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Author Topic: [TSOY] Near's Frozen South 2: Goren (and its new magical system)  (Read 9046 times)

Posts: 153

« on: February 04, 2008, 01:27:14 PM »

Hey, everyone,

Wanted to pick people's brains and solicit comments about a nation and magic system I'm tinkering with. This is all part of my greater project to develop the frozen south of Near, which includes looking at two nations (Goren and Vulfland) and three species (the vulfen, dwarves, and... well... I'm not saying yet, as I'm still developing them). The section I'm posting in this thread is specifically aimed at Goren, which I am currently envisioning as a rugged Nordic/Slavic kind of land, with frozen winters and muddy summers.

As it stands, there's probably going to be an intense Clan system, which is based only partially on heredity, and just as much on the idea of clan as social construct which you can be accepted into or expelled from. The clans are something like lodges or "mutual defense socieites"--people who have banded together to share resources and place faith in each other. This leads to some intense insider/outsider politics in Goren, so much so that I'm thinking of making clear social distinctions between the 25% of the population who are "blooded" (those who have greater status because they can rely on the backing of a clan), and the rest who are "strangers" (the bulk of society, who have no one to rely on but themselves, and whom the blooded expect little from and, by extension, offer little to). Unlike Ammeni, where this is all about wealth, in Goren this will be primarily about trust, honor, and social expectations--one can work one's way into a clan by doing meritorious service to one of the blooded. While a clan headsman might well be wealthy, he likely got that way by using the social bonds of his clan to exploit better opprortunities; his cousin might be also one of the blooded and utterly destitute.

The benefit of clan membership is the seriousness with which your words will be taken. Other blooded of your clan are more likely to consider your plea than that of others, and to take your word above that of an outsider--even a member of another clan. Violence against the blooded carries a harsher penalty; a clan is honor-bound to avenge a slight against one of their own, making warfare between clans rare but intense when it occurs, as blood-feud spirals quickly out of control. Still, it's better than being a stranger, who can be lied to, robbed, or killed with no real consideration for the threat entailed. As such, the clans are brotherhoods, more like glorified gangs than noble houses. Thinking of them as extended fur-clad mafia families isn't a half-bad envisioning. Of course, being a member of a clan means merely pledging loyalty and upholding the clan's values, so you hardly have to be a hitman to be a member. Odds are the successful tavern keeper, many of the fishermen, and even members of the local clergy are all clan members, and the only time they turn to any rough-and-tumble is when one of their brethren has been harmed or killed.

Matters of honor, whether perceived or reality, are paramount to clan members. Lying to one of your kinsmen, blasphemy or sacreilege against the gods, desecration of the dead (including stealing from them), and cowardice are all grave insults to a clan's honor, and punishable by public humiliation, and ultimately banishment. Theft from any of the blooded is not permissible--even a rival clan--and violence without good reason (i.e. which is not in reprisal for a sleight) is forbidden. Some choose death rather than face life among the low-caste masses of "strangers," often seen as an honorable decision from one who has earned dishonor otherwise. Actions taken for money rather than pride or glory are held suspect by the Gorenish--thieves, beggars, prostitutes, and men who kill for money rather than honor or revenge are the definition of "strangers", and are never admitted into clans until they mend their ways. Of course, there's no crime for a blooded to place coin in the palm of a begging man or a prostitute for their services, so a curious hypocrisy in the attitudes of the blooded keeps the stranger caste afloat.

Goren has no central government; there was a time when the clans once answered to a Jarl, but those days are long past. Individual communities are frequently isolated from each other by weeks of land travel or days of sailing. Villages and coastal towns of Goren trade fur and hides, fish, timber, pitch, amber, and other local resources with Maldor, and there are no shortage of Gorenish pirates who maraud the Southern Sea, even raiding port towns of Maldor's continent. The richest communities in Goren have found, however, that there is far more wealth to be had through selling ore to Maldor, which greedily takes both iron and precious metals. The grains, worked goods, and human resource which Goren receives in turn has exposed the cold southern nation to all manner of delights from the north. Ammeni is quite eager to expand its interests in Goren, but the savviest Maldorite Lords try and block the Houses from extending their reach whenever possible, instead trying to place themselves as the primary mediator between metal-rich Goren and metal-hungry Ammeni, profiting off of both.

Goren's population is not entirely human, of course. Elves are not uncommon in these cold lands, whether as remote mystics dwelling alone, pilgrims traveling south to Vulfland, or as repositories of ancient lore serving communities. More than one clan has an elven advisor who upholds the history and traditions of the blooded. Goblins, called trolls in the local dialect, tend to dwell in their own communities, subsisting off of the land when they can and being forced to raid human settlements when times grow harsh. Comparing a human to a troll has become a favored form of vicious public insult in Goren--to claim a man is married to a troll-wife implies he is scolded by an avaricious shrew; to call a man a troll-mate is to imply he cuckolds his wife. This is not to say that more civilized goblins do not live among the strangers, or even find status among the clans, but they are a rarity worth nothing when they are found. Few ratkin dwell in Goren's interior; most are recent emigrees from Maldor and points north, curiious about the cold southern nations, and often finding the only way to survive is to turn to petty theft or piracy. A number of raiding sea vessels have ratkin crew members, and find the creatures are quite capable at sea.

Dwarf enclaves are found throughout Goren, whether living in the midst of larger human settlements or finding retreats for themselves in the mountains or even beneath the earth. Like so many of these sanctuaries, they are specific to the mania which drives the dwarves of the region. Dwarves may occasionally offer grudging respect to the humans' attempts to emulate the perfection of the dwarven ring with their own "clans", but rarely join these groups. When they do, they frequently bring an entire family with them, infusing a clan with a sizable dwarf population, which sometimes even threatens to take over the clan itself. Some legends tell of entire clans which have disappeared, becoming dwarves and drawing away from society to pursue their own arcane aims.

Vulfen packs are a constant threat to the settled peoples of Goren, but do not hold the control they do in the southern tundra. Here they are little more than marauders, finding it difficult to encroach on the well-armed and witch-wise Gorenish. In fact, Goren has become something of a fronteir for the vulfen, where society-interested vulfen sometimes change their whole lives and become civilized beasts, serving as mercenaries, guards, hunters, trappers, or other stranger roles in human villages.

Clinton R. Nixon
Posts: 2624

« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2008, 02:13:16 PM »


I really like what you've done with this (although I also dig Eero's Goren, and think I'd use both, given the chance.)

A question: how do these people relate to their environment? How has the environment affected their lives? What is the environment like around them?

