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Author Topic: Need information for my Alyria session  (Read 8765 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: April 22, 2002, 06:48:51 AM »

Seth,

I want to run an Alyria scenario with my campus group tomorrow. Here are three characters I just made, using the Quick-Start. To play, I want to know the following, from the horse's mouth. Apply exactly the first setting/locale that you would use in playing Alyria with a new group for the first time.

What color is their skin? Hair and eyes? General ethnic features?
What style of clothes and comportment do they present? How do they act toward peers? Toward a foreign stranger of similar social rank? Toward social subordinates?
What does the word "family" mean to them? How many degrees of marriages does it extend?
Regarding names, "Hawk" is all very well, but people with clothes and houses need a bit more to situate one another in their society. What honorifics or family-associations are used?

Ruler-priestess type: Cobra
Virtue: Gibbous-moon
Force (Gibbous), lithe sinuous athletic movements
Insight (Full), imperious speech
Determination (Gibbous), burning, level gaze
Traits: Ruthless (Crescent), Arrogant (Crescent), Beautiful (Full) / cost 5
Insight/Corruption 0

General-governor type: Lion
Virtue: Full-moon
Force (Full), powerful build, military stride
Insight (Half), good listener
Determination (Half), worry-lines
Traits: Loyal (Full), Secretly Romantic (Crescent) / cost 4
Insight 1

Mystic-advisor type: Carp
Virtue: Crescent-Moon
Force (New), slight and feeble
Insight (Full), "everyone's friend"
Determination (Half), mild voice
Traits: Devout (Crescent), Adaptable (Crescent), Inscrutable (Crescent) / cost 3
Corruption 2

Best,
Ron
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GreatWolf
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« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2002, 05:36:58 PM »

In order to answer your questions, I've excerpted from both this post and your other post regarding Alyria.  Hopefully this will provide sufficient information for you.  Now, I should note that some of this information has been established for a while (e.g. geographic feel) while others are being based on my current impressions and how my playtest sessions have developed.  When I return to address these issues in detail, I am sure that changes will be made.

I hope that this gives you enough to get started.  Over the course of this day, I realized something about myself and roleplaying.  I realized that I tend to pay very little attention to the external appearance of my characters.  I’m more concerned with their inner appearance and conceptualize them in this manner.  I must confess that I was confused as to why you put such stock in issues such as ethnicity.  I thought, “Just make your character look the way you want him to look!”  But that’s what I would do.  My wife, on the other hand, has pointed out that she cannot roleplay a character unless she knows what the character looks like.  Invariably she sketches her character on the back of her character sheet.  Perhaps you are similar.  Or maybe I am weird.  Anyways, your questions have prompted some self-discovery, so I thank you.  And rest assured that further details of this kind will be forthcoming with more than an afternoon’s thoughts put into them.  My wife will be helping me, so you can also be assured that they will be quality answers.
 
I normally introduce players into Alyria using the Citadel culture.  Therefore these answers will specifically reflect the Citadel.
 
basic geography (the look and feel, NOT a map)
 
Much of Alyria is sparsely settled wilderness.  Terrain is generally hilly and forested.  Often fogs roll off the Sea of Mist, wreathing the trees in mist.  There is a large mountain range in the middle of Alyria.  The Ark is in the northern foothills of these mountains whereas the Core is located to the south, surrounded by the blazing Mountains of Glory and a vast desert.
 
The Citadel is located on the shores of the Sea of Mist.  Because of this, violent electrical storms frequently batter the city.  The four metal Arches in particular draw the lightning from the sky.  The Citadel itself appears like the opening cityscene from Blade Runner.  In fact, the feel of the Citadel is a cross between the movie Blade Runner and the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  Huge, towering buildings dominate, yet most are vacant or occupied by only a few.  Certain areas of the city bustle with life, but others are rarely visited and remain in ruins.  Basically, the city is a shadow of its former glory and inhabited by only a remnant of its former population.
 
There is always a humming and clanking of machinery to be heard.  In addition, in the center of the city stands the giant clock tower Kron.  Every hour Kron clangs out the time on giant bells.  However, Kron is a 24-hour clock, while the Alyrian day is 25 hours.  Therefore, every night at midnight, the Keepers stop Kron for one hour.  All the machines are turned off.  Silence descends on the Citadel.  This is known as the Devil's Hour, and the superstition is that evil creatures walk the streets during this time.  Less credulous criminals make use of this belief to move freely throughout the city at this time.
 
