tongue for the determined language. The deduction is one third of the total Advance cost of the item, rounded up. Dwarven quality itself does not cost Advances. Cost: no cost

Single-use Item
The item created is single-use and will be consumed when used. This reduces the Advance cost of owning the item to one Advance (if it was higher to begin with, that is). Cost: no cost for sensible cases, 4 Pool for exceptional ones.

Animated Item
The item is semi-sentient. Choose one appropriate Ability to bestow on the item you are creating (such as Dueling for a sword, or Theft for a set of lock picks). The item has an Ability rating of Adept, which the user may use instead of or in support of his own Ability, but only if he has the Ability in question. Animated item costs and Advance to own. Cost: 4 Pool

Magical Item (focus)
The item is a literal focus of Three-corner magic and can therefore do one specific thing that a single Three-corner focus could do. Alternatively, the item could only have the functionality of a focus, replicated in some clever manner by some other means but not actually counting as a focus. The success level of the crafting check is used instead of a focus Ability check when the focus is used. Magical item costs and Advance to own. Cost: 3 Pool

Destined Item
The item has one Key built into it, a purpose for which it was shaped. The wielder of said item receives XP as if he had that Key so long as the object is in his possession. However, the item applies a penalty die to any action the owner takes in defiance of the Key's goals, including the Key's buyoff. The Key cannot be bought off without the object being reforged, in which case the craftsman gains the buyoff experience. Destined item costs an Advance to own. Cost: 5 Pool

Selective Item (Ring-Tongue)
The item is designed to be intelligible only to specific users. Any user who does not know the chosen Ring-Tongue has to spend one Advance more to own the item. Cost: 3 Pool

Battery Item
The item includes 2 Pool points in a Pool specified at the time of creation. The points may be spent by the user of the item when wielding it; the points refresh when the user desists from using the item when he could. Battery item costs an Advance to own. Cost: 3 Pool

Obliterating Item
The item ignores opposing armor ratings when used in BDtP for dealing Harm in its intended manner. Obliterating item costs an Advance to own. Cost: 4 Pool

Adamant Item
The item is unbreakable by conventional or even unlikely means. Adamant item costs and Advance to own. Cost: 2 Pool

Hmm... now it's clear as far as rules-syntax goes, but not very flavorful. I think I prefer scrapping the long list of item qualifiers and condensing it into a much smaller one, wherein a single craft Secret allows a variety of different item creations. Secret of Adamant Craft, Secret of Living Cloth, that kind of thing.


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Troels on February 06, 2008, 05:21:31 AM
OK, I think you guys have pretty much nailed it here. I have only a few remarks, some of it is mostly colour really.

While you don't comment on it explicitly, these Craft Secrets probably should require an Advance to own the item created with them.

Agreed!

Quote
Secret of the Ring-Tongue (Ring) (Ability)
...
Secret of Ritual-craft (Ring-Tongue)
...
I decided that this is exotic enough to need a Secret to faciliate; there's a reason that dwarves prefer material crafts.

And these were what was missing, I think. They link item creation to dwarvishness and give what flexibility is needed to allow "deviant" dwarves to be dwarfish without tons of items. And they make different rings distinct. For me, they clinch the deal.

*Sound of much rejoicing*

Quote
Battery Item

Quibble: "Battery"? Makes sense, but breaks the mood.

Oh, and I'm not sure I feel great about paying an advance for a one-shot item. That should be one worldshaking SOB!

Quote
Hmm... now it's clear as far as rules-syntax goes, but not very flavorful. I think I prefer scrapping the long list of item qualifiers and condensing it into a much smaller one, wherein a single craft Secret allows a variety of different item creations. Secret of Adamant Craft, Secret of Living Cloth, that kind of thing.

Agreed.


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: shadowcourt on February 07, 2008, 01:32:08 PM
Whew, Eero,

This is a dense post to get through. I've been dancing around it for a few days, and finally tried to tackle it today. Let me see if I can pin down what remains uncertain to me.

Quote
Secret of Obsessed Crafting
The dwarf can use his Vigor Pool to pay the Pool costs of a particular crafting project. Cost: 2 Vigor Requirements: Secret of Purpose

What's the Secret of Purpose? Is that something we covered earlier in the dwarf design?

---

I like how the Secret of Great Craft interacts with the rules about pools and time spent. I think its a very sensible in-game limitation to have such going.

---

[quote]This one is actually significantly more open-ended than the systems I've set up for my home games; I have huge problems with the idea that a character could take any Secret and put it into an item, even when the same Secret is rare or non-existant in the setting otherwise. Lots of quality control is therefore recommended; my own system is a bit too heavy for most, probably, unless your game actually revolves around magic smiths and what they can or can't make.[/quote]

You could easily put a rider on the Secret of Wondrous Craft that its taken multiple times, and each time its selected, you learn three new dwarven/magical qualities. Might keep things from spiralling out of control too quickly.

---

Is Secret of Craftsmanship's "(Ability)" supposed to be the Ability used to create the item (i.e. Rough Crafts for blacksmithing) or the ability used to wield the item (i.e. Dueling for a sword)? In either case, I think you may have undercosted the Rated Item, in terms of pool cost. I know it only costs 1 advance to typically own such an item, and that's fine. But it seems like with the Secret of Craftsmanship, I could spend a pool point and work for a day to have a +3 weapon against the Potentate of Ammeni. Pretty cheap. By comparison to the Quality Construction cost (5 pool points for a bonus die), you're getting +3 harm for 1 pool point.

Maybe the pool cost should be per rating, so you'd at least sink 3 pool points in, and have to work for a few days? Considering the utility of weapons, I wouldn't balk at it being twice that, even (so, pool points = 2 x the item's rating). I'm just not sure I'm ready for the scenario where a group of players band together to do in their foe, and all of them show up wielding +3 weapons to kill him, thanks to their one craftsy friend, who's only out 3 Vigor for his trouble.

---

Quote
I fixes some of these for balance and removed the ones that were irretrievably broken or simply piled on more bonuses without any interesting in-fiction purpose.

I'm assuming this is a reference to the "Perfected" item? That might not be as dangerous in TSOY 1st edition, where we're talking about a randomness scale between 2 and 22 on a check result (Transcendence = having a 10 in an ability, and rolling at least two 6's on 6-sided dice). You guys with the Fudge dice work a little differently. With a high enough pool cost attached, it might be more balanced than it seems, but I can't say in 2nd edition that its at all fair.

Glad you liked the Animated and Destined items, though. I thought those were fun variants to put into the hands of players and Storyguides.

Should the Battery item (I agree with Troels in that I'll probably rename it, maybe Reservoir items, or something) only refresh in that manner once a day? It wasn't intended to be an unlimited wellspring of pool points, after all. Just a quirky variant on an advance which grants you +1 pool. Basically, it was me applying the Secret of Imbuement's original design to a pool advance--yes, you get 2 pool points, but if you lose the item, the advance is gone.

---

Quote
Hmm... now it's clear as far as rules-syntax goes, but not very flavorful. I think I prefer scrapping the long list of item qualifiers and condensing it into a much smaller one, wherein a single craft Secret allows a variety of different item creations. Secret of Adamant Craft, Secret of Living Cloth, that kind of thing.