One idea I had is that they are somewhat geographically separated by land: maybe a large mountain range. This would prevent vulfen from pouring in, and force them to take to the seas for trade.

- Clinton

Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Posts: 153

« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2008, 03:01:30 PM »

(figured I should continue this in a second post, so I don't meet the character limit on posts)

Some Thoughts on Religion

I'm tempted to direct Goren's religious life towards a polytheistic pantheon, drawing some ideas from the Norse and Slavic faiths and gods. When you look at it, Near has few to no polytheistic cultures--Qek are close to ancestor worshipers, but are quasi-animistic and agnostic; Zaru are philosophical humanists; Ammenites eschew religion entirely; Maldor is full of cults competing against the "state religion", as it were, of Absolon-as-Sol-Invictus. Maybe it's intentional, as bad pantheons are such a staple of bad fantasy gaming. It's more than possible that I'm going down that path to my ultimate detriment, so someone should steer me away from it if they have a cooler idea. I'll leave that alone for now, as it doesn't really interfere with my ulterior motive, which is to play around with this new magical system.

I know, for instance, that Eero suggested Calvinist thought as the ethos for his version of Goren, and there may be something in that, particularly with his idea of the mines and interior of the earth as inherently sinful places, albeit vaulable ones. It might dovetail nicely with my conception of "blooded" and "strangers" if the blooded refuse to work in mines, and thereby must rely on the strangers to accomplish those dangerous labors. In some respects, the wealth is in the hands of the group who are not the cultural elite then, and that's kind of interesting, as it would imply you can't buy your way in, and makes for interesting moments of rich pariahs and poor high castes. I definitely don't want to just simplify things to the point of a slave state, because I don't want to steal thunder from the Ammenite/Zaru relationship.


On a related note, I *do* have an idea for the magical system for Goren, and its tied up entirely in images of witches. I was fairly smitten with Phillip Pullman's witches from the "His Dark Materials" trilogy (such as "The Golden Compass" for the American crowd, "The Northern Lights" for the Brits), and combining them with some ideas I've seen in other fantasy RPG's has yielded what I hope can become an interesting synthesis.

Basically, I'll post the idea here in some working for, and people can feel free to comment on it, whether they think I should go forward with it, modify it, or scrap it entirely in favor of something else.

Goren has a magical tradition inherited through the blood, though few indeed ever show the spark. Young women are the most likely to manifest these abilities, which the Gorenish call witchcraft. A witch is often marked by her headstrong yet carefree ways, and may possess some minor sorcerous skill before she is even taken for training. A woman of the clans who manifests such abilities is immediately divorced of her clan status and given over an enclave of witches. These wise women occupy a third part of Gorenish society, neither blooded nor stranger, and bridge both statuses. In fact, a stranger girl-child who is lucky enough to manifest witchcraft greatly improves her lot, finding an organization of women who will care for her as family, a strange arcane clan which sits above all others.

Witchcraft is not the manipulation of remote, arcane energies as Three-Corner Magic is, but is focused on the very essence of life. A witch learns to manipulate blood, bone, flesh, hair, and more, and learns the symbolic power of each. A witch who understands her breath can make herself as light as it, and fly through the air. When she understands the ears, she can use this knowledge to cover a place in silence, so that no sound is heard. And when she understands the heart, she can use it to make two people fall in love, or send one to their grave untimely.

A witch's body is her greatest magical instrument, and she acknowledges that one of her number must play three roles in her life, that of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. These aspects will be worn, shed, and occasionally even worn again, as the Triple-Goddess summons the witch to new roles in her life.

Witches lose their clan status upon initiation into the circle of their kind, but this does not mean they are divorced from politics entirely. Witches spend years of study with mentors and wise-women in private enclaves; a select few chosen due to geography or special skill are granted access to the tall Witchmount itself, which towers above the rest of Goren's rocky ranges. After this time, however, many witches return to dwell in human villages, serving as advisors, healers, and arcane defenders against dangerous threats. In emulation of the ancient kings of Goren, who took wives from among the Witchmount's greatest students, most local jarls and headmen consider it an honor to take a witch-wife, who lends her strength and voice to that of her husband. This results in frequent tripartite marriages, as a chieftain seeks to continue his line with a mortal bride and yet stay married (and sexually active) with his witch-wife. Should the witch-wife bear daughters, she is likely to train them in her own arts if they are at all skilled, and thereby strengthen her community further. Jealousy between queens and witch-wives is the stuff of great legend, and these same tableaus are frequently acted out in the lives and households of lesser chieftains.

A witch-wife who bears a son in these situations is unfortunate indeed; her boy is unlikely to inherit any of the riches or status of his father (unless he has no half-siblings from the other marriage), and he is forbidden from learning the magics of his mother. Traditionalist witches from every enclave will not permit a man-child to learn their secrets, and punish men who practice their arts with debilitating injury, madness, or death. It does happen, from time to time, that a gifted male child learns the secrets of the sisterhood, whether by accident of the blood or intentional instruction by a witch of looser restraint. Such warlocks must carefully conceal their arts from the watchful eye of other practitioners. Some say there is ancient prophecy that the Witchmount itself will be betrayed and destroyed by a warlock; others say that the arcane gifts of witchcraft drive men to petty jealousy, bloodshed, and insanity. The witches are as adamant on these preconceptions as they are silent on their reasons.

Humans are not the only ones able to learn witchcraft, and the trolls are said to practice their own secrets, with a repugnant focus on bile, filth, rot, and other unpleasant aspects of the body. Few though they may be, elven witches do exist, and some say that dwarf-women sometimes practice these arts in secret, forming a hidden invisible ring which the families and clans know little about. Some ratkin have expressed interest in these arts, but none have yet received formal instruction from the great teachers of the witch-clan.

So, How's It Going to Work?

My current idea is to have three Abilities which form the basis of the Gorenish witchcraft system. These abilities are not inherently magical in and of themselves, but they are used to activate the magical Secrets, in turn. The abilities are probably going to be:

Maiden-Ways (Instinct): This ability confers a general understanding of wild, untamed nature. Use it to find your way safely through a wood, forage for food, and find shelter from a storm. It can be used to befriend and tame wild animals, as well, making them treat you as one of their kin.
Mother-Wit (Vigor): Knowledge of herbalism and the healing arts are conferred through this ability. Use it to serve as a midwife, cure disease, treat injuries, and assess the health and well-being of creatures. It can also be used to manage a household or a family, getting others to do what you say.
Crone-Wise (Reason): Knowledge of ancient secrets, the spirit world, and the supernatural in general. This ability not only allows you to understand the world of spirits and magic, but can be used to frighten and intimidate others with your knowledge of sorcery, and generally appear creepy and well-versed in dark arts.