In addition, the Citadel controls a large amount of territory outside of the city proper, which is used for farming and is occupied by small farming villages.  These farming villages appear like a normal Earth village.  Nearly all have a stockade or some wall for defense.  There is less technological advancement in the rural areas.  A village might have access to an old tractor or perhaps an ancient weapon, but in general the tech level is that of a medieval town.
 
social system
 
Feudal oligarchy.  The Citadel is ruled by the Five Noble Houses, which comprise the warrior class of the Citadel.  Each Noble House is led by a High Lord.  Each High Lord rules a fifth of the Citadel.  Additionally, the five High Lords form the High Council that rules the Citadel.  The Keeper priesthood is granted a nonvoting seat on the council.
 
 I am not sure if there is a further subdivision of class (e.g. merchant, farmer, etc.) or if they are just grouped together as commoners.  I’m leaning towards the second, however.
 
some notion of whatever people are fired-up about at the moment
 
Here are a few issues that are facing the Citadel:
 
--Recently (within the last 20 years or so), the Ark has opened and has begun engaging in a massive land grab.  This has brought the Ark into conflict with the Citadel.  Currently there is no formal war between the Ark and Citadel, but various border clashes occur and raiders from both sides attack outlying villages and outposts.  An actual war could loom in the very near future.
 
--There is a strong faction within the Citadel that wishes to be rid of the Restored.  Some wish to destroy them, seeing them as a blasphemy against nature.  Others wish to free them from their bondage and help them escape to freedom.  This puts them in direct conflict with the Keeper priesthood in the Citadel, because a large amount of the political clout of the Keepers comes from their control of the Restored.
 
--The Web is a constant thorn in the side of the Citadel.  It is a parasitic community, stealing everything that it needs to survive.  Of particular concern is the theft of electricity, which is both a crime and a blasphemy against Pheric.  In addition it is a massive slum that harbors criminals, Misbegotten, and Blessed.  However, the entire population of the Web would mobilize against a direct threat to its continued existence.  This makes for a difficult situation for the High Lords.
 
What color is their skin? Hair and eyes? General ethnic features?
 
Currently I envision ethnic uniformity among Alyrians.  After all, I doubt that the original colonists were sufficiently diverse ethnically to produce the different races that we have here on Earth.  I would imagine that the average Alyrian would appear to be Caucasian with straight brown hair and brown eyes.  Beards would be commonplace.  An average height of 5' 6" seems about right.  Obviously there is room for some deviance from this standard (blue eyes, blond hair), but too much divergence might brand one as Misbegotten.
 
What style of clothes and comportment do they present? How do they act toward peers? Toward a foreign stranger of similar social rank? Toward social subordinates?

I see citizens of the Citadel as wearing archetypical medieval clothes.  Obviously, your wealth and station dictates the quality of your clothing.  At least that’s right now.  Clothing is not my strong suit (no pun intended), and there is probably a better fit for this.  

In discussing this with my wife, she sees citizens of the Citadel as wearing large floppy hats and cloaks (to keep off the rain and factory soot), wooden shoes, wide belts to hold pouches, pants, and shirts that tie shut.  I like her answer better than mine.

Peer conduct varies.  The commoners are fairly informal towards each other.  The warrior class, however, retains the old military traditions and would offer such respect towards each other, even in nominally informal situations.

Citizens of the Citadel are notoriously xenophobic and tend to shun outsiders.  Of course, the only other major civilization center is the Ark, which is hostile, so outsiders of similar social rank are a rarity at best.

Within the warrior class, military respect is demanded of subordinates.  General bowing and scraping is demanded of the commoners to the warrior class, but I do not think that this extends as far as the samurai’s right to strike down any peasant who was not respectful enough.

What does the word "family" mean to them? How many degrees of marriages does it extend?
For the commoners, “family” usually means the nuclear family and the immediate relations (grandparents, aunts and uncles).  Only the Noble Houses have a broader sense of family.  For them, “family” is their House.

Regarding names, "Hawk" is all very well, but people with clothes and houses need a bit more to situate one another in their society. What honorifics or family-associations are used?

I have this nasty sense that I’ve failed to communicate something about the Alyrian naming convention, but I’ll have to go back and reread what I wrote first.  Be that as it may, the warriors of the Citadel would take the name of their House as a family name, while commoners probably take their profession as a surname.

