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Author Topic: [TSOY] Dwarven species design  (Read 11496 times)
shadowcourt
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Posts: 153


« 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)
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #1 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.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Troels
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Posts: 77


« Reply #2 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?
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shadowcourt
Member

Posts: 153


« Reply #3 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)
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #4 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.
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Troels
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« Reply #5 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.
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shadowcourt
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Posts: 153


« Reply #6 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)
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #7 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 Wink 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 Wink

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.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #8 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 Wink

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.
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Troels
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« Reply #9 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 Wink 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 Wink

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.
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Troels
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Posts: 77


« Reply #10 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 Wink

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?)
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shadowcourt
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Posts: 153


« Reply #11 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)
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #12 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.
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shadowcourt
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Posts: 153


« Reply #13 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)
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shadowcourt
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Posts: 153


« Reply #14 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)
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