I like the idea that they are representations of the Maiden-Mother-Crone triumvirate. I think, as an extension of this, there are going to be Secrets which represent an aspect you particularly embody. These "aspect Secrets" will hopefully have bans on behavior, and conditions which have to be met to keep them. So we'll have things that are sort of like this:

You have embraced the free-roving aspect of the Maiden, who keeps her virginal state by being unwed, but gives of her body without remorse. Advance your Maiden-Ways ability by one priority for the purposes of ability advancement. You are so unattached and care-free that you can spend 2 Instinct to take to the air, flying with ease. You use your Maiden-Ways ability check to navigate and perform stunts while flying. Aspect: In addition to the benefit of this Secret, you receive a bonus die on all Maiden-Ways ability checks so long as you have no ties of family or guardianship with anyone else, and you make love to another being once a lunar cycle. You lose your Aspect, but keep the other benefits of this Secret, if you form a bond of family, or guardianship with another, or turn to celibacy for a full month.

You embody the nourishing aspect of the Mother. Advance your Mother-Wit ability by one priority for the purposes of ability advancement. You know that your wisdom can heal others. You can make a Mother-Wit ability check, and spend 2 Vigor, to automatically heal a being of a number of points of harm equal to the SL of your check. This can only be accomplished on an individual once per day. Aspect: In addition to the benefit of this Secret, you receive a bonus die on all Mother-Wit ability checks so long as you are taking care of a family member or other ward who cannot help themselves, either due to youth, illness, or advanced age. You lose your Aspect, but keep the other benefits of this Secret, if you have no ward under your charge for one full month's time, or if you intentionally break your obligation to care for this person.

You embody the death-focused aspect of the Crone. Advance your Crone-Wise ability by one priority for the purposes of ability advancement. You know that everything around you can wound and kill. You can fashion a weapon instantly out of any plant matter you pluck; a sprig of mistletoe becomes a deadly dart, a broken off branch flies as true as any arrow or spear, and could just as easily serve as your sword. A Crone-Wise ability check is used to fashion and wield the weapon, which does +1 harm when you wield it, but is useless in the hands of another. Aspect: In addition to the benefit of this Secret, you receive a bonus die on all Crone-Wise ability checks so long as you have severed all ties of love or family with anyone else, and remain celibate. You must also take the life of a human-sized creature (though an animal is acceptable) once a month, shedding its blood in a ritual. You lose your Aspect, but keep the other benefits of this Secret, if you form a bond of love, family, or guardianship with another, if you make love to another being, or if you fail to perform appropriate bloodlettings.

This is just the beginning stuff, to get people started, of course. You'll notice that the three Aspect Secrets above are totally NOT essential. They are ways of focusing your life as a witch, rather than must-haves to be a witch. You can have more than one of them, ideally having all three and being a bad-ass, thorn-throwing, healing, flying bad-ass, if you want, but odds are you can only have one Aspect active at the same time, because of the tricky wording around the requirements of those parts of the Secrets. There may be a way to weasel into two of them, but if somebody figures that out, cool for them. Bravo for being such a crazy stickler, and I bet your life is going to be full of complexities for the Storyguide to toy with.

The real meat on these bones, however, is the idea that you'd take a Secret which embodies your knowledge of a specific part of the body, manifested through your tripartite goddess aspect. So, it'd look something like this:

Secret of Flowing Breath
You have learned the witchcraft secrets relating to breath.
  • A Maiden-Ways ability check allows you to set your words on the wind, carrying on communication with others at a distance. The SL of the check indicates the total number of miles you can extend this communication. Cost: 2 Instinct.
  • A Mother-Wit ability check allows you to hold your breath indefinitely, making it easy to exist underwater or in places where air is thin or unavailable. Cost: 1 Vigor.
  • A Crone-Wise ability check allows you to blow a powerful blast from your lungs which sends other beings toppling. This can be contested normally, but if successful, can deal harm or send an opponent flying. It can even be used to end Bringing Down the Pain, as the Secret of Knock-Back does. Cost:[/b ]3 Reason.

or something like this...

Secret of the Searching Eyes
You have learned the witchcraft secrets relating to eyes and sight.
  • A Maiden-Ways ability check allows you to see clearly at impressive distances for a scene. Anything in your visual range resolves clearly to you, with no penalty dice. You can chain your Maiden-Ways ability to any ranged attack checks for unrestricted bonus dice. Cost: 1 Instinct.
  • A Mother-Wit ability check allows you to scry on any person you have touched in the past, casting your sight to where they are now, magically. This check can be resisted by the subject passively, though abilities other than Innate ones can be used to resist. Cost: 3 Vigor.
  • A Crone-Wise ability allows you to see in total darkness or other obstructions for a scene. Additionally, you can make a Crone-Wise check and spend 3 Reason which leaves a subject blinded, their eyes milky and clouded. The subject can resist normally, but if he fails, he takes a 2-die penalty on all checks relating directly to sight. The effects last until the following dawn or dusk. Cost: None to see in darkness. 3 Reason to blind a foe.

...or this...

Secret of Flesh's Resilience
You have learned the witchcraft secrets relating to flesh.
  • A Maiden-Ways ability check allows you to entirely resist harm from temperature extremes. The effects last for a full day. Cost: 2 Instinct.
  • A Mother-Wit ability check allows.. (something I haven't quite figured out yet, admitedly)
  • A Crone-Wise ability allows you to harden yourself against physical damage. The SL of your check equals a pool of points which can be used to neutralize physical Harm, at the moment it is dealt, on a 1-for-1 basis. Cost: 2 Reason.

And this is the real dilemma I come to: I think this system is cool, but is it too complex? Secrets which have three powers built into them, and rely on different ability checks? Is that overkill? I think its neat, though, in the way it manifests the real tripartite aspect of the whole magical system, but I worry that its boggling to look at for a player.

If we think its overpowered, one way to solve it would be to say that you can only use one of the three powers of these Secrets at a time, reflecting which aspect you are currently "attuned" to, and we make it more mechanical and easy to shift which aspect to which you're currently "attuned." The equivalent could be refresh scene like, so that you would practically "dress" in the aspect you wanted before a scene, becoming the warlike, death-dealing Crone or the elusive, manipulative Maiden as you needed to. You'd sometimes get caught without access to the powers you needed, but maybe we could even make that accessible, say, for additional pool points, or with a penalty die on the appropriate ability check.