Now I am painfully aware that some of these details are a bit hazy.  In my playtests, I have essentially allowed my players to craft these details to suit themselves, as they have not seemed as important to me as other issues.  Your mileage obviously varies.  Certainly these are questions that need better answers than what I’ve given above.

There are more questions that need to be answered.  One simple one is this:  what do citizens of the Citadel use for money?  I’m sure that the outlying villages rely heavily on barter, but a money system seems necessary for the Citadel.  Is there gold on Alyria?  If not, has some other metal taken its place as the basis of coinage?  I’ve been tossing these questions around for a while, and I haven’t even decided how[\i] I’m going to determine the answer, let alone what it is.  Feedback is welcome.

Also, it is entirely possible that while you are prepping or playing, some custom or concept appears to you to arise logically from what I’ve laid out.  If that is so, please let me know what it is.  As I noted, the setting elements are sketched.  I just need to determine what logically fits in the lines.

What's up with the dragons? Who are the cultists? What's the big deal? And how does it translate into small/local conflicts in terms that non-involved people understand?

Now, to the dragon cultists.  I was trying to decide how to answer you.  I was thinking about calling the dragons the ultimate corruption and the cultists the agents of corruption.  But that didn’t seem good enough.  Then it hit me.  The answer is simple.

Think of the dragons as demons.  I mean this in a variety of ways, but for you I specifically mean this as Sorcerer demons.  Dragons are the personification of the dark side.  On the one hand, they have lots of power on their hands.  On the other hand, they have alien needs.  In particular, dragons need to feel the pain of others.  This pain fills and sustains them.

Enter the dragon cultists.  The cultists are willing to supply the dragons with pain in exchange for power.  Each side is using the other side, although I’ll bet that the dragons will have the last laugh.

Dragons are rarely seen in Alyria.  They are too disorganized and chaotic to assault en masse as they did during the Rape.  Therefore they rely on the cultists to do their dirty work.

Regardless of their profession and station in society, dragon cultists have two goals:  increasing the pain and suffering of those around them, and recruiting new cultists to the cause.  Certainly, there are the supposed rites of worship, but these are less for the sake of the dragon and more to reaffirm the dark resolve of the participating cultists.  “I’ve killed someone for the dragons.  Now there’s no turning back.”

The upshot is that every dragon cultist is an agent of corruption in his society.  This may take many forms and is dependent purely on the creativity of the cultist.  For instance, imagine a cultist who is a farmer in a small farming village.  How might he pursue his calling?  One obvious way would be to poison the crops.  Another might be to sabotage farm equipment.  But maybe, instead, he opts to heap lavish compliments on the beauty of a woman, filling the other women with envy.  Maybe he offers poor advice during a town meeting.  Maybe he saves the life of the town drunk, enabling the poor drunk to suffer for many more years under the burden of his alcohol.

Now, this is just a farmer with very little influence or power.  What if a wealthy merchant became a cultist?  A soldier?  A High Lord?  The range of possibilities from overt to subtle is still there, but the opportunities are greater with more power.

So, what would a struggle against a dragon cultist look like?  It could be as simple as stopping him from doing another dastardly deed, like poisoning the crops.  But it could also be trying to unravel the subtle harm that the cultist has done.  Thus, fighting a dragon cultist could take the form of physical violence, or it could take the form of trying to wean a poor drunkard from his alcohol.  Or perhaps it is trying to disprove a painful rumor that has been spread.  Worse, what if this rumor is the truth?  Is it okay to lie if the truth is too painful?  A fight against a dragon cultist can play out like a bad session of Call of Cthulhu if that’s what the players really want, but I’d rather see it as the essence of the moral conflict that is supposed to be at the heart of Alyria.

I will also now admit that I have yet to run a game with a subtle dragon cultist, so I cannot say from experience how well it works or what setting details are necessary to do it right.  However, the possibilities of the cultists are one of the most exciting parts about Alyria for me.

I certainly hope that this is helpful in answering your questions.  And, like I said, further details will be forthcoming, and I will be sure to post them here and include them in further drafts of Alyria.
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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2002, 07:07:33 PM »

Thanks, Seth!!

One last crumb ("Please sir, can I have some more ...?") - what's the deal with the Moon? OK, it's red, right, and icky or bad stuff descends from it periodically? Am I way off? Is there a really quick and dirty answer that doesn't get into metaphysics?