I think the flavor is having a hard time coming out just because of the density of the rules. I may rename some of the Secrets, as we rewrite this, just because I think the terminology has become a little Byzantine. Clarifying will allow us to add a bit more spice to the Secrets, I think; you have a penchant for liking Secrets which actually ground us in the game world. That may be possible when the language streamlines a bit more.

Your system is definitely the right track, though.

Something tells me this has been the hardest development angle of the new "Frozen South" stuff. But I think its ultimately resulted in a system which is engaging, and has been lacking from the game previously. We'll have to wait and see if anyone field-tests it for us.

Thanks!

-shadowcourt (aka josh)


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on February 07, 2008, 06:30:09 PM
Answers:

One-use items would presumably return the Advance when they are consumed. I picture dwarven alchemy, obviously, but I've also always wanted to play a character that makes those kick-ass crystal swords from Ultima VII as well.

Secret of Purpose was a Secret that was created earlier, I think. Might have been Key of Purpose, I'm not sure. Required Secret of Kin and represented the monomaniac fortitude a dwarf could bring to bear on a subject... actually, I need to probably rewrite that Secret, it needs to be a requirement for being a ring-leader, or at least help getting to be one.

I agree that ratings should cost 1 Pool for +1, two for +2 and 3 for +3. I left it out just now because the system is already awfully convoluted when considered as a TSoY subsystem - this isn't a game of pre-game character optimization, the subsystems should be shallow enough to allow interaction between them and during the game without leaving players in analysis paralysis. And then there's of course the issue of points of contact between the fiction and the mechanics - I'm not entirely happy with having an effect-based system that is even more abstract than Three-corner magic.

Secret of Craftsmanship (Ability) refers to the ability used to craft the item. So you need to take the Secret several times if you want to craft with multiple Abilities for some reason.

Also, I didn't mention this explicitly: one reason to take that list of craft stuff down a bit is that some of those effects are essentially replicable with Imbuement. I'd say that as a matter of clarity we should only create item qualities that are out of question as Secrets... and if it should prove that anything and everything on our list can be imbued, then we need to rethink this item quality stuff from the ground up.

Intermission while I remember to write this

Masterwork items (made by Quality Construction) are awesome bastards. I've always been tempted to remove them, as they introduce a bonus die coming from outside the resource systems of the game. This has nothing to do with the price of masterworking, though - the mere existence of bonus dice that are not systematized in the general rules system but also are not tracked via Secrets is fearsome and powerful mojo. I think that ultimately I'm going to restructure my character sheets and rules theory to account fully for these "setting-based" mechanical effects in a comprehensive framework that accounts for those masterwork bonuses in the same context as discretionary equipment bonuses and SG penalty dice - and poisons and such, of course. It doesn't help that the Finnish edition has more of that stuff... the problem for me is, I guess, that enough of these materials might well unbalance the system and draw attention from the xp-based reward structures. Somebody remind me to write about this in length at some point.

Back to the dwarven crafts...

Josh's suggestion of only allowing three specific craft qualities with one buying of a Secret is one way to go with limiting the arbitrary possibilities of a crafter mage. That'd work even better if the qualities in question were pre-grouped, so that you'd buy "Secret of Craft-group #1" and so on, with the groups linked together thematically. That's still a bit suspect for most of those qualities, though, from my viewpoint of wanting the crafting to work from in-setting meaning towards mechanics instead of the other way around. Effects-based works nicely for magical systems that have constrained power sets, but blowing the lid wide open for crafts doesn't seem so interesting...

Actually, what say you to a claim that Imbuement as generic access needs to go, as far as crafting your own items is concerned? Imbuement is excellent for creating a balanced magical item in mechanical sense, but it does not actually help us create interesting game mechanics around crafting. Saying that "this Secret allows you to imbue items" without any limitation just means that the character has been given the authority to "do anything", albeit in a mechanically balanced manner.

Specifically, though, I can see one way in which Imbuement can be game-interesting; this has nothing to do with dwarves, though:

Secret of Aura Imbuement
You can create items with elven, imbuement or rating qualities. The imbued Secret may be any you know yourself, within bounds of reason. The item has to have the quality of Elven and may have as many qualities as you like. Creating the imbuement involves handling, using and caressing the item, sometimes through an extensive period of time. Requirements: Secret of Immortality Cost: 1 xp per quality and any execution costs of the Secrets imbued, plus default cost in Vigor for any ratings imbued.

Secret of Aura Smithing
You may reduce the xp cost of creating an aura-imbued item with a successful, appropriate crafting Ability check, which reduces the xp cost by its successes. This Secret may be activated several times during an imbuing process, but only once per month or so. Failure ruins the item, retrieving base xp cost but not the xp used up by this Secret. Requirements: Secret of Aura Imbuement Cost: 3 Vigor and 1 xp added to item cost

Elven Item
An elven item has been imbued with an elven aura which can be recognized as the item's creator's. The item will lose all qualities and turn into a dull, gray version of itself should the creator of the item ever lose his aura. Using the item has a 1 Pool point discount for elves in addition to the general discount for items, but only if the elf knows the aura of the item and is in peace with its creator. This quality may be stacked, which will strengthen the aura and may even cause the item to develop the seed of a personality (to be defined further if interesting).

What makes this Secret work is the limitation to stuff the character knows himself - any such item will be reasonable and interesting because it reflects the knowledge and abilities of the character himself. If the character gets to imbuing something really weird, like Secret of Nobility, then the players either get to do some creative narration or have to forbid it according to the text.

For other character wanting to create items with Imbuement I'd go with the Secret of Craftsmanship defined earlier, with a strict eye for the mundanity requirement (if somebody can think of an elegant and useful mundanity requirement apart from SG judgement, I'm all ears). I'm not that bothered with a smith being able to create a zillion diffferent imbued items as long as they all inhabit a scale of effect and meaning recognized as possible for mundane smithing in the setting. (This has nothing to do with "realism", you understand; if smiths in Near should be able to make flying-girdles in your game, go right ahead.)

With that out of the way and all magical, free imbuing categorically forbidden (except perhaps for the elven exception above, for anybody who'd like to use it), exceptional dwarven items can be created with the same brutal principle that goblin transformation Secrets, elven auras and such use; just create Secrets case-by-case that define and structure the crafting environment of a dwarf. It might not have the immediate appeal and structural implications that some more abstract subsystems have, but it's more flavourful and can, if seeded well, have some cornerstone Secrets that become staples for item creation. For instance, something along these lines:

Eero's short overview of how crafting works

(You understand, I repeat stuff from upthread and other places so much here because I want to help others keep abreast of where my thinking is coming and going; all the material below affects how dwarven crafting should work.)

Common crafting Secrets

Secret of Quality Construction (Ability) - as before, represents exacting precision in artisanry
Secret of Inner Meaning - as before, special artistic talent
Secret of Craftsmanship (Ability) - a common Secret for any professional craftsman

These represent what is generally available crafting-wise in the primitive environs of Near. I'd imagine that an artisan might well have any or all of these. There are obviously enough elaborations like Secret of the Great Project and whatever else is needed, but fundamentally mundane and non-culture-specific crafting is limited to mundane imbuements and equipment ratings. Making that potentate-slaying dagger, for example, is not possible without something special.