If we think the Secrets are just too long-winded and confusing because they fold too many powers into one Secret, though, then I need to really rehash what I'm trying for here. I wanted this to feel significantly different from what's gone before, but I don't need to be kewl just by being different. The point of it feeling different was also that it felt playable, just alien from what'd gone before. The focus on the body already might make it different enough from eldritch Three-Corner, linguistic Zu, musical Khale, and purely spiritual Qek.

So, any thoughts? What do people think about a system that works like this? Confusing? Overpowered? Too limited? Seems kind of interesting?

(Incidentally, Goren Cultural Abilities and Secrets to follow tomorrow. I wanted to get this out of the gate earlier, though, because how it changes might have some bearing on those, and I feel more confident that I can design those with less help.)


-shadowcourt (aka josh)
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 2591

« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2008, 04:53:12 AM »

That's not too complex, it's pretty straightforward and interesting. I like how you're doing wicca witches, even if I'm not sure if Goren, or Goren solely, is the right place for them. Perhaps it is, perhaps they should be played up more as a Maldorite phenomenon, traditionalist magics that inspire and inform the moon cultists and perhaps used to stand apart and against the masculine and patriarchal Three-corner Academy. Not that Witchmound couldn't still be in Goren even then; witchery seems to me like something that would be most interesting as a regional, rather than cultural phenomenon; not very numerous in any one place, but stretched to affect not only Goren, but all neighboring cultures as well.

Also, you might want to tone down the level of organization. Witchery should be transmittable within the family, just to poke fun at all those presumed wicca lineages Wink

I have three main suggestions.

Suggestion the first:

I think the flavor would benefit if you defined the base Abilities in a more mundane, psychologically rooted manner. This would allow for any woman to access these abilities, that are, after all, just representations of the bound and typed roles women have in men's eyes. I find it more interesting if the boundary between a witch and a woman is vague like that. The Abilities as you wrote them seem more like adventurer skill-sets than something fundamental to traditional womanhood.

Maiden-Ways (Instinct)
A maiden is sinless and flawless, unblemished by the touch of morality. She inflames the passions of men - who seek purity - and she keeps the Harmonic Covenant with the natural world. She is rather than does, resists all and bends to none.

Mother-Wit (Vigor)
A mother is weathered and strong, rooted to the real world. She rules and makes decisions, runs a household, cooks and cures, crafts and raises children to accord with her will. She meets with the other women and finds the Covenant of Accord in their midst.

Crone-Wise (Reason)
A crone is tough and wise, knowful of what is. She answers questions of things generally forgotten, guides the young and fights the fights others see not. She is a solitary figure, mindful of being and imposing the Covenant of Seeming upon the traditional beings.

(The thing with this kind of witch is, as I see it, that it's obviously an empowering structure for women, but it's also equally obviously created in the pressure of patriarchal society and draws its strength from the constraining male perspective of what women are allowed to be. I find this interesting.)

Suggestion the second:

Make the Aspects separate Keys. The aspect Secrets you wrote are a bit dense, and also a bit too powerful. Something along these lines might serve...

Key of Maid
You are an unmarried, young woman.
1 xp: You are in harmony with nature.
2 xp: Another lusts for you.
5 xp: You refuse to be tied down and pay for it.
Buyoff: Form a family bond.

Key of Mother
You are in a position of motherhood and authority.
1 xp: You are in harmony with your society.
2 xp: You command and others obey.
5 xp: You protect or teach an important lesson to one under your protection.
Buyoff: Have no family.

Key of Crone
You are an old, independent woman.
1 xp: You are in harmony with the spirits.
2 xp: You advice somebody else.
5 xp: You perform a blood-letting rite of import.
Buyoff: You are at another's mercy.

Now just give all Aspect Secrets (Secrets that symbolize specific aspects of the roles) the requirement of having one of these Keys. Furthermore, make a note that the Secrets stay with the witch even if she loses a required Key later on; losing an aspect does not deprive the powers, but prevents the witch from developing that aspect any further.

Suggestion the third:

Write a bit more fluff about the philosophy of witchery, or perhaps some crunch that shows how the personal nature of magic connects into the wider world. Are witches solipsists, believing that the world is an extension of their own physicality? Or do they believe that the world itself is fundamentally like the human body, which allows them to affect the wold about them via the principle of sympathy?


Secret of the Warlock
The character is a male witch, gaining his power by emulating womanhood. He may learn the Aspect Abilities, Keys and Secrets.

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Posts: 153

« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2008, 09:19:48 AM »

Thanks for the advice so far. This has all been a little haphazard, I admit, so there's way more in my head than I've gotten down on paper. But that's the use of all of this open discussion, really; shows me where I need to more explicitly develop.


You're spot-on about the geographical stuff I was thinking, I just hadn't made it explicit in this post. They are divided from Maldor (and its continent) by the southern sea, the one which froze over during the Year of Shadow. Even inland travel is harsh, due to the cold climes, and in many cases sailors are forced to take to the fjords to move goods and people. A mountain range divides Vulfland from Goren, leaving the human Vulflanders effectively stranded, unless they are able to weather the shrieking mountain winds and treacherous ice to make it north, which some do; in rare cases, they are able to find assistance from yeti (Vulflander goblins) who help them make the journey, and who scale the mountains with greater ease (being so adaptable). The largely pastoral yeti and the more aggressive Gorenish trolls are not typically friends with each other, but trade and communication has been known to happen, despite language barriers. The vulfen don't find the mountains quite as difficult, but their numbers are still diminished from the great dispersal of the Year of Shadow.

As to how the people of Goren relate to their environment, well, I'm not sure fully how to articulate it, or what's relevant. I think the coastal communities do better than the inland ones, in terms of being able to bring in fish to feed their people, and being warmer climes. They serve as trade frontiers bringing in food from Maldor (though, surprise, its often really Ammenite) into the interior of Goren, where hardscrabble subsistence farming might have worked previously, but cannot entirely feed the larger mining communities which now exist there. The benefit, of course, is that as ore and precious metals move out, the food resources brought in keep trade running smoothly, feeding the Maldorite (and Ammenite) appetites for metal. The whole process is fairly tennuous; I like the idea of it being an unstable relationship that is moderated over by Maldorite lords who still have designs on pretending that its still the age of empire. Ammeni and Goren would probably do wel to cut Maldor out entirely, but the distances of travel therein and the Maldorite stranglehold on the southern sea have made this difficult.

As a result of the lucrative trade to be done there, the coastal communities are an odd mix of indigenous Gorenish and foreigners, and even missionaries from Maldor have come to attempt to convert the pagan peoples to the worship of Absolon-as-Unconquered-Sun. Of course, in a land where freezing cold comes and night blankets the sky for three weeks in winter, the power of the sun doesn't seem quite as impressive, and interferes with the Gorenish custom of a solar goddess, anyhow. The coastal communities have a large population of wealthy "strangerfolk", who profit off of the trade which the "blooded" have not capitalized on already.

