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Author Topic: Zatalan! Land of Desire, Death and Adventure!  (Read 4280 times)
Christopher Kubasik
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« on: May 02, 2003, 03:53:48 PM »

Hi all,

I'm starting up a Sorcerer and Sword next week.  This is the start of the game prep thread.  Next wednesday we meet for character and world creation.  

Besides character creation, we'll be using the Universalis Tenent rules to help shape the world.  (No Rules Gimmicks, though.)  

I'm *very* excited to be using the tenent bidding rules to get everyone involved with the game.  I want the style and feel of the weirdness on the table so everyone has a good idea of what that weirdness is and has been cleared as a group, with everyone smoothing the edges together.

I'll post-details as we proceed.  

What I'm looking for is a Tanith Lee / Arabian Nights mix.  I want something dream, druggy, sweaty, with, I suspect, rare races of half human half animal creatures a la ancient egypt that are both feared and respected while, also secretly being murdered for some sort of magical power.  (Dear God.  For some reason I just thought of the feel of Cronenberg's Naked Lunch).  

While I was writing the description of the creatures I want, I had this thought as a premise: "Will you kill beauty to possess it?"

I have no idea if that will fit for a viable premise for the game, if it would work for S&Sword at all, and if I even want to freight the players with it. But that kind of exotic sadness, these gorgeous, exotic beings that everyone wants to fuck, but just as much will kill to fullfil their desires (or think will fill their desires), is very much a sadness I'd like to bring to the game.

Take care,
Christopher.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2003, 10:57:25 AM »

Hi Christopher,

Sounds like Xar! ... with a suitably Kubasik spin, I'm sure, to reflect the new name.

I love semi-Arabian, Night's Master, half-human-half-animal demon, lots of sex settings.

Best,
Ron
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Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1153


« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2003, 03:57:29 PM »

Hi Ron

At this point, Zatalan pretty much is Xar.  I didn't even bother posting the one sheet I sent my players 'cause basically I cobbled together the text for Xar with a few tweaks.

This is one of the reasons I want player input during character/world creation.  I want to spins for it I never would have come up with.

Xar, as it stands, is the generic Conan-esque world.  I'm leaning more toward Lee, which begins to warp it a bit.  I'm adding my agents of the old ones (the animal-headed demigods living in human society) to warp it a bit more.  And it just occurred to me just before I got online that, keeping in line with whole beauty "thing" that the Otherworld won't be an "underworld" but an Overworld--a loftier place where you're heart can break from joy if you stay too long.

So, Xar is the starting point.  Slowing I'm adding and shaping it toward something different.

A question: I haven't picke up Charnel Gods yet.  It's on the list, but I just found RoS at 70% off at a WotC and game money just went there.  That said, I've got the feeling the Charnel Gods material might help me focus rules for my beautiful demigods.  Worth purchasing now?

BTW.... The demigods are getting clearer... I seem them like British colonial officers near the end of the Empire; half-way gone native; hedonistic; maintaining just enough order so they don't have to go "home" but not keeping a sharp enough eye on things to keep it all from falling apart.  The spend too little time paying attention to the natives, still seeing them as "toys" and picking at each other for scraps of prestige, which only weakens them further.  They're both confident and terrified, knowing they're better than what's coming for humanity, but not knowing what the future's bringing for them as the world changes into something they can't imagine.

-- Christopher
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Lemonhead, The Shield
hardcoremoose
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« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2003, 05:21:25 PM »

Christopher,

Can't say if Charnel Gods would or wouldn't be of use to you.  If what you're looking for is help on the mechanical side of demon design, I think it does cast a slightly different light on how Needs and Desires can be used.  And I really like how the rituals - particularly Contact - are interpreted into the setting.  But none of that stuff is particularly radical.

What is kind of radical is the way Humanity gain and loss affect the tone of the setting itself, and (of course) what happens when you hit zero Humanity.  Now, I don't foresee Zatalan having much direct connection to Charnel Gods in this way.  Humanity means something different in your game, and the end result certainly isn't the same.  But I do kind of detect in your post the notion that something is changing in the setting, and that it will be happening as a result of actually playing the game, and in that regard Charnel Gods might provide food for thought.  Maybe.