Best,
Ron
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GreatWolf
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« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2002, 09:05:33 PM »

You know, when I read the Glorantha website and saw the red moon of the Lunars, my heart sank.  So first, let me say this.  Greg Stafford, I didn't steal your idea!

Ron, you're basically right.  The only addition is that the Outsiders (the icky stuff) is what chased the humans to Alyria in the first place, but this only survives as a mythic dread of the Outsiders and the Weeping Moon.  Alyrians view the moon as an omen of the end of the world.  There's no metaphysics involved.  The Outsiders are an alien threat, but not a supernatural one per se.

Hope that helps.

[edited to add metaphysics comment]
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Seth Ben-Ezra
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« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2002, 04:25:17 AM »

Your description of the people in the Citadel is interesting.  When we played I visualized the city clearly.  The people I envisioned as people that we'd normally see in a city like that (i.e. part Blade Runner, part Barbed Wire).  In fact, my own character was modeled after the pseudo nazi commandant from the wholly forgettable Barbed Wire movie.

Dressing them up as medieval peasants...hmmm....have to think about that one.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2002, 11:00:11 AM »

Personally, I saw the street scum and most others dressed in rags, but I envisioned officials like your character Ralph, as being dressed like fascists officers in lots of leather and metal. Indicating a disparity between the haves and the have-nots that made the haves look desperate to keep what little nice clothes they had. And, though sort of low tech in general, everything indicative of a people that once knew a higher tech.

Everything very dark colors, of course, but like they might have been bright once, but you could not tell given the low lighting, and the grime. My character wore a grey outfit, nicer than average, perhaps, but not completely without a film of dirt, indicating in my mind his attempted neutrality. Magog the Man-Beast I envisioned, of course, as wearing nothing but the shadows and perhaps some fur.

Jason's character I saw as wearing the ratty brown robe of an old man who tinkers about his shop. Getting browner by the minute as the atmosphere grabbed on to him. And the bag...like some Hitchcockian rear projection animation of Felix the Cat's bag covered with a sheen of something awful.

Does the Quick Start mention the nature of The Web? I think that imagery was powerful, a portion of the city suspended up high on ropes of all guages strung together like some titan's 2 year old son had gotten hold of a monsterous ball of twine and played with it for several hours. Suspended in which were articles looking like they had been caught in a spider's web, but were really artifacts of the people who live there. Wood slats for bridges, iron platforms, houses made from the detritus of the city walls including corrugated tin drainage pipes, and other sheet metal. And the stolen electricity lighting it slightly and ephemerally like some fairy tree city on acid; occsional sparks falling to the city below. And a sense that while you only saw the occasional loose rope dangling, or rope bridge bouncing as someone crossed it, that the rest of the whole thing moved ever so imperceptibly.

Oh, and to include another sense, I imagined a stench to The Web, one of rotting fibres. The whole thing being immensely strong due to the number of ropes strung together, but slowly and certainly all decaying away simultaneously. Like a collapsing society.

Just the images that stuck in my mind. How many are me, and how many are the game, I cannot say.

Mike
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« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2002, 11:05:45 AM »

Thats virtually the exact same image I had...although I had visions of Jason (as least in secret) being dressed more like Ming the Merciless.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2002, 11:15:11 AM »

I was just looking at the characters that Ron put together above once more. I wanna play the carp! My kinda character.

And, Ralph, yes, that would be Jason's character's aura you were channeling. I saw the potential grandeur, too. Just burgeoning, and waiting to erupt.

Mike
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GreatWolf
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« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2002, 01:04:44 PM »

Mike,

You're catching the right vibe.  I hadn't thought of the stench of rotting rope, but now I'm going to have to steal it from you.  Nothing personal, you understand.  Consider it a compliment.

Actually, I'd say that you've nailed the feel fairly closely, Mike.  Part of the issue is that I need to nail some of these issues down concretely on paper, rather than relying on what's tucked into my head.  I'm finding that I may not have communicated all the imagery and tone (for lack of a better word) that is in my head.  I will definitely have to remedy this.

Seth
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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2002, 12:00:57 PM »

Quote from: GreatWolf
I'm finding that I may not have communicated all the imagery and tone (for lack of a better word) that is in my head.  I will definitely have to remedy this.


Right. I only get the vibe because I'm one of the lucky few who has played with you, Seth. OTOH, I really get the feel you're going for, too. But don't assume that because one person gets it that everyone will. This all needs to be put down in a concise fashion that delivers it right to the players. Like those handouts.

Get crackin'!

Mike
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