Though its not the tundra and glacier of Vulfland, Goren moves between freezing winters when ports and fjords become impossible to navigate, and muddy mosquito-heavy summers when the ice melts and runs off and the land becomes green once more. Despite the mountain ranges blocking access to Vulfland, there are opportunities to head there by sea, circumnavigating the frozen southern continent (which I should probably name at some point, I guess) and then heading inland. This allows coastal communities in Vulfland to trade ivory, seal-hide, whale blubber, and a handful of other trade goods with the more ambitious merchant vessels of Goren and Maldor. In most cases, the only communities where such trade is possible are far enough from the centers of vulfen rule that the wolf-men are a danger, but not in control.

My suspicion has always been that Goren's harsh climate breeds a fierce sense of arrogance and self-sufficiency, a pride in one's ability to survive. Physical contests, including wrestling, rowing, and swimming contests, are at the center of settling minor disputes and celebrating community pride. Skill at wordplay and memory is also prized, in a culture where literacy is almost entirely unheard of: riddle-contests and story-telling are favored pastimes, and the histories are told in sagas, which the wise commit to memory to tell at banquets and other community events.

Is there more I should talk about in terms of environs? Am I riffing too heavily off of the Norse? Should I mix things up a bit, and get more creative?

-shadowcourt (aka josh)

Posts: 15

« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2008, 09:24:13 AM »

Nothing insightful to add, just I like the ideas and am going to unmercifully steal them.

Posts: 153

« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2008, 10:04:35 AM »

That's exactly why I'm posting 'em, apoptosis. I appreciate that you're enjoying them.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)

Posts: 153

« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2008, 10:56:10 AM »

Now to some of the magical feedback:


Well, I originally wanted witches as a Goren-specific cultural phenomenon, and did them as nothing more than a new take on Three-Corner, to hype up the rivalry between the male-dominated Three Corner Academy, just like you said. I was even intimating at some point that Three-Corner was actually a Gorenish tradition which had been stolen, changed, and codified by the Three Corner Academy, to breed a little more resentment there. The more I looked at it, though, the more I thought I was just being boring in ripping the system from Maldor, and trying to backdate some changes to it. So I kicked around some other notions (including a simple system based on elements and/or natural phenomena), and this is the current one which is sticking to the wall for me.

My intention is that this is not just a national type of magic, but, much like Three Corner (which has its adherents in Khale, apparently), might spread elsewhere. I have another nation on the same continent as Maldor which might have this phenomenon going on, but to a much lesser degree, and much more persecuted. I wanted the disir of Goren to really shine, as it were, as a political force to be reckoned with. No matter where I go systemically with them, in terms of how the mechanics work, I loved thinking about a  culture that had this complex intertangled tradition of male martial rule and female mystical training, and how the two would create problems for each other.

And maybe that adds to some of the stuff you suggested I develop out about the culture, and that Clinton was hinting at. The ruling chieftains are sometimes forced to abide by the decisions of witch covens, but they're not always thrilled about it. The Witchmount casts a long shadow, and some clan chiefs would be just as happy to rid themselves of the sisterhood's interference. That said, there are few who turn down the aid of a Crone-aspected war-witch, who can strike foes blind and stop their hearts, and sail into their camps on a night breeze.

So, on to your suggestions more directly.

First suggestion:

I might have overdone just how "adventurer" the abilities are, I admit. As I saw them as the sort of things which are developed by genuinely odd and unusual women, and particularly under the careful tutelage of the Witchmount of other mentors, they have some big "get out there and be a crazy witch seeing the world" kind of vibe to them.

You're totally spot-on about what I wanted to do with the three abilities in light of patriarchal culture; this is an empowering, but also limiting aspect. It's going to be interesting to play witch characters off against non-witch women, as a result, which is one reason why the tripartite marriage politic presents such an interesting one, I think.

I do like your suggestion about retooling them slightly, so they're less about adventure-y stuff, but I might want to develop more clearly just what they do. Your Maiden-Ways ability comes close to what I want, but it seems to be a little oblique. I worry about ever creating abilities that are more like emotional states than tasks, because then someone wants to use their Rage (I) ability on absolutely EVERY check, insisting how angry they are. I've seen this fall apart in games of "Enemy Gods", and I've carefully trimmed and made some of the abilities we use in game more clear, because constant go-to abilities make me snore.

Should Maiden-Ways be used as a type of social skill, for interacting with the animal and mortal world? That whole purity aspect you talk about is brilliant.

I like where Mother-Wit goes, but I can't let go of Crone-Wise's intimidation aspect; the fact is that older women in a patriarchal society are often cast into the hag role, and I want to address that head on. Bereft of family, no longer an object for sexual desire, she's likely to be scorned and reviled. The mad-woman in the attic in Victorian novels, or the scary old neighbor lady in children's coming-of-age stories. I want to play up that bitterness; she can be a solitary figure for the good of community, but the mistreatment of her turns her hard and means she sometimes has a quick tongue for cutting people down to size. But, again, that's not going to suit everyone's play style. Season to taste.

Second suggestion:

Totally. Aspect Keys were absolutely where we were headed with this. I was thinking it might be more narratively interesting to play with things like this:

Secret of the Goddess Aspect
You embody one of the spiritual aspects of the goddess. You must take either the Key of the Maiden, Mother, or Crone to have this Secret. So long as you have one of these Keys, you receive a bonus die on the use of the appropriate ability (Maiden-Ways, Mother-Wit, or Crone-Wise, respectively). You can maintain more than one of these Keys to receive bonuses on multiple abilities. However, the Buyoff of the Key is now strictly enforced as a spiritual Ban; engaging in any scene where you take the actions listed in the Buyoff immediately forces the Buyoff of that Key, and costs you the bonus die from the Aspect you previously embodied. You keep this Secret, but do not gain the bonus until you take a different goddess-aspect Key. Prerequisite: Key of the Maiden, Mother, or Crone.

Thus, when a character has the Key of the Maiden, the Key of the Crone, and the Secret of the Goddess Aspect, she has bonus dice on both her Maiden-Ways and Crone-Wise ability checks. However, if she forms a family bond, such as taking a husband, she is forced to immediately buy off her Key of the Maiden, and now her Secret of the Goddess Aspect only applies to her Crone-Wise ability. As a result, I might make the Buyoffs for the Keys slightly broader.

