A posting on RPGnet asks us to describe our homebrew systems. I ended up describing mine thusly.
- Maths-easy 2d6 comedy with either a manga/anime/mecha or zombie holocaust backdrop
- Qualitative success using 0-3d10 to create a crunchy yet narrative system which can be considered both rules-lite and “a gun game” with a backdrop of psychic powers and government conspiracies dating back to the start of the 20th Century.
- Card-based Blackjack-inspired mechanics with backdrop of both Stage Magic and Real Magic. Yes, that game. The one I’m infamous for not finishing…
- [EDIT: Rules light, coarse skilled d6 mechanic – happy now?]
It’s a fun thread, some inspiring stuff in there.
The Shoals are small, rocky outcrops that lie far from the Citadels and other large rocks in the deserts of Viride. Among these smaller rocks and shallow sands are small settlements. Populated by people from the Citadel as well as Sandsmen and Outcasts, they provide essential links between citadels and a place for the weary desert traveller to rest though they have little to offer but meagre food, drink and accomodation. They are, without exception, hospitable. They have no formal social or family structure – people come and go as they please.
Though their situation is precarious, living without the protection of the great rocks and constantly in danger from greyfish, bladeshell and a host of other vicious predators, the Shoals are a welcoming community, their primitive huts built upon foundations of rock and suspended with dried and oiled sandvine so that they do not touch the shifting sands and become prey to greyfish. The sands around the shoals are often too shallow for larger bladeshell hunters.
A shoal will often have a small farming community attached to it which will provide them with a ready supply of greyfish meat and all the sandvine (and precious water) they need. These farmers are typically burned almost black by the glare from the sands and are reputed to be extraordinarily stubborn folk.
A thousand leagues to the south lies the Tsaz Citadel.
The Tsaz live by a merchant code – they trade freely with anyone who wall accept their currency or barter terms. There is no such thing as an average Tsaz – the wide but roughly hewn tunnels and caverns are home to citadel and desert folk alike and many combinations in-between.
Preferential treatment is given to those who take currency rather than goods. Each transaction is officially taxed though there are thousands of transactions occuring every day which are not seen by the Brokers.
A Broker is a Tsaz official. They are licensed by the Citadel to levy a tax on every transaction occuring within the city and a percentage of this goes into their own pockets. Corruption, of course, is rife but this has the effect that the only people who really suffer are non-Tsaz who do not find a reputable Broker with whom to conduct business.
The Broker nobility are identified by their riches and their apparent extravagance. The Tsaz havea saying that “a penny dropped at home is always to hand” meaning that they will endeavour to spend their own money at their own businesses and a close-knit community of merchants may arise.
The Tsaz operate a thriving slave market but they also have very strict laws on the ownership of slaves. Slaves, as much as anything, are a commodity and anyone treating commodities poorly is someone not to be respected. An individual in servitude is recognised as having â€œfallen from the rocksâ€ while they work off some considerable debt. Anyone arriving with the requisite amount of wealth and the intention of spending it will be treated as royalty. Those without means find themselves in debt as soon as they arrive as slaves within the day as they run out of money quickly and if they try to avoid the tax by dealing without a Broker, they will quickly find themselves clapped in irons.
The Tsaz also operate a tinker trade with independent merchants setting off into the deserts, trading with the desert tribes for survival and hoping to make a kiling with trade from other citadels and the desert tribes. The arrival of a Tsaz trade tour will bring not only new toys, gems, spices and weird trinkets but also ideas, games, stories, drama and adventure!
The sands are fine and greyish in colour. Fine enough to seep between the fibres of all but the finest threats. A human who stands still enough will slowly begin to sink and almost anything laid on the surface of the sands will disappear within the hour. There are some of the other Desert Tribes who dive beneath the sands to retrieve lost treasures for trade. The Sand Diver has to navigate in the darkness, swim deep and hard, becomes prey to deep-sand predators.
The sands are not as empty and barren as you might think. Under the surface of the sand is an ecosystem that can support life. Dig down a few inches and you may find Sandvines. These creeper-like plants store water in a sweet syrup. Unless it is harvested properly, the unwary traveller can inadvertently kill off acres of sandvine by just taking a mouthful of syrup. With care, an acre of sandvine can keep a large group of humans alive indefinitely.
Enjoying a commensal relationship with sandvines are greyfish. These eel-like predators often hunt under sandvines. They are a shoaling species and often hollow out a large underground cavern of spit-hardened sand walls and wait til they hear prey. They are attracted to small vibrations, smaller than a full-grown human and often attack unfortunate travellers who have collapsed in the sand and deadly heat. Greyfish have rasping mouthparts and their saliva is caustic. Worse still for travellers who come across a greyfish cavern and their weight is too much for the spit-hardened ceiling. Greyfish are edible if cleaned correctly and often cooked in their own saliva.
The desert traveller can also find sustenance from rock lichens and if lucky, a basking bladeshell. Rock lichens are a crusty moss-like fungus that grows on the underside of small rocks. They donâ€™t taste nice but they are edible. Bladeshells are huge mollusks that live under the sand and feed on rock lichen and sandvines. Their shell makes them almost impossible to kill but they can be lured from it and the wily hunter may find himself with perhaps a hundred pounds of pungent rubbery meat and tasty pre-digested lichen and sandvine. Quite a catch.