Elven crafting

Secret of Aura Imbuement
Secret Aura Smithing

These give Elves a limited ability at creating special items that surmount the capabilities of normal artisanry and allow them to put their own living experience into magical items. Pretty sweet, that. This is also an example of how others apart from dwarves might do crafting; I imagine that Three-corner has some ability at enchanting items, for example, but just like this Elven stuff, we need not worry about it when determining the capabilities of dwarves.

Basic Dwarven crafting

Secret of Ring-Tongue - this language business is my basic rationalization for why dwarves can have racial knowledge-based Secrets in the first place
Secret of Dwarven Construction (Ring-Tongue) - cheaper masterwork items
Secret of Ritual Craft (Ring-Tongue) - this one has mind-blowing implications when your humanist dwarf really goes to town
Secret of Obsessed Crafting - this is pretty interesting combined with Secret of Stature, another Dwarven Secret...

Secret of the Forge needs to be reworded again to account for removing Wondrous Craft:

Secret of the Forge
Dwarves are a people of craft, whether physical or metaphysical. The character may use Secret of Craftsmanship to create items with any rating qualities appropriate for an item of that type, even seemingly supernatural ones. [This is where that potentate-slaying dagger might come from.] If the character knows a Ring-Tongue applicable to his crafting, he may impose the quality of dwarven on any item he creates, keyed to any Ring-Tongue he knows that is applicable to either crafting or using the item. Requirements: none [humans can be dwarf-trained for the rating work] Cost: 2 Reason

Whether the dwarven quality Advance discount should scale or not is a difficult question. If it doesn't scale, then it's mechanically preferable to create lots of small items, which isn't very good. I'm going to go with the scaling 1/3 discount version for now, and I'm going to encourage large items further still:

Secret of Relic-craft
An item crafted by the character may have the relic quality, which fixes the Advance cost of the item at 5 Advances. If the cost would otherwise be more than this, using the item suffers penalty dice equal to the difference in any use. If the cost would be less, using the item gains bonus dice, correspondingly. Requirements: Secret of the Forge Cost: 5 Reason

There might be other generic dwarven crafting Secrets. The real point of it, however, comes from the next section where I try to set some baseline examples of how to do specific craft stuff without using an effect-based system.

Setting-based dwarven crafting example, stonemasonry

Secret of Stone
The character knows the deepest secrets of stone and architecture, which give him wide opportunity for creation. He may imbue items of stone with stylistically appropriate Secrets while using Secret of Craftsmanship. Any Secret considered balanced and appropriate for the item may be imbued. Any items created must be dwarven se per Secret of the Forge. Requirements: Secret of the Forge, an appropriate Secret of Dwarven Construction

Secret of Animate Stone
The character may create stone statues and other items that have some rudimentary independence in thought and even movement. A stone tool made like this has the animated quality [if the independently defined qualities are not used much in separate Secrets, these shorthands should just be written out]; a stone creature has Advances five times the success level, distributed by the SG according to description of the character's intent (but reserving plenty of Advances for stone-like qualities like armor ratings); a stone place will slowly repair itself to fulfill its function. Requirements: Secret of Stone Cost: according to quality; 5 Reason; 3 Reason

Secret of Breaking Stone
The character sees the fault-lines in stone; with bright light and concentration he actually sees the crystal lattice of any minerals. A successful appropriate craft Ability check allows the character to break a stone into shards with a strike. This can be used to break through walls, create rifts in the stone-bed or to destroy stone items, to mention just a few uses. A stone character takes Harm equal to success level. Requirements: Secret of Stone Cost: 2 Instinct

Secret of Welcoming Stone
The character may use special welcoming stone in his building; this stone leeches Pool points from unwelcome visitors (Endure (V) against quality to resist) at the rate of one point from each Pool per hour and gives the points to inhabitants at the same speed, but transformed into Vigor. When used in weapons the stone bestows the leeching quality [to be written out; pretty obvious]. Cost: 3 Vigor; per quality

These are just examples, any interesting craft could work here, like iron, bronze, cloth, jewelry, bones, song (for those ritual crafters) or whatever makes sense case-by-case. The basic point is that we have a Secret (fifth-order at that, minimum!) that defines a basic craft mastery and allows wide lee-way in imbuing, from which immediately springs some blatantly supernatural shit; we're talking of sixth-order follow-up Secrets here, so even I, the champion of toned-down magic, am comfortable with all kinds of wacky shit at this depth, and do not really condone going any deeper; we're already ridiculously deep for something that is supposed to be a set of species crunch, which shouldn't be as comprehensive and character-consuming as cultural crunch is; I guess that dwarves are really more of a culture than a race.

The theory here is that by giving 2-3 example crafts like the stonemasonry, above, and combining that with the traditional imbuement, we can have more than enough mojo for dwarven artisans. Creating items stays interesting, too, as the capabilities of a craft depend quite a bit on the group's imagination; combining several crafts is also possible if a crafting project incorporates several branches. I'm pretty happy with this, except perhaps the aforementioned fact that this is rather deep as Secret structures go. Each step has its purpose, though, so perhaps it's not unacceptable. A smith character gets to do all kinds of cool stuff with the Secret of Craftsmanship alone, so perhaps it's not that bad if a character needs to spend almost Three-corner-like amounts of Advances before he gets the capstone Secrets in stonemasonry.

By the by: I need to slow down with all this TSoY stuff. I appreciate Josh's enthusiasm, but I have some other projects that need seeing-to. So don't mind it if I'm a bit slow to respond, and feel free to bug me about anything after the 16th if there's something you'd like my opinion on by then.


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: shadowcourt on February 08, 2008, 08:28:00 AM
Eero,

I understand your need to cool it for a bit. Sorry that we've been going at it like gang-busters. Work has been strangely dull here, so I've had a bunch of free time on my hands each morning.

Don't consider that any of these threads require daily responses. The only reason I've kicked into overdrive a bit is to have things done in case you and Clinton need to start hammering out stuff for printing.

This stuff looks pretty solid. I think it needs to be clarified, as its starting to read "like stereo instructions" (to steal a line from Tim Burton). The Short Overview above was really helpful for keeping things straight (thank you!). I'll go for a rewrite at some point in the next week, and hopefully bring it all together. The elven stuff looks really flavorful.

I think the stonecrafting Secrets provide a pretty good example of how to make the systems we're discussing flavorful and personal. But that aspect might also be addressing a need which isn't there in all games. I think its the case that my gaming group doesn't encounter the same problems you do in games of TSOY. If anything, we're even less concerned than Clinton is with his disclaimer about "Ability breadth" and "realism." The fact is that in many fantasy rules systems (D&D springs to mind, but its hardly the only offender), every Performance ability and Crafts ability is a completely separate one. With high levels in many games' Music skill, you still can't dance worth a damn. Similarly, with impressive ratings in Craft (leather armor), you know very little at all about crafting metal armor.