Take care,
Scott
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Valamir
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« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2003, 07:07:53 PM »

Quote from: Christopher Kubasik

Besides character creation, we'll be using the Universalis Tenent rules to help shape the world.  (No Rules Gimmicks, though.)  

I'm *very* excited to be using the tenent bidding rules to get everyone involved with the game.  What I'm looking for is a Tanith Lee / Arabian Nights mix.  I want something dream, druggy, sweaty, with...


Groovy, I look forward to hearing how that works out.  It is one of my favorite parte of Uni.

I'll just comment from my experience with it, however (which you may or may not already realize), is that the two parts of the above quote may not work out quite the way you planned.

Many times I've entered the game with a list of "what I'm looking for is..." but the group Tenet rules almost always lead to something substantially different (and surprisingly usually more fun).

If you're committed to the Tanith Lee etc imagery.  You'll probably want to modify the Uni Tenet rules so that the key areas you want to make sure are there are built in, and then just rely on the group to fill in the details within that existing framework.
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Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« Reply #5 on: May 03, 2003, 07:31:15 PM »

Hi Scott,

Thanks for the info.  I think I'll let my "gaming budget" replenish and pick CG up next month.

Ralph,

I was thinking about this.  On the one hand, I'm concerned about this, and might well scrap the Uni Tenent process, arrive with some notes, and, as I would normally do, flesh out more elements informally with the players.

On the other hand, because the GM of a game simply arrives via the Social Contract with weighted authority, I could already have a few key tenents already in place, and/or give myself additional coins to spend on the process.

As you pointed out, I might end up with something I never considered, which *would* be the point of doing it this way.

But I could get the same results just by *talking* about it with folks.

At this time I think I might just do it informally.  I might (as is my nature), be frontloading more work than is required at the start of this project.  Maybe a simple and conversational process would work just as well, if not better.

Thanks to you both,
Christopher
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2003, 06:37:54 PM »

Hi there,

It may surprise people to know that I don't recommend free-form start-up dialogue for a Sorcerer game. Not that you were intending to do this, Christopher - I'm bringing it up merely as food for thought.

What I do, and am doing yet again for a new Sorcerer group at the moment, is to provide rather healthy and unified setting and sorcery material. It's mainly impressions rather than descriptions, which is to say, "what it's like" rather than "what it is." But I do include a generalized setting concept, score descriptor options, a lot of media comparisons, and a fairly limited overview of demon Types and concepts for sorcerous rituals.

In my experience, most player groups are pretty excited by such a discussion, especially if it includes a couple of handouts. I keep it a bit loose; in all cases, at least one player wanted something a bit different and I tweaked the "material" rather than force a player-character tweak.

So my point is, feel free to lay out quite a bit for play prior to the first get-together. You avoid the "I dunno, Marty, what do you wanna do?" back-and-forth, and if you stay open to tweaks and suggestions, the player-input is often pretty central later on.

Best,
Ron
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Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1153


« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2003, 10:32:06 PM »

Hi Ron,

Actually I was planning on a "free-form start-up dialogue."  And then one day I as jogging and remembered your notes from S&Sword about creating setting: not to create all the details, but the mood, theme and images.  A couple of days ago I realized that's what I better do.  The Universalis approach might have led me down the road of "too-much-pre-play mapping."  I pulled the breaks and stopped the train.

My head is now buzzing with the details I want to add to Zatalan, and I'll have a write up ready for when we get together.

Now a question: when you mention pre-play handouts, what sorts of things do you hand out?

Christopher
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Lemonhead, The Shield
Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1153


« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2003, 02:57:48 PM »

Okay,

Using the suggestions that have come about on this thread, here's what I'll be walking into the character creation session with:

***

Zatalan

There will be a city.

There will be a desert.

There will be nearby, the massive skeleton of a dead Old One, a massive thing, the ribs dug through with inhabitiant living like cave dwellers.

The rituals are based on ecstasy—leaving this world behind to feel something else, whether by drugs or by sex.  People are used like objects in these rituals, any trace of their humanity utterly ignored.

There will be a city port with ships masts rising like a blasted forest of barren tree trunks.  The sun is huge and scarlet over the port's waters.