The Powder Rod is the long range weapon of choice for the Arbiter. They are commonly made to order, personalised for the Arbiter and are usually the same height as the owner. The rod is hollow, usually black with a matte sheen, and cool to the touch. The top of the rod has a hole, the diameter of a finger and a groove along the outside for accepting a bayonet attachment. The bottom of the rod has a screw-click device which lends weight to the rod as well as being the firing mechanism.
Powder Rods are kept unloaded but a skilled operator with a loading partner can fire a round every other second. Alone, an Arbiter will be able to fire off a round every 5 seconds. The round is a discrete unit containing munition, wadding, propellant and igniter. The munition load is commonly a single slug or a handful of flechettes though for training and “normal usage” it may aso be loaded with sand – this produces a distracting, blinding, stinging, nonfatal cloud.
Powder Rods are usually armed when they are to be used. The slugs used must be prepacked and are barrel-loaded. The slug is ignited by striking the base of the rod sharply.
With or without bayonet, the rod is an effective hand-to-hand combat weapon. The rod material is tensile without being fragile. This increases the versatility of the weapon considerably. The bayonet is usually worn by the Arbiter on a belt and only attached during very serious circumstances. It is a sharp stabbing or cutting weapon, balanced for throwing, made out of the same black material as the Powder Rod.
Some of the Reeve are administrators, involved in the movement and recording of infomation. Others sit in cloisters and debate the merits of the appeals presented to them.
The majority of the Reeve are involved directly in the enforcement of our laws and the judgements required. The application of Reeve law in the Citadel is challenging and it is the duty of the Arbiter to seek out and rein in lawbreakers. There are no tomes to consult when a judgement is difficult and there are times when it is you alone with the transgressors of the law. An Arbiter must be strong in mind and body, perceptive and quick witted, skilled with powder rod and bayonet and able to command a presence.
Zian will soon be accepted into the ranks of the Arbiters unless she chooses an administrative post. She will then begin training.
There are some who do not suit the untroubled life of the Artisan, the austere contemplation of the Reeve or the enduring clemency of the Consors. There are outsider castes but they are neither respectful nor respectable. They have their role in our society but we do not consider them. When they are needed, they are needed but it is a matter kept between the closest and most discreet of friends.
In some areas of the Citadel, the rule of Reeve does not apply. There are Artisans in exile who will copy any treasure. The Reeve do their best to cleanse the Citadel but there is only so much time and the tunnels are almost endless.
The old ones talk
The sun once set
When the world turned dark
When the wind brought wet
Once was sand that held
Once was trees that grew
Now like beetles shelled
Now do not grow new
Just an old ones dream
Just an old ones song
And wet turns to steam
And the dark is gone
(source KRNVR: http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=282814 )
The darkness echoes with the delivery of another young life. This is my favorote time. We are not supposed to have an opinion but I can see who is special. I am able to see into their eyes from a few hours old and tell their future – this one will be a great healer, this one a leader, a third an engineer. There have not been any outstanding siblings for a while. Things seem to be stable. Not like a few years back. I wonder what happened to some of the bright souls who passed through my care. The Citadel is so big I sometimes never see them again.
The nursery is full enough, the young are strong and always beautiful. Not much parental interest as is usual which is not abnormal – as Consors we are the new parents. We start as nanny and surrogate mother, through their maturity, ending up as the closest thing to grandparents many have. It is true that more children of Consors end up as Consors than any other castes – it is the way of things.
We take pride in our role. We are the lucky ones. We get to see the new faces of the future and sculpt how our civilization grows. Tending the flock is the best role you can get. We are blessed with caring.
My name is Dauna as I was born on the cusp of the season when the suns are brightest. I am Consors.
When I wake and until I again sleep, I am a Reeve.
It is a burden but not without it’s pleasures. My days are spent in deep debate with other Reeves, with Artisans in conflict and with Consors who need the permissions they cannot take. Because of my youth I am known as a Mediator and my judgements must be passed to the Reeve Chambers for consideration. I have made more than 700 summary judgements and none have been overturned. When I reach a thousand consecutive correct judgements, I will become an Arbiter. I will have the authority to issue judgements without recourse (though they can appeal).
I must memorise the Hundred First Laws. I must carry a symbol of my status. i must be vigilant, I must always be ready to assist in judgements.
Today I assisted in the judgement of propriety. Society has rules and the Reeve are all stops a descent into anarchy. Without our guidance, Artisans would turn upon each other, Consors would make decisions on upbringing with questionable outcomes.
The Artisans within the Citadel are skilled without compare. They create the greatest structures, like the vast cooling vanes in the heights and depths of the rock. These vanes make it possible to live here and they provide clean, cool water – a true necessity in this hot, bright world. Their construction is certainly the pinnacle of Citadel art and engineering and they are the envy of all.