This is all well-and-good when realism is at stake, but has it actually ever improved anyone's play experience in anything other than the most sim-heavy gaming? The fact is that with your Theft ability in TSOY, you get a heck of a lot of general know-how, and we mostly don't sweat turning the thief into a character with a million skills. There's no separate Cutpurse, Pickpocket, Lockpicking, Safe-Cracking, Knot-Cutting, and dozen other abilities. It won't suit all game styles, but I sometimes feel the poor performer and the poor craftsman should be cut just as generous a break. They're also playing with systems which aren't necessary for a satisfying game experience; its simply the case that in most games you can do just fine with some decent ability to get your way socially and some ability to bust heads when it comes down to the fighting time. Mobility and sneakiness are nice as well, but not everyone uses them. The idea that your character is great at performance art or making things is a nice flourish, and an interesting one for people to go into. I don't want to then bog them down by requiring Secrets and Abilities which go so deep as to be the *only* thing your character is good at, while the thief is happily seducing, intimidating, making speeches, and slicing people up, all because the game encourages us to have one Theft ability (and a sprinkling of Stealth to get away, if you screw it up).

I'm surprised, more than anything, at the worry about people applying inappropriate imbuement to items, and the anxiety which prompts this being fifth- or sixth-order Secrets (using your terminology). I'm assuming you don't typically place limitations on the Secrets which characters choose for themselves, instead mostly let the player's choice prevail? If a beggar character suddenly took Secret of Nobility, you'd mostly require him to justify it as a character choice, or whip up something appropriately clever dramatically, correct? Is the danger here that doing the same thing with, say, a wand just doesn't lead to drama being exciting? That it makes dramatic elements disposable, the way magic items are disposable, and thus robs them of some of their personality and punch? That concern I can see, at least, if its the one we're getting at. The beggar-cum-noble gets thrust into a whole new world, and is full of interesting challenges and story; the "Hey, it's my magic wand of nobility, so everyone obey me!" scenario is a lot less punchy.

Perhaps rather than the "mundanity" solution, we address this with an in-game solution of "appropriateness of materials." I've always been a real fantasy goober for the idea of acquiring material components for the creation of items which are hard to find / difficult to acquire / lead to more interesting drama. Maybe the Secret of Nobility can only be imbued into an item with an exotic ingredient like a few drops of blood from a royal lineage, the bones of a long-dead king, or the heart of a lion? One wouldn't need to detail all of these things ahead of time (which would be *dreadfully* dull; I loathe long lists of mandatory ingredients), but instead provide some flavor text (like above) which suggests appropriate properties and correspondences. Show people the level of investment which should be going into an item, and trust individual Storyguides and player groups to work out the right ingredients. Perhaps I'm being too generous there in that I know exactly how stingy and drama-driven I'd be as an SG.

(It's also the case that "appropriateness of materials" kind of folds "mundanity" into it. If you're a princeling and a magical crafter, and you want to make a Wand of the Secret of Nobility, you've already got the materials closer at hand than your average peasant. We could easily say your own blood is sufficient, but that's still a little boring. Perhaps that of one of your older relatives will do. In either case, the challenge shouldn't be as great--the beggar asking for a few drops of royal blood has a much tougher time than you do sneaking into dad's room and nicking him in his sleep--and that accounts for the "mundanity" element quite nicely, while still keeping things story-driven.)

This actually ties in nicely with something I've been considering in general. Early on in the dwarven design process, I was fairly keen on the idea that dwarves held the physical body, and especially the physical remains, in relatively low regard, due to their quasi-elemental origins. Even though we've deviated from that idea (which is NOT a bad thing, incidentally), it might be fun to look at that in a new light.

To whit: if dwarves consider everything to ultimately serve the responsibilities of tradition and the goals of the ring, then even the physical body might be seen as nothing more than commodity and resource. Like any resource, it can be utilized, shaped, and remade if it best serves the purposes of the ring.

Secret of the Living Forge
You can turn dwarven craft upon living dwarven flesh, shaping it with scarification, tattoos, and other modifications which confer unusual effects. Like the Secret of the Forge, you may place special qualities on the living character you modify. If the subject does not wish for the modifications, he can resist your Crafts check with an appropriate ability check. The character may impose the quality of dwarven on the body he modifies (reducing the XP cost to keep the modifications by 1/3, rounded up). Requirements: Both craftsman and subject must have the ability to speak the same Ring-Tongue. Cost: 2 Reason, 1 Vigor, 1 Instinct.

Naturally, the implication is that the imbuing is temporary and will fade unless the cost is paid with appropriate XP. It makes for some interesting flavorful "branding" opportunities, as well; dwarven leaders can have their craftsmen place responsibilities on their ring-mates through branding them with imbuements and other properties. You can even theoretically be "Keyed" in this way, thanks to some of the Secrets we've talked about. Makes for an unusual options for punishment, also.

It may need a little reworking before final presentation and inclusion in the system, but there's something about a dwarf seeing even the bodies of his friends, and his own form, as just another tool to serve the Greater Cause that fits *so* nicely for me with their general ethos. I've been worried about getting away from the species ethic (you're right in that dwarves come dangerously close to a Culture in the way they operate, but keep in mind there are elements of that among the ratkin, as well, so we don't need to be too frightened by the prospect), and I think this is a potentially interesting way to bring us back to the very purpose of why dwarves should be making things and crafting and such.

This ties in with my thoughts about using materials above to an idea that was brewing in my head last night. While dwarves respect tradition and their forbears, I'm tempted to turn the traditional fantasy conceit of dwarven "ancestor veneration" on its ear. Death shouldn't be an escape from one's responsibilities to family, clan, and guild. Just because you've kicked the bucket doesn't mean you get to lay around and be lazy. I think its entertaining to believe that dwarven zeal typically regards even the bodies of their fallen family members as a resource to be used. As such, bone, blood, sinew, hair, and flesh are all key components in dwarven craft; when a dwarf says "This sword hilt was my grandfather's," he might be talking about his grandfather's armbones, not his grandfather's possessions.

Even the souls of dead dwarves are expected to be utilized in the projects of the various rings, making two rings' claims for the body and soul of a dead dwarf a fascinating matter of intra-species litigation ("Yes, yes, he was your uncle, but he was also our guild's treasurer. Come come now, be reasonable... we should at least receive his skull and all of his fingerbones...").

There's no saying this is a pleasant experience for the dead, either. One no longer gets to further one's personal ambitions, and is simply the ultimate tool of the greater agenda of the familia. As such, there are dwarves who pull away from their responsibilities late in life, filled with the regrets of a life spent serving only the interests of clan and guild. This is an act of unforgivable pettiness, of course, and ring-mates will try and bring a dwarf back to reason, and failing that simply do him in to preserve the honor and integrity of the ring (mostly as a matter of keeping up appearances). But it is rumored that some strong-willed dwarves manage to break away and die alone, or else their spirits escape the watchful eyes of the soul-crafters.

While they may be little more than dwarven bedtime stories, told to the young to keep them honest and sure, it is said that these petty spirits haunt the rings, looking for impressionable dwarves who they can coax towards serving their own interests. A petty ghost will try to tempt a dwarf into serving its interests by promising power, information, and assistance, even claiming to serve the living dwarf's goals or the "secret agenda of the ring." Despite their claims, these wicked souls are entirely motivated by personal desire rather than any sense of altriusm or greater goal, and will ultimately twist those who ally with them to serving the ghost's selfish needs. It is said that clanwardens and soul-crafters alike watch for the interference of these spirits, but even their eyes cannot be everywhere.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Rich F on February 08, 2008, 08:57:29 AM
The secret of the living forge kind of reminds me of the Igor's from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, looking at bodyparts as a resource that can be shared around the community.  He plays them pretty comic, but you needn't and it brings up the idea of body harvesting which has some pretty interesting implications :)


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: shadowcourt on February 26, 2008, 10:03:49 AM
So, putting the cart before the horse, I figure I'll finish up the current discussion we're having about item creation, and then get back to the dwarf species stuff.