The Osboros are the demigods remaining behind as the Old One's die.  There is a queen of the city, a beautiful woman with a cat's head.  There are Osboros courtiers who run the city and the outlying lands.  There are mortals who sell themselves into bondage to the creatures, desperate for some of the pleasures some of them promise.  A few special are courtesans, male and female, prized by their Osboros masters and given privilage among the palace and the city.  Some of the Osboros "slum" living below their station to the shame of their peers.  Some of these creatures simply like being "bigger fish in a smaller pond"; some of them truly envy the "simpler" life of mortals and wish to escape the twilight of their kind by somehow, desperately, shucking off all pretense of their once-glorious-power.

The caste system is fierce; there are the Osboros at the top, and each rank of human beneath them is lusted after, admired and spat upon with silent jealously in descending order of favor.

The Osboros are Pagan Things with Power of 6 to 8.  Pacts, I think, but not Binding?  Not sure.  They do confer abilities of glamour, confidence.  Other humans want their human slaves as much as the slaves want them.  But they certainly don't feel within themselves what others feel toward them.  When they look in the mirror, they see something headed toward Dorian Grey.  There is always a disconnect between how enticing people percieve them, and how these humans percieve themselves.  (For the most part the Osboros have no such disconnect between their glamour and their sense of self worth.  They are content as animals, being exactly what and who they are.)

The whole thing should have the feel of a mix between the David Cronenberg movie "Naked Lunch" and Arabian Nights style adventure: tall towers, flying carpets, opium and djin's rising from burning lanterns.  Curved swords edges sliding lightly along flesh, drawing a stinging line of blood as a man or woman offers up their body to pain in the hopes of somehow feeling some of the pleasure the highly eroticized city offers every moment.  The city pulses with sex every moment, and there are perfume stalls and flowers for sale around every corner.  Amid the dry, arid and hot environment of a million citizens trying to get safely through the day, there is a promise of beauty that flashes by in strange colors and accents.  Desire is the name of the game; it kept the Old Ones in power for centuries.  They fell only when too many humans in desperation crawled over them like ants, literally eating their masters for a taste of the pleasures long promised by never delivered.

There are suicide cults, for those preparing themselves to be free of desire, working toward that moment when the alien glamour promised by Sorcery leaves them and they can take their leave of this world safely, taking no desires with them to the World Beyond.  And there are Virgin cults, underground and desperate, where people try to live lives free of the "corrupting" influence of the Osboros.  By free, they mean to know desire without the magic, without the glamour; to not only be desired, but to give as well.

Finally, there is a cult that hunts and kills the Osboros.  It is the belief of their members that if they bath in the blood of the creatures and eat their flesh, they will have the glamorous powers of the creatures without having to bind themselves to them.


Demons

The Osboros, of course.

There's probably an Old One floating around out there somewhere.

There are other creatures like djinn and the like that offer up all sort of sensual delights and erotic charisma.  All one need do is turn people into toys of desire in return for services.

There are also horrible beasts, terrible things that lie beneath the earth and make no bones about their appetites.  They are not glamorous, and offer no glamour.  They hate the Osboros, are jealous of them, and aid any who wish them harm.  These creatures, too, seek pleasures of the flesh, and demand constant attention, expecting those that have bound them to be available for sex and other sensual pleasures at any moments notice.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2003, 08:37:31 AM »

Hi Christopher,

I'd be there in a heartbeat. Sounds like a perfect game prep to me.

Right about now is when the players' concepts of the Perfect Protagonist should take over the prep process.

Best,
Ron
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Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2003, 09:12:20 AM »

Hi Ron,

You got it.

Thanks to all for their input thus far.

Christopher
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Lemonhead, The Shield
Valamir
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« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2003, 09:55:43 AM »

Quote
There will be a city port with ships masts rising like a blasted forest of barren tree trunks. The sun is huge and scarlet over the port's waters.


This particular peace of imagery caught my attention.

What if the desert was growing, pushing back the sea, so that the sea has receded a great deal from where it was, leaving the OLD port, high and dry complete with its beached ships and barren masts...a graveyard of ships as it were.[/quote]
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