I'm a huge fan, in case its not obvious, of the roles that geasa play in legends. Cu Chulainn is sworn to never refuse the hospitality of a stranger, and never to taste the flesh of a dog (his patron animal). His death is assured when an old woman offers him hospitality in the form of a cooked meal of dog's meat. Trapped between his two geasa, he goes on to die in his next battle. I think it'd be fun if the gifts of the goddess are capricious in that way, and make it hard to maintain Aspect bonuses. I think it ties in nicely with the discussion we've been having about the patriarchy and the defined role for a woman--its a difficult place to navigate, and it forces these paradoxes. Why can't the elderly witch-widow show her soft side? Is it really a limitation of the magic, or just a self-imposed limitation which we've been led to believe?

Third suggestion:

Really good idea. This is another case of "more in my head than I'd committed to paper. I definitely don't see them as falling into the solipsisms of the elves, though an elf witch can rock out that way if she likes; as a personal character choice, its a great one, and bears mentioning in any flavor text on the use of witchcraft in other species. Incidentally, I should've pointed out that I doubt goblins, with their unusual gender politics, are all that particular about teaching the secrets of witchcraft to males, which probably makes the troll folk all the more loathsome. Which is great; I needed more division between those two species, to ramp up the animosity a bit.

This is probably much more a factor of sympathetic magic, and you raise some fun points in that it shouldn't be unreasonable, by extension, to affect the bodies of animals in such ways, or assume their forms, or the like (all stuff I wanted the witchcraft system to be able to do). Similarly, it should be possible to "wound" the earth or shape it, possibly expanding into a whole riff on the classic "earth my body, air my breath, water my blood, fire my spirit" mantra of the modern pagans.

I'll have to see if I can get some general praxis notes together, looking at the Qek Necromancy stuff for some inspriation about a little flavor text for just how the witchcraft system should feel. Feel free to run with it, if you've got an idea in mind, Eero. Something tells me that just looking at your Covenants in the abilities, you've got some idea there. Do you want to expand on those a little? Pretty please?

Additionally, I was wondering whether I should actually even require a Secret of the Warlock, or just make it all available to men without any special pre-requisites. The fact that there's nothing standing in the way mechanically makes it tempting to play a warlock character for most folks. That said, I *do* want a warlock to be pretty special; unlike a Lord of Maldor who dabbles in some Three-Corner Magic, its no small thing to be a warlock in this society. Others will want you dead for it. So, yes, there's probably some benefit in making a character who is serious about it really commit to it, by taking a Secret.

Of course, maybe he shouldn't be able to easily take Aspects or the Keys, even WITH a Secret of the Warlock, making him an also-ran in almost any straight-on magical duel with a witch? Instead, the Secret of the Warlock could just confer the right to take the three Abilities, and the physical Secrets, a la Flowing Breath and Searching Eyes and that whole realm of Secrets. Maybe that's overly punishing, though, and I'm missing out on a lovely opportunity to see a warlock with a Maiden or Crone Key.

Hmmm. All very thought-provoking stuff. I'm going to let it cool for a bit, and see how it gels. I notice I have this terrible trend of posting, and then a half hour later saying "Wait! No, I've got it now!" So, I'm going to wait and see if that happens.

Thanks for the comments, everyone! More suggestions are certainly welcome.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)

Posts: 15

« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2008, 03:14:57 PM »

Warlocks would be similar to magic-wielding in Norse mythology (this is based on wikipedia so not sure the strength of evidence).

Basically warlocks were our version of gay men. They were both respected and reviled at the same time.

Posts: 15

« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2008, 03:19:50 PM »

I mean to say warlock would be a version of gay men if you used the norse comparison.

I simplified it probably a lot but there could be a lot of drive and such.

I would actually make warlocks have equal to greater abilities than witches and access to all of the keys.

In this case the key of mother would be interesting (particularly if the men in the culture had more than one wife).

Posts: 153

« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2008, 08:43:22 PM »


You're not wrong in that some of my inspiration for the witchcraft stuff for Goren draws from the concept of the volvas and seithir, in that certain types of magics are culturally within the bailwick of women. However, I'm not sure I want to limit the warlock options in terms of sexual preference (rather than gender). Beyond the fact that I don't feel Goren has to be a perfect stand-in for Scandinavia (and probably shouldn't be, if we're going to be true to Near as a place which draws inspiration from, but is often different from our world), I have two other main reasons:

(a) to ensure player choice is available to people who might not have the sensitivity or comfort level to play homosexual or transgender characters (of which the gaming community has its share), and far more importantly

(b) to avoid any overtone of demonization of homosexuals. Granted, what the Norse read into that liminal gender-crossing role of a man practicing "women's magics" (the ergi state) is different than what we read into male homosexuality or transgender status as modern readers, but it still wasn't favorable. Beyond this, I'm not convinced people will divorce themselves from their modern baggage, and how it would color their ideas about the practices. I'm worried that its not a large mental leap from "warlocks are always gay men" to "gay men are always warlocks" to "as warlocks are a dangerous, powerful magical faction of the society which people are taught to respond to as a threat, so too are gay males." It just turns into a slippery slope, and doesn't provide that much in the way of subtle nuance. By comparison to the Oranid politics around transgender status, wherein a biological male can choose to assume the life of a "woman" and vice versa in a culture which normalizes such choices, this feels like a jump into murkier waters.

I have absolutely no quandary with the concept of someone choosing to play a gay warlock, if that's the concept they're into. Indeed, the idea of a man attempts to pass as a woman, either through disguise or mastery of transformational magic, is probably a very compelling character concept. It lends itself to an interesting paranoia, the fear of being discovered, and questions as to whether those who accepted you when they thought you were a witch would continue to do so if they discovered you were male. Indeed, when transformational magics are on the scene, it raises interesting questions about what gender is entirely: Are we our bodies, or something more?

But, honestly, I'm concerned enough that even the "witches are always women" aspect dips a toe into sexism. At least its a somewhat enfranchised if problematic role, that addresses some of the dilemmas head on. Painting elderly women as "crones" isn't exactly favorable, even if that Crone aspect carries with it the associations of a cunning, capable, and even martially formidable woman.

The question as to whether warlocks should have power which is lesser, equal to, or greater than the witches around them remains an interesting one, which I'm unresolved about. Hopefully as we work the kinks out of this, it'll resolve itself.

And of course, anyone else is free to tinker with the system so that it suits their home games. Lord knows neither the roleplaying police, nor myself, are going to tell anyone how to best design settings and choices which work for them. Use your own discretion, and rely on the maturity of your group.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)

Posts: 449

Harald Wagener - Zurich, Switzerland

« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2008, 02:38:40 AM »

I could imagine integrating a variant of this within Oran.

Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 2591

« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2008, 07:27:01 AM »

Gender politics: do not fear to prod at uncomfortable topics. For me the unabashed personal corruption and slavery-based economy of Ammeni is a much more problematic proposition than a gender-specific magical system with associated prejudices ever could be, and still I don't consider removing Ammeni from my Near-based gaming. The important thing is to just describe things as they are in the setting depicted; if that's an awful situation, well, perhaps characters will do something about it. Also, I find the fictional implications of a male character having all this crunch and trying to fit into the aspects of the goddess rather intriguing.

Oran: yes, I could see that as well. In fact, what I could see is witchery as an intercultural phenomenon, much like Three-corner magic. In our games Three-corner has always been intercultural in the same way latinate civilization was during much of European history - individual cultures have to engage in a discourse with Three-corner magic, its goals and cultural implications, and either refuse or embrace it and its practitioners, even when those cultures actually reside geographically far away from the lost Three-corner academy. I could see witchery as a similar contagious meme that would be pertinent inter-culturally in the patriarchal regions, but would also be actually subversive, potentially harmful and out of place in places like Qek; when your culture already deals with women as people, the whole tripartite goddess business is actually a step backwards for your community, power or not.

Abilities: Yes, I agree that Abilities should be active and concrete, I hate those emotional state abilities, too. I wrote those out in a muddled manner. What I meant for each Ability to be able to do would be the following list:

Maiden-Ways: Manipulating or just interacting with men with female viles, handling animals and perhaps supernatural manifestations of natural powers (like the unicorn myth says is the role of maidens, you know).
Mother-Wit: Using authority to order people around, working in cooperation with others, raising good people, dealing with everyday matters of sustenance and homecrafts appropriate for the region.
Crone-Wise: Advising people and knowing things others have forgotten, dealing with spiritual matters, scaring people.

Of course, a witch would interpret the abilities more along the lines of what I wrote earlier - as manifestations of a way of being, not a laundry list of skills. And, obviously enough, when the Goddess is in the air any of the above might be used in a bit more generic and metaphorical manner to deal with any feminine issue that falls within its sway.

Geasa: I agree that these are a nice idea and that upholding the given aspect should be a bit strenuous, not to speak of several; I'd probably prefer it if two aspects at once were really rare and three at once practically impossible. Perhaps the witchery should work like this:
  • Single-aspect Secrets have strong and blatant qualitative powers, like flying around and healing people, but they can only be used when the character successfully dons the aspect in question. They would also include additional bans related to the aspect, making both utilizing these Secrets and keeping up several aspects difficult.
  • The body-based multi-aspect Secrets have a bit more minor and quantitative powers; they are divided into minor tricks and major arcana, the former of which requires only the appropriate aspect Ability check, while the latter only allows access to each of its powers when the appropriate aspect is up.
So, like this:

Secret of the Maiden Feather
You can fly freely with the winds, coming down wherever the Goddess wills. Alternatively, you can take with you a token of earth and air (say, a broomstick with bird feathers hidded within) to control your flight and go where you yourself will. Tying or cutting her hair, however, will prevent a witch from flying in this manner until the next nightfall. Requirements: An active Maiden aspect from the Secret of the Goddess Aspect or otherwise; losing the aspect prevents using this Secret, but does not remove it. Cost: 2 Instinct for flight, 3 for controlled flight

Then there could also be alternative ways of getting the aspect up, so as to utilize witchery when the character can't really live the life of a Maiden, Mother or Crone anymore or yet. Something like this:

Secret of Raising the Crone
A young woman may temporarily don the Goddess aspect of Crone with a successful Crone-wise (R) check, the result of which is the persistence of the aspect. This requires donning crone-garb and significant blood-letting rites during a solar eclipse (monthly in Near, note) and lasts until the next one. The aspect also evaporates if others view the character as a desirable woman and succeed in an Endure (V) check against the initial Crone-wise check result. Cost: 3 Reason

Secret of Raising the Mother
A lonely woman may temporarily don the Goddess aspect of Mother with a successful Mother-Wit (V) check, the result of which is the persistence of the aspect. This requires crafting a doll substitute over which the character dotes daily as long as she wants to keep the aspect up. The aspect also evaporates if another debases the doll with word or deed and succeeds in a React (I) check against the initial Mother-Wit check result. Cost: 3 Vigor

Secret of Raising the Maiden
An elder woman may temporarily don the Goddess aspect of Maiden with a successful Maiden-Ways (I) check, the result of which is the persistence of the aspect. This requires sexual intercourse with different people each phase of the moon as long as she wants to keep the aspect up. The aspect also evaporates if another refuses her advances and succeeds in a Resist (R) check against the initial Maiden-Ways check result. Cost: 3 Instinct

This last one is a bit weak, any improvements are appreciated.

And then the two styles of aspect-independent Secret:

Trick of Breath
Witchcraft tricks related to breath, taught by mothers to their daughters. Each requires a successful check of the appropriate Ability to execute.
  • Maiden-Ways: The character may use Maiden-Ways to sing beautifully in a natural manner, replacing a musical ability for the purposes of affecting people and beasts, if not for fine artistic quality. Cost: 1 Instinct
  • Mother-Wit: The character may calm her breath and regain one point of Reason or Instinct with a successful check; several uses during a single day suffer a cumulative penalty die. Cost: 1 Vigor
  • Crone-Wise: The character stops breathing and falls into a false death. Noticing her living beat requires an appropriate Ability check against the Crone-Wise check result. Cost: 1 Reason

Arcana of Breath
Witchcraft arcana related to breath, taught in witch covens or apprenticeships. Each requires a successful check of the appropriate Ability to execute and the appropriate aspect of the Goddess; losing the aspect means not being able to use that part of the Secret, but does not remove the Secret itself.
  • Maiden-Ways: The character may set her words on the wind, carrying on communication with others at a distance. The SL of the check indicates the total number of miles she can extend this communication, both hearing and speaking to a specific target. Cost: 2 Instinct
  • Mother-Wit: The character may hold her breath hours equal to the check result. Cost: 1 Vigor
  • Crone-Wise: The character blows a powerful blast of air, sending others toppling. The check may cause harm in BDtP or by pushing others off cliffs, or it can end BDtP akin to the Secret of Knock-Back, among other possible uses. Cost: 3 Reason
Requirements: Trick of Breath and some aspect of the Goddess.

Here the fact that the arcana allows three major effects in one Secret is off-set by the requirement of having an aspect up, as well as the minor Secret as a requirement. The minor Secret is balanced by only having minor effects and requiring three abilities to be fully utilized.