Eero, I see where you're going with some of that, but I don't know if it ultimately works for me. The fact that we've gone to sixth-order Secrets in some cases is really complex, I agree, and maybe worthwhile, but to then swerve back towards highly specific secrets (the stone-crafting ones you present above) seems a mistake. Other play groups may vary in this respect, but I feel like the stonework Secrets end up getting closer to spoon-feeding players specific Secrets, and feel much less like what I'd want from a real "item creation" system. What it doesn't feel is versatile, but more like a list of Secrets one can choose from, rather than a toolkit to build with. I respect your reasons for wanting the system to function like that (i.e. moving from a list of abstract powers to a system which is grounded in the specific setting of the characters, and the worries about the "mundanity" requirement), but it doesn't gel for me. Which is fine, of course. Everyone should ideally be using systems which suit their play experience, and that of their players, best.

I also worry that some of the order in which this all got bashed out leads to a lot of complex Secret terminology. The differences between quality names and the Secrets that generate them got fairly far afield from each other during that process, but thats only natural. Brainstorming is like that.

I've got a system here, which I think I'll probably end up using. It might not suit everyone's tastes, but its a fusion of a bunch of the suggestions you made, and the ideas which people have batted around during this process. I'm reprinting some things we've posted before, but its both for completeness sake, and to clean up some of the confusing terminology which has been running through the conversation. I've also split some ideas into two Secrets, which might not suit everyone's tastes, but reflects what I think keeps Secrets at the appropriate "order" and pool cost.

Open Item Creation Secrets
These Secrets should be added to the Open Secret list. While they are quite common for dwarven laborers, many of them use less advanced and slower techniques than dwarven crafters can manage.

Secret of Quality Construction
You have an eye for details and fine workmanship, and are able to laboriously create create items with the masterwork quality when using a specific Ability, chosen when this Secret is taken. Masterwork items provide a bonus die on specific checks appropriate to the item. Cost: 5 Reason

Secret of Inner Meaning
The character has the gift necessary for true art. He can create items of profound quality with suitable Abilities. Profound items can be used to transmit a specific meaning to a certain audience; if the audience cannot beat the quality rating of the profound item, they are forced to believe the message. Cost: 2 Instinct

Secret of Craftsmanship
Your craftsman’s training allows you to create rated items when using a specific Ability, chosen when this Secret is taken. The items you create can have a +/- 1 to 2 rating, reflecting their usefulness as weapons or defensive items. These follow the normal rules for rated items, as covered in The Shadow of Yesterday. Cost: Vigor equal to the rating of the item x 2.

Secret of Superior Craftsmanship
Your craftsman’s training allows you to create rated items with a rating up to +/-3. These superior items are always designed with a highly specific purpose in mind, and follow the normal rules for rated items. Prerequisite: Secret of Craftsmanship. Cost: 6 Vigor.

(I've split these into two, so getting the option to forge +/-3 items is both expensive and a second-order Secret. That won't suit everyone's tastes, but its about the right pace for my games.)

Secret of Imbued Craftsmanship
Your craftsman’s training allows you to create imbued items when using a specific Ability, chosen when this Secret is taken. The items you create contain a Secret within them, which is activated at –1 the normal pool point cost. This may reflect a magical mastery of enchantment, or simply special techniques known to your culture. The Secret the item is imbued with must come from a Secret list which is accessible to you (i.e. an Open Secret, or one from your Culture or Species lists). Imbued items must feature a component in their crafting appropriate for the Secret being granted; the blood of a royal line might be necessary to grant the Secret of Nobility. Prerequisite: Secret of Craftsmanship. Cost: 3 Vigor + the normal pool cost of the Secret.

Secret of Esoteric Imbuing
When you create an imbued item using the Secret of Imbuing, the Secret you include in the item may be from any Secret list, not simply one which is already accessible to you. In most cases, this requires the inclusion of rare materials or special knowledge in the design of the item. Prerequisite: Secret of Craftsmanship, Secret of Imbued Craftsmanship. Cost: As per Secret of Imbued Craftsmanship, +2 Reason.

Secret of Single-Use Design
You can design items with the single-use quality when using a specific Ability, chosen when this Secret is taken. Single-use items reduce their pool point for creation by one-half, but can only be used once before they must be built again from scratch. Cost: As per other creation Secrets, but 1/2 normal cost.

(This is a correction that I think needed to be made. Single-Use shouldn't affect one's cost to own the item--who cares about the XP cost of an item I'm only going to use once? I shouldn't have to add it to my character sheet at all--but instead reduces the pool cost. One use only is pretty grim for most items, so it should be generous to reflect this. Even a one-shot use of a Secret, if we use the Imbuing rules I'm suggesting above, is still time-consuming and costly to effect.)

Secret of the Great Project
When crafting an item with item qualities, the character does not need to pay Pool costs for the item all at once. Instead, he may stop work for research or rest and continue it whenever he feels like it (that is, when he again has Pool to spend). The player may decide how much of his Pool the character spends at once on creating the item. Requirements: Secret of Craftsmanship.

Secret of the Exotic Ingredient
When created an imbued item, you can gather rare ingredients designed to reduce the amount of energy which must be invested in the creation. You might have to climb a mountain to steal eggs or feathers from the nest of a great bird, or find the bones of a long-dead tribal shaman, which the rest of his community will be unwilling to part with. Work with the Storyguide to develop an appropriate series of challenges for the acquisition of the ingredients. In general, every challenge which requires an ability check contested by an ability equal to your own produces an ingredient which reduces the pool cost by –1. The adjusted pool cost of the item from including exotic ingredients can never be reduced below 1/2 its total. Prerequisite: Secret of Craftsmanship, Secret of Imbued Craftsmanship.


Dwarven Item Creation Secrets
Secret of Bloody Toil
You are capable of laboring at expense to your own body and mind, throwing everything you have into something you create. Any time you are required to pay the pool cost for creating an item, you can spend 1 Vigor and choose to take Harm instead. Every point of Harm can replace a pool point needed for creation. Cost: 1 Vigor. Prerequisite: Secret of Purpose.

Secret of Essence-Harvest
Pragmatic dwarves believe in wasting nothing; even the dying breaths of their Ring-mates are utilized for the greater success of the Ring. When an intelligent being dies in your presence, you can make an appropriate craft Ability check to utilize the spiritual essence of this being, for use in your creations. The successes on this craft check equal a number of points which can be used to pay any item creation expenditures. Cost: 1 Reason.

Secret of Obsessed Crafting
When beginning a crafting project, you can pay 2 Vigor and thereby substitute Vigor for any other pool costs required by the appropriate crafting Secrets. Cost: 2 Vigor at the beginning of the project. Prerequisite: Secret of Purpose.

Secret of Reforging
You can scrap an item which has already been created in order to harvest materials and power from it, using that to recoup some of the pool points spent so that you can create another item with those resources. This requires an appropriate Crafts ability check, with pool points netted equal to the successes rolled on the check. The item never yields more pool points than those used to create its qualities –2, even if you have more successes than that. Cost: 1 Reason. Prerequisite: Secret of Purpose.