The Artisans remain aloof from the rest of us. They who maintain the cooling vanes reside at the top of their insular pecking order for it is their responsibility to keep us all alive. Further down are the engineers who build and maintain the tunnels. Farther still are the builders of household machines. And at the bottom are the makers of trinkets, embroiderers and stone polishers. When you are born, they make decisions about which art you may pursue. Through hard work and dedication a lowly stone polisher may ascend through the ranks to become a Vane Master. It has not happened in a lifetime or more but can be assisted through sponsorship from a senior, an advantageous partnership or displays of extraordinary ability.
I would suffer no ills upon them, despite their aloofness, as I can barely comprehend the forces they have mastered. The things I wear I owe to them. They represent the summit of our culture.
I started a thread about Viride in the RPG NET forums and I hope to continue to discuss the game in that neutral forum in the future. There have been a couple of contributors to the thread including some very thought provoking stuff from KRNVR which I think is probably evidence that he/she has the power to read my mind.
My vision for this is that it should be an “open source” type project. It’s a bit crap calling a book “open source” because it’s a term filled with Web 1.0 hype. I would like to encourage others to write here and we should form an editorial team to see if contributions can be hammered into exactly the right “theme”. I see this content then being reformatted into an actual web site with art and everything as well as a PDF which would be either sold or given free, depending on the editorial team, with any profits decided on by, again, the editorial team.
The Citadel can be seen for hundred and hundreds of miles I am told. I have never seen this for myself but it is immense and I have no reason to doubt.
It is a vast, black rock which contains hundreds of miles of tunnels and chambers which are home to tens of thousands of humans who live and work within. These are my people, my brothers and sisters, and they represent all that is good and honourable in this world. There is a saying amongst our people:
In matters of honour, be like the rock.
It would be false modesty to say that we are not a handsome race. Corpulence is a rarity and thought it is true that the most beauteous of us might be considered frail, we are without a doubt blessed. Our skin is pale, almost bluish in refinement and our eyes tend to be large and expressive and ringed with luxurious lashes. I am considered a beauty by many – my hair is long, black and lustrous though I keep most of it wrapped in a long braid down my back which is inlaid with polished stones. I wear a black embroidered tunic and a long flowing skirt. My legs are also covered with the same cloth, the texture of cobweb, and my shoes are hand stitched by Citadel artisans. To some this would represent finery, to me it is something to wear. My hands are frequently covered with embroidered gloves and I have a high collar as is the current fashion. I do not have a veil as I find it to get in the way of my work but I suppose I will have one when I am older. A veil would also serve to hide my nevus and what would be the point of that!
Everything about our culture represents our art and elegance. We are a beautiful people because we dedicate so much of our time to creating beauty and our souls are reflected in our work. No-one can match the craft of our artisans.
I am Zian. I am here to relate this tale.
Here is the Citadel. Hewn from a mighty stone and held fast to the bedrock miles below it is cold where everywhere else is hot, dark when all else is eternally bright. Hundreds of miles of tunnels reach out in every direction and open into vast caverns containing an entire city. We live here and we die here and seldom venture forth upon the scorching sands or gaze at the blinding sun.
Out in the desert, under the unblinking sun, some live. Their bodies are dark, encrusted with the sands of a lifetime in the wilderness. They come to the Citadel to trade. Sometimes for stone, sometimes metal and sometimes words. They bring exotic gifts of food and objects they have found out in the desert. No-one trusts them. No-one can live without water. No-one can live without darkness. We fear them. We must always remain vigilant.
The sand is in everything. It falls from the sky, rises between your toes, in your eyes, your mouth, the water you drink, the food you eat. Out in the sands, there is only light and death. Some of our people fear the sands more than anything. The sand is everywhere. Everywhere but Here.
I was struck by this image when I was looking at protein molecules floating in a lipid membrane. It gave me the idea for a world where civilisation lay on the “rocks” whereas there was a wilderness of dangerous “sands”. There was a considerable cultural difference between modern humans and the humanoids on this world. Differences in castes, upbringing, education, work – all aspects of life.
As gamers we find ourselves presented with different worlds and cultures every week with our game masters. How many of them have similar mores to our own world. They value gold. The epitome of attractiveness is bronzed muscular flesh. There’s good and evil. Evil things usually look nasty. Everyone has parents. They have siblings. It’s just a carbon copy of our own world with a few token changes. Maybe it’s a clone of mediaeval Europe with real magic. Maybe it’s covert operations with a Lovecraftian backdrop.
What I wanted to do was break from the norms of social mores and try to create something a bit different. A bit alien. It’s not the first by any means. Some people can easily point to Tekumel/The Empire of the Petal Throne as one of the most influential “Culture” games. It’s certainly the most alien. I enjoy Culture games most of all I think. I’m a fan of Jorune, of games that are set in far off different cultures (because I was raised in Western Europe, Far Easten cultures are alien to me). I like games where there’s a social aspect, there’s stuff to learn and there’s delight in doing so.
With this in mind, with some conversations with my girlfriend at the time, and with nothing to do I just started writing. Over the next few weeks I hope to tell a bit about the background to this game and then we can see if it’s any good at all.
Thus Viride was born.