Warlocks: I think that they should be able to obtain the same benefits that other witches can; requiring one additional Secret is fine. And of course, if you want to offer alternative resources, that's possible...

Secret of the Warlock
The character, though male, may learn the aspect Abilities, Keys and Secrets and may raise aspects. He still needs to act according to the Goddess's will and emulate womanhood as he may as regards the requirements of aspects he wishes to emulate. He may also learn the Man-Will (V) Ability and use it to replace any of the aspect abilities, albeit with difficulty; in these cases Man-Will associates with the Pool of the Ability it is replacing.

Man-Will (V)
A debased northern form of witchery developed in Maldor in recent years, apparently by some rogue Three-corner wizards. The Ability itself is used to control women via threats and force as a social Ability. Using Man-Will in any way will immediately strip all Goddess aspects from the witch.

Secret of Raising the Horn
A warlock may raise a fourth aspect, that of the horned male god. This is done in a ritual hunt that requires a successful Man-Will (I) check, followed by a ritual bloodletting using Man-Will (R) and a feast with a Man-Will (V) check, executed during a solstice. The checks are chained and the highest single result is marked down as the persistence of the aspect. The aspect lasts until the next solstice or until a woman resists the character and beats the persistence of the aspect with a Passive Ability check. Cost: 3 Vigor, Reason and Instinct

As for what a character would do with the horned aspect, it could allow access to all aspect powers at once; just needs some speedbumb Secrets to balance it, as getting to use all witchery with just one Ability and one aspect is pretty strong. Well, not really that pertinent, warlocking should be a minor issue for witchery all told.

Covenants: That was just a throw-away reference to how witches might see their social position and the social position of women, as holders of three interlocking social contracts with the natural, human and supernatural worlds. Not that one couldn't put up a tripartite series of Keys and Secrets for this as well, detailing how a person is supposed to act within each of the covenants and how a witch might enforce them; kind of a social magic parallel to those physical, body-based magics.

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Posts: 153

« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2008, 07:59:38 AM »


This response would be way longer, but I'm mostly just stunned. Wow. I need to take some time to process all of this, but its awesome. The witches are clearly coming into shape.

I also use Three-Corner as an "infectious meme" (which is why I'd originally given it to the witches of Goren, as well). Its certainly why Khale's druids practice it, and my eastern country of Imrek has small enclaves of practitioners, descendants of the charlatans and schemers forced to flee legal persecution during the days of Old Maldor. Witchcraft will definitely make a fun one, as well (and you're right, its actually a step backwards for more gender egalitarian societies), particularly in places like Khale (where its gender leanings might be seen as perfectly natural, or even transgressive), Oran (where biological males who live female lives might well find it easier to bring on the Aspects than biological women living as men ever would), and the like. Impressed by the cultishness and mystical-revenge-politics of the HBO series "Rome", I've always wanted to subtly slip a mystical practice or two into the hands of Ammeni's women, and a tiny little witch-cult might be just the ticket. It's true that I can see both Qek and Zaru rejecting the practice, for different reasons--one for its anti patriarchiality (though my Qek has more complex sexual politics than some people's, with a mellow form of polygamy being the social order of the day) the other for the religious implications of "goddess worship" which stand apart from Zaru humanism.

I'll tinker for a bit with the amazing stuff people have suggested here, and post a second working version, where I try and clean up some of the things people know are "proud nails."

I suspect the Horned God stuff will *not* be pretty. We're talking about a spiritual manifestation of rapine and slaughter here, I'm assuming, not a benevolent "come to death in your old age"/Crone figure. This is probably a divine aspect of rage, appetites, and taking what it wants by force. Which fits nicely into why the sisterhood loathes it, and the warlocks in general. It becomes interesting, particularly, in that its not the *only* option for a warlock--he could easily use the Raising Secrets you suggest there, and be more benevolent and within the social bounds. This also makes for a really nice place for the stuff apoptosis was suggesting, allowing it as a possibility but not the only avenue. But the temptation to embrace a sort of "hyper-maleness" and assume the fourth aspect of the Horned God could be a delightful one, particularly for a man who has been scorned simply for being born witch-blooded.

*That's* the kind of convoluted gender politics I can really sink my teeth into. The "both sides are kind of wrong" stuff works great in a mature-themed game.

It makes me wonder if we need to re-examine gender in Goren, in the light of where this is developing. Perhaps I gave it too much short shrift in the cultural stuff, previously?

Also, Eero, you had a published "Goren" in the Finnish version of TSOY, I'm realizing. Is this just annoying that we're using the same name here? I could change mine, if its giving you/Clinton a headache. We've just never seen much of the Finnish stuff in English (HINT! HINT!), so I went with a name which was mentioned but never fully addressed in the published TSOY stuff. Let me know if its irritating, and I can work around.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 2591

« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2008, 09:11:59 AM »

Also, Eero, you had a published "Goren" in the Finnish version of TSOY, I'm realizing. Is this just annoying that we're using the same name here? I could change mine, if its giving you/Clinton a headache. We've just never seen much of the Finnish stuff in English (HINT! HINT!), so I went with a name which was mentioned but never fully addressed in the published TSOY stuff. Let me know if its irritating, and I can work around.

The Goren in the Finnish edition is a "minor culture", which means a culture that has not been expanded to be the sole support for a player character. Others have since taken the bits and ran with them, of course, so there's a bit more material floating around since the publication of the Finnish edition. Still, it's by no means as complete as a full cultural treatment would be, at least yet. (And I'm not sure if I particularly want to expand each and every minor culture I make; I have some rules and crunch that make the minor cultures a rather interesting and living part of a campaign, so there's no pressing need to expand all cultures into full bloom.)

As for naming and geography, my version of Goren is probably geographically closer to where Clinton intented it; if I understand your geography right, Vulfland and Goren are effectively on the southern continent, outside the conventional map. My Goren is a vertical slice on the western edge of the map, on those hills shown there and stretching into the western mountains and perhaps beyond them (not that Gorenite guides would help outsiders find the hidden gaps in the mountains). Your Goren is geographically closer to where I put Inselburg (which I described at some point, I think), if I understand the geography.

I don't particularly want to demand primacy in this, though, so any convention is fine. If somebody wants to explore the Finnish version of Goren (or use both in the same game, heaven forbid) we probably need some more stylish names than "Finnish Goren" and "JoshGoren", though... I'm actually a bit attracted to making it "Northern Goren" and "Southern Goren", and presuming from now on that the two are somehow culturally and historically connected. Should make for an interesting creative constraint!

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
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