Secret of Dwarfbond Crafting
Your mastery of an appropriate Ring-Tongue allows you to create items that have the bonded quality for dwarves. Dwarf-bonded items cost one less Advance to own, but only for dwarf characters. All others must pay the normal Advance cost to own them. Dwarfbound items must feature the blood, bones, or other essential body parts of dwarves in their crafting. Prerequisite: Knowledge of an appropriate Ring-Tongue.

Secret of Dwarven Construction
Your understanding of a dwarven Ring-Tongue gives you special insight into how to craft items of excellent quality with greater ease than other laborers. Choose a specific Ability when you take this Secret; you can use it to create items with the masterwork quality (those which provide a bonus die on specific checks appropriate to the item). Additionally, you can choose Secrets from the Special Item Creation Secrets list, as if they were Open to you. Prerequisite: Knowledge of an appropriate Ring-Tongue Cost: 3 Reason. Special: This Secret stands in for the Secret of Quality Construction for the purposes of prerequisites.

Secret of Dwarven Craftsmanship
Your understanding of a dwarven Ring-Tongue gives you special insight into how to craft objects of surpassing power, even those which are enchanted by the force of communal language you pour into the project. You can craft imbued items with Secrets from any list (even one which is not normally open to you). Additionally, any item you create can have twice the number of qualities (so that a rated item could have up to six +/-1 ratings, or be imbued with two Secrets). Requirements: Secret of Craftsmanship, Secret of Imbued Craftsmanship, knowledge of an appropriate Ring-Tongue.

Secret of Dwarven Ensoulment
Your understanding of a dwarven Ring-Tongue gives you special insight into how to craft items which possess some sentience and will to them. Choose a specific Ability when you take this Secret; you can use it to create items with the animated or destined qualities (which can act on their own, and grant access to a specific Key for any user, respectively). At least one pool point used in the creation of these items must come from spiritual essence gained through the Secret of Essence-Harvest. Prerequisite: Secret of Essence-Harvest, knowledge of an appropriate Ring-Tongue. Cost: 3 Reason; at least 1 point of this must be paid with points gained through the Secret of Essence-Harvest.

Secret of Dwarven Ritual
Your understanding of a dwarven Ring-Tongue allows you to direct other dwarves and transmit knowledge that other species simply would not understand, designing rituals which other dwarves can engage in. The ritual itself relies on the correspondences of an appropriate Ring-Tongue; if your Ring-Tongue provides a bonus die on poetry or song, then the ritual must incorporate those forms, whereas a Ring-Tongue that provides a bonus die on carving must utilize carving as part of the ritual. A ritual created with this Secret is treated just like an item you are creating; you can use other Secrets to add qualities to it (granting it the masterwork, rated, imbued, or some other quality you choose).
A character can “lose” a ritual by forgetting it, but it cannot be stolen as an ordinary item can. Each ritual, when executed, requires an appropriate Ability check from the character performing the ritual; failure causes a penalty die for situations the ritual was intended to help until the next time the ritual is enacted. Success allows the character to wield the item qualities of the ritual as if the ritual were an item.
When creating a ritual, you must specify how often and in what manner the ritual is executed: there is always a certain balance between frequency, regularity, obviousness, expense, convenience and effort involved. In general, count the number of pool points used in granting special qualities to the ritual as days between the time when the ritual may be performed again. Each time an important ingredient is included as part of the ritual, or an additional ability check is added to the requirements, the waiting time to perform it again may be reduced by 1 or more days. Prerequisite: Knowledge of an appropriate Ring-Tongue.

Secret of Living Craft
You can turn dwarven craft upon living dwarven flesh, shaping it with scarification, tattoos, and other modifications which confer unusual effects. You can use any Secrets you know which grant special properties to an item on a living being. If the subject does not wish for the modifications, he can resist your Crafts check with an appropriate ability check. You may impose the quality of bonded on the subject you are modifying (reducing the XP cost to keep the modifications accordingly). Prerequisite: Both craftsman and subject must have the ability to speak the same Ring-Tongue. Cost: 2 Reason, 1 Vigor, 1 Instinct.


Special Item Creation Secrets
These Secrets represent magical skill at item creation. They are beyond the ken of most people, and create items which have a spiritual energy all of their own. In many cases, the Storyguide can feel free to mandate the Secret below being chosen:

Secret of the Magical Artisan
You have been trained in esoteric crafting techniques, and can bestow item qualities beyond those of even the greatest craftsmen who have not been touched by magic and the arcane. You can take other item creation Secrets from this list. Prerequisite: Secret of Quality Construction.

(The implication is that a Secret like this stands between the average human--or indeed goblin or elf-- craftsman, whereas dwarves get this "gateway Secret" via the Secret of Dwarven Construction).

Secret of Animated Crafting
Your knowledge of enchantment allows you to create items which possess some sentience and will, creating items with the animated quality. Choose one appropriate Ability to bestow on the item you are creating (such as Dueling for a sword, or Theft for a set of lock picks). The item has an Ability rating of Adept, which the user may use instead of or in support of his own Ability, but only if he has the Ability in question. Prerequisite: Secret of Quality Construction. Cost: 4 Reason.

Secret of Bonded Crafting
Your knowledge of enchantment allows you to create items which are intended for a specific wielder, such as elven blades or amulets for the Cult of the Red God, bestowing the bonded quality. Bonded items cost one less Advance to own, but only for characters from a specific group. All others must pay the normal Advance cost to own them. Prerequisite: Secret of Quality Construction. Cost: 5 Reason.

Secret of Destined Crafting
Your knowledge of enchantment allows you to create items whose course has been chosen for them, creating items with the destined quality. The item has one Key built into it, a purpose for which it was shaped. The wielder of said item receives XP as if he had that Key so long as the object is in his possession. However, the item applies a penalty die to any action the owner takes in defiance of the Key’s goals, including the Key’s buyoff. The Key cannot be bought off without the object being reforged, in which case the craftsman gains the buyoff experience. Prerequisite: Secret of Quality Construction. Cost: 5 Reason.

Secret of Leeching Crafting
Your knowledge of enchantment allows you to create items which drain the energies of others, bestowing the leeching quality. Leeching items drain pool points from characters they come into extended or forceful contact with. Typically, this results in the loss of 1 pool point per hour, or in the case of their use as a weapon, 1 pool point drained per successful strike. The type of pool drained is specified when the item is created. Prerequisite: Secret of Quality Construction. Cost: 3 Vigor.

Secret of Reservoir Crafting
Your knowledge of enchantment allows you to create items which contain a small reserve of energy within them, bestowing the reservoir quality. The item includes 2 Pool points in a Pool specified at the time of creation. The points may be spent by the user of the item when wielding it; the points refresh once per day, when the user desists from using the item when he could. Prerequisite: Secret of Quality Construction. Cost: 3 Vigor.

Secret of Relic-craft
You can create items that have the relic quality. Relic items have a fixed Advance cost of 5 Advances, no matter how many qualities are applied to them. If the cost of the item would normally be more than this, using the item suffers penalty dice equal to the difference in Advance cost. If the cost would be less, using the item gains bonus dice, correspondingly. Prerequisite: A Secret which allows you to create bonded items. Cost: 5 Reason

(I've included this for completeness, but I'm still not sure why its useful. It provides a pile of bonus dice, or else makes an item which oddly has penalty dice despite having interesting powers. In some cases, you're spending 5 Reason to provide your item with penalty dice, which seems bizarre to me. Am I missing the utility behind this somehow?)

--

Ironically, while some of this was done for clarity's sake, it has become a much more complex system than one which is just tailored for dwarves, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. It does mean that the item creation stuff ends up as a weird species axis--its something which I'd potentially let anyone do, but the dwarves get more Species-specific Secrets than everyone else, and theirs are sometimes turbo-charged by comparison. It might mean it would be nice to give them a second axis to explore, as well, and that may come in future posts.


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: shadowcourt on February 26, 2008, 10:14:10 AM
(I realized there was more to add, so here's part 2 of the post above...)

Many other Species have their own unique approaches to design. Here are some examples of how to individualize those.

Elven Crafting Secrets
Secret of Elfbond Crafting
Your understanding of the elven aura and soul allow you to create items that have the bonded quality for elves. Elf-bonded items cost one less Advance to own, but only for elven characters. All others must pay the normal Advance cost to own them. Prerequisite: Secret of Immortality, Secret of Quality Construction. Cost: 4 Reason.

Secret of Aura-Imbued Craftsmanship
You can shape an item which has the aura-imbued quality. An Aura-bound item reduces the pool cost for any Secret it is imbued with by an additional –1 for an elven user, in addition to the normal –1 pool cost reduction, but only if the elf in question knows the aura of the item and is at peace with its creator. Aura-bound items can be used to find the current location of their creator, by using and caressing the item and making a Discern Truth ability check. Aura-bound items endure as long as their creators do; should the elf who created the item lose his aura, the item turns to a dull, gray version of itself. Prerequisite: Secret of Immortality, Secret of Quality Construction, Secret of Elfbound Crafting. Cost: 3 Vigor.

Secret of Soul Smithing
You may reduce the XP cost of creating an aura-imbued item with a successful, appropriate crafting Ability check. The XP cost is reduced by the successes achieved on this check. This Secret may be activated several times during an imbuing process, but only once per month. Failure ruins the item, resetting the item’s XP cost to normal. Prerequisite: Secret of Immortality, Secret of Quality Construction, Secret of Aura-Imbued Craftsmanship. Cost: 3 Vigor.


Goblin Crafting Secrets
Secret of Chaotic Crafting
Goblin artifice has long been misunderstood by other species, who simply do not see the benefits in the often dangerous designs which goblins create. Nonetheless, goblins are often a source of fascinating, if unreliable, items, which they can produce in greater numbers than other craftsmen. You can create items that have the unreliable or dangerous qualities, both of which reduce the cost to own an item by –1 Advance. Prerequisite: Secret of Quality Construction, Secret of Craftsmanship. Cost: 3 Instinct.

Secret of Adaptive Crafting
Goblin smiths can design versatile items which transform to suit the specific purposes of the wielder. You can create items that have the adaptive quality, provided they already have another item quality attached to them. An adaptive item can change the focus of its bonus die, the focus of its rating, or pool connected to it, but it cannot change the actual mechanical rating. For instance, a rated weapon which dealt +2 harm to ratkin could be turned into a rated weapon which dealt +2 harm to elves, but it could not become a +3 weapon against specific ratkin, or even a –2 defensive item against ratkin. An item designed with the leeching quality against Instinct could be changed to leech Reason, instead. The item can be adapted any time you spend a scene engaging in activities which would invoke a Vigor refresh, but the focus you pour into the item precludes you from refreshing Vigor at that time. Prerequisite: Secret of Quality Construction, Secret of Craftsmanship. Cost: 3 Vigor, 2 Instinct.


Eero started this, during one of the revisions, and I think it's a good idea:

A list of all Item Special Qualities
Adaptive
An adaptive item can change the focus of its bonus die, the focus of its rating, or pool connected to it, but it cannot change the actual mechanical rating. For instance, a rated weapon which dealt +2 harm to ratkin could be turned into a rated weapon which dealt +2 harm to elves, but it could not become a +3 weapon against specific ratkin, or even a –2 defensive item against ratkin. The item can be adapted any time you spend a scene engaging in activities which would invoke a Vigor refresh, but the focus you pour into the item precludes you from refreshing Vigor at that time. Advance Cost: +2.

Animated
An animated ability has some marginal sentience and will of its own. The item has an ability rating of Adept in an appropriate ability (such as Dueling for a sword, or Theft for a set of lock picks). The user may use the item’s ability score instead of or in support of his own Ability, but only if he has the Ability in question. Advance Cost:: +1.

Aura-Imbued
Aura-imbued items are specially created by elves as a link between their soul and a corporeal item. An aura-o,nied item reduces the reduces the pool cost for any Secret it is imbued with by an additional –1 for an elven user, in addition to the normal –1 pool cost reduction, but only if the elf in question knows the aura of the item and is at peace with its creator. Aura-imbued items can be used to find the current location of their creator, by using and caressing the item and making a Discern Truth ability check. Aura-imbued items endure as long as their creators do; should the elf who created the item lose his aura, the item turns to a dull, gray version of itself. Advance Cost: +1.

Bonded
Bonded items cost one less Advance to own than normal, for a specific group to acquire. In many cases, this may represent the special crafts of a certain species, or the cult secrets of a group. Advance Cost: -1.

Dangerous
Dangerous items cost one less Advance to own than normal, due to their menacing nature. Any time you engage in a contest with the item and don’t win the check outright (including any tie), the item inflicts 1 point of Harm on you. This prompts a Stay Up check, as normal. Advance Cost: -1.

Destined
Destined items have one Key built into them, a purpose for which they were shaped. The wielder of said item receives XP as if he had that Key so long as the object is in his possession. However, the item applies a penalty die to any action the owner takes in defiance of the Key’s goals, including the Key’s buyoff. The Key cannot be bought off without the object being reforged, in which case the craftsman gains the buyoff experience. Advance Cost: +1.

Imbued
Imbued items possess a Secret within them. The lists from which these Secrets can be chosen may carry some restrictions. The Secret always costs 1 less pool point to use than normal. Advance Cost: +1.

Leeching
Leeching items drain pool points from characters they come into extended or forceful contact with. Typically, this results in the loss of 1 pool point per hour, or in the case of their use as a weapon, 1 pool point drained per successful strike. Advance Cost: +1.

Masterwork
Masterwork items provide a bonus die on specific checks when using the item. A masterwork blade might provide a bonus die on Dueling checks. Advance Cost: +1.

Profound
Profound items have a special message built into them, intended for a certain audience. When the intended audience is exposed to the item, they must resist the quality of the item (the result on the check made to craft the item) or else be forced to believe the message. Advance Cost: None.

Rated
Rated items have ratings when used as either a weapon or a defensive item. The rating is either + or – 1, 2, or 3. A rated item follows specific rules for its rating, covered in The Shadow of Yesterday. The higher an item’s rating, the more specific and narrow its bonus. While a –1 item might represent a chain shirt which reduces the harm from most melee attacks by –1, a –3 item might only reduce the harm from the blade of the Potentate of Ammeni. In general, items can have up to three +/1 ratings, two +/-2 ratings, and one +/-1 rating. Advance Cost: +1 per specific rating. An item with both a +1 and a +3 rating costs only 2 advances. In some cases, the Storyguide may provide items which have only a +/-1 rating for no additional Advance cost, but these tend to be temporary or unreliable items which might disappear during the story.

Relic
Relic items have a fixed Advance cost of 5 Advances, no matter how many qualities are applied to them. If the cost of the item would normally be more than this, using the item suffers penalty dice equal to the difference in Advance cost. If the cost would be less, using the item gains bonus dice, correspondingly. Advance Cost: 5, regardless of how many qualities are applied.

Reservoir
Reservoir items serves as batteries for pool points. The item includes 2 Pool points in a Pool specified at the time of creation. The points may be spent by the user of the item when wielding it; the points refresh once per day, when the user desists from using the item when he could. Advance Cost: +1.

Single-Use
Single-use items reduce their pool point for creation by one-half, but can only be used once before they must be built again from scratch. Classic examples include potions, explosives, and the like. Advance Cost: None. By their nature, Single-Use items cannot be purchased with Advances.

Unreliable
Unreliable items cost one less Advance to own than normal, due to their less-than-perfect design. Roll a 6-sided die any time you use an unreliable item; if the result comes up “1”, the item doesn’t perform as intended. If you were engaged in a contest and win but the item misfires, neither your intention or that of your opponent goes through. The situation is treated as a tie, as if some third-party had blocked either intention from going through. Advance Cost: -1.


That's it for now. I'm brushing up the dwarven Species stuff, based on suggestions and recommendations, so we might have that posted by the end of this week.


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on February 26, 2008, 06:48:42 PM
Seems like it'll work well enough. As I explained above I'm not entirely happy with an abstract system reminiscent of point-buy myself, but if it works for you, that's great.

The point with the relics is simply to proffer an alternative method for balancing a really, really powerful magical item. Otherwise an item that requires, say, ten advances (theoretically speaking, I don't think that almost anything would need that much) to own would be out of reach for most characters, unless you allowed going into Advance debt. The reason for why the relic is balanced (apart from the increasing dice penalty when you make a really large item, which then has to be off-set by spending Pool for bonus dice) is that I think that there's an upper ceiling to how much an item should cost: a stupendously powerful item will, at some point, become more of a macguffin around which the story will revolve, at which point the character will lose possession of the item more and more often, or spend more and more time guarding it. An item like that shouldn't cost an arbitrary number of Advances.

Also note that Secret of Aura Smithing doesn't do anything if you remove the xp cost from Elven crafting.


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: shadowcourt on February 27, 2008, 09:38:58 AM
We've handled the "advance debt" issue in a variety of interesting ways in the past with powerful macguffins. One of them was to simply say that "partial ownership" of an item was possible, from a story perspective. Just as nothing is really garuanteed as a character's possession until its purchased with Advances, if there was a truly powerful relic that cost 4 advances, it was possible in some of our games, while squabbling over it, to "buy shares" in it by purchasing some of its powers in Advances. Basically, the contentious players could then fight over it, and ultimately acquire it by defeating everyone else who had a claim on it, in which case those Advances opened up for the player who had lost the item. It was basically a variation on Zu theft, designed to suit a game in which a few important story relics were on most people's wish-lists.

Variations on that rule will work fine for some players, I imagine. I'd sort of assumed it was how most groups did things. The alternative is "Advance debt", but it appeals to me much less, as it just devotes Advance after Advance to a specific purpose, and doesn't do anything new for the story.

The One Ring of LoTR fame sort of sits in that "nebulous ownership" category, for me, at least in some portrayals. Neither Frodo, Gollum, nor even Sauron-via-the-Nazgul can truly be said to completely own it, but all are vying for it, and have some stake in it.

Incidentally, even the One Ring, which I'd probably stat out as a Profound, Adamant, Destined, Three-Corner Focused item works out to only about 4 advances to own, and costing something like 17 pool points (assuming 2 Instinct for profound, 5 Vigor for adamant, 5 Reason for destined, and 5 Reason for a Three-Corner Focus, as I'd say its 3 pool + the cost of the effect, and I'm assuming the ring's invisibility goes Enthrallment/Gentle Touch/Alter Senses). Of course, Sauron would need the following Secrets to pull this off:

Secret of Inner Meaning
Secret of Quality Construction
Secret of Adamantine Crafting*
Secret of Destined Crafting
Secret of Craftsmanship
Secret of Imbued Craftsmanship
Secret of Magical Crafting*

* I haven't made either of these, in the rules set below, but adapted ideas we talked about earlier and made some assumptions about what their pre-reqs and costs would be.

Assuming that Sauron doesn't have 10 Reason handy (which is dicey), he might need the Secret of Great Project, as well. He could potentially benefit from the Secret of the Exotic Ingredient, and knock his total pool cost down by -1.

So, somewhere around 16-17 pool, 7-9 Secrets, and 4 Advances provides us with everything that we ever see the Ring do in narrative during LoTR. Of course, we all know it has much more power than that, or else Sauron wouldn't have such a mad-on for it. So, maybe its actually a reservoir, and maybe it actually should be a Relic, to reflect its general mysterioso qualities.

If we assumed it was also a Relic, it'd cost 1 more Secret, 5 more Reason, and afford... a bonus die? It might be more satisfying for me if the Relic property had more incentives to it. Maybe it should be where the adamant property is located, and it should just be story-incentive that relics are almost impossible to destroy?


As for the Secret of Aura Smithing, I think I misunderstood what it was intended to do. Now it becomes more clear to me that you were intending for the Elven, Imbuement, and Rating properties to have both an XP cost and a pool cost for creation? Why would an elf pay an additional cost for a rated item, beyond everyone else? If we're assuming even Olaf the human craftsman can make a +1 or +2 item for standard costs (say 2-4 Vigor), why is the elf paying an additional +1 XP for the privilege? Does he get something out of it? If its to payoff the mundanity requirement you've talked about before for Secret of Imbuement, I can sort of see it, but for the ratings?

Maybe it'd be better to rewrite it like this?

Secret of Soul Smithing
You can pour your very life experience into any artisanry you perform. When using an Item Creation Secret, you can pay the pool cost in XP instead of pool points. Prerequisite: Secret of Immortality, Secret of Quality Construction, Secret of Elfbond Crafting. Cost: 1+ XP instead of pool points.


Title: Re: [TSOY] Dwarven species design
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on February 27, 2008, 09:09:16 PM
The point of paying xp in Secret of Aura Imbuement was that it's an alternative replacement for other crafting secrets; it allows a character to create rated and imbued items just like that, even without a need for proper tools and a forge (as the item is actually a normal item that is being enchanted by interaction with the elf). How strong this actually is depends on what other crafting stuff is available, but in the context of the post wherein I presented it, it was appropriate and flavourful to have it cost xp instead of Pool. Secret of Aura Smithing, in this context, is a specialization secret that allows a character to push the capabilities of aura imbuement without bankrupting himself; paying xp is a pretty big deal, so it's not something a character would want to do often.

Your idea of having a partially paid-for item be contested in the fiction is pretty interesting. I wouldn't probably have characters be able to pick and choose wich properties of an item they want to pay for (cherry-picking doesn't always make sense concerning a magic item's fictional context), but the basic idea is sound.