1 Mors Rattus Returns
2 Actually, I Quite Like It, Honestly
3 I Did Prefer El Vago Tho
4 Inexplicable Name Changes
5 The Importance Of Scotland
6 The French Are Still Assholes
7 These Guys Own, Actually, Like, A Lot
8 A Land Without A Future?
9 Ex-Vikings
10 The Asshole Country
11 Seas, They're Seven
12 Vaticine Apparently Means Prophet
13 HELLFIRE
14 Yo Ho Ho, A Pirate's Life For Me
15 They're Magical Hi-Tech Ancient Ruins BUT NOT ALIENS
16 We are literally 16 pages from the halfway mark and just now hitting chargen
17 We are now halfway through this book.
18 Story Time.
19 Risk It All
20 More Than One Thing Happening At Once!!
21 Bad Guys Are Crazy Strong
22 I Cast A Spell On You
23 Wait, There's Only 20 Of Them?
24 Grandmother's Gifts
25 Thinking With Portails
26 Bad Bargain
27 Pulling Strings
28 SWORDS
29 BOTES
30 BORTS
31 The Chicken Illuminati
32 An Explorer's Life For Me
33 The Book Actually Has All Those Diacritic Marks But I'm Lazy
34 NOM NOM NOM
35 Pirate Nations: Crossing The Seas
36 Pirate Nations: GYROS
37 Pirate Nations: Too Many Kings
38 Mlypnos
39 Pirate Nations: Prison, Pork and Power
40 Pirate Nations: Chapter 2
41 Pirate Nations: Island S
42 Pirate Nations: Southlands
43 Pirate Nations: And Then There's This Asshole
44 Pirate Nations: MONSTERS MONSTERS MONSTERS
45 Pirate Nations: We speak for the sea.
46 Pirate Nations: Whaling On The Moon
47 Pirate Nations: Pirate Don Quixote
48 Pirate Nations: Steve February
49 Pirate Nations: Fifteen Men As A Dead Man's Chest
50 Pirate Nations: Rum, Tobacco and Slaves
51 Pirate Nations: Rum, Tobacco and Slaves
52 Pirate Nations: Bad Decision Time
53 Pirate Nations: Be Glad I'm Skipping The Galt Speech
54 Pirate Nations: Haven't You Heard, Mr. Adams? Clink, Clink.
55 Pirate Nations: It's Not Morals, It's Money That Pays
56 Pirate Nations: Asshole Town
57 Pirate Nations: Piratical Heroes
58 Pirate Nations: Doubly Damned
59 Pirate Nations: Take Me For A Ride
60 Pirate Nations: My Magic Is Within
61 Pirate Nations: Check My Sweet Tats
62 Pirate Nations: Pirate Blades
63 Pirate Nations: For the Family
64 Pirate Nations: I Am Skipping The How To Speak Pirate Section. It Exists.
65 Lands of Gold and Fire - John Wick Is Not A Writer For This Book
66 Lands of Gold and Fire - The Great Rivers
67 Lands of Gold and Fire - Giant Asshole Baboons
68 Lands of Gold and Fire - SNAKES
69 Lands of Gold and Fire - Yeah These Guys Are Apparently Not Mali
70 Lands of Gold and Fire - Mansa, Mansa
71 Lands of Gold and Fire - The Swashbuckling UN
72 Lands of Gold and Fire - Book City
73 Lands of Gold and Fire - Children of Gods
74 Lands of Gold and Fire - Where the Darkness Is
75 Lands of Gold and Fire - Mbey Before Dark
76 Lands of Gold and Fire - Gods and Spirits
77 Lands of Gold and Fire - Dead Sons
78 Lands of Gold and Fire - The Last Simb?
79 Lands of Gold and Fire - Not Morocco, I Think?
80 Lands of Gold and Fire - In Which The Barbary Pirates Are Cited As An Inspiration
81 Lands of Gold and Fire - A Volcano Whose Eruption Is Barely Mentioned As A Possibility
82 Lands of Gold and Fire - The First of Firsts
83 Lands of Gold and Fire - These Guys Are Not Ethiopia BTW
84 Lands of Gold and Fire - Many Crafts
85 Lands of Gold and Fire - The Other Orthodox Church
86 Lands of Gold and Fire - Secret Police
87 Lands of Gold & Fire - Evil Wizards
88 Lands of Gold & Fire - The Black Land
89 Lands of Gold & Fire - Yeah I Have No Idea What's Up With Siptah
90 Lands of Gold & Fire - Religious Divides
91 Lands of Gold & Fire - Magic Words
92 Lands of Gold and Fire - Yes The Book Explains Siptah
93 Lands of Gold and Fire - How 2 Ifrian
94 Lands of Gold and Fire - Secret Economics Heroism
95 Lands of Gold and Fire - Raaaaa Heliopooooolis
96 Lands of Gold and Fire - Dark Powers
97 Lands of Gold and Fire - Less Dark Powers
98 Lands of Gold and Fire - Magic Swords
99 Lands of Gold and Fire - What If Corruption Had Even More Random Elements
100 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1
101 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Magic Elf Invasions
102 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - The Goodly Folke, With An E For Fancy
103 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Magic City
104 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - What If More Sidhe
105 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Scotland the Brave
106 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Iron Debt
107 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Superjump
108 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Seal Girlfriend
109 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Closer, My God, To Thee
110 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - The Worst Dude
111 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Kuso Grande
112 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Inside The Spanish Vatican
113 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Ethinic Minorities Exist Now
114 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Alcazar Is A Great Word
115 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Freedom
116 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - I Can't Believe It's Not Sorcery
117 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - The Dance
118 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - The Maestre
119 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - HELL FRANCE
120 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Middle Management
121 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Hail The Musketeers
122 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - What If Los Vagabundos...But FRENCH?
123 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Not Paris, Home Of The Deal
124 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Doc Valdoc
125 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Cliff Moat
126 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - The Magic Forest In The Middle Of HELL FRANCE
127 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Welcome To The Blood Dimension
128 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Fencing In France
129 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - O Fortuna
130 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Guilder Rules
131 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Not The Most Evil Capitalists In The Game, Because ATC
132 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - I Just Love The Word Usury
133 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Vendel: The Place, Not The League
134 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Vendel: GRUMFATHER
135 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Not To Be Confused With The OTHER Jotun
136 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Words of Power
137 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Masters of the Blade
138 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - GHOST GIANTS IN THE SKY
139 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - He's The Huntsmaaaan
140 Nations of Theah, Vol. 1 - Finishing Up
141 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2
142 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - In Which Everyone Has Bad Ideas
143 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Oh Right Jews Exist Now
144 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Welcome to Libertownpia
145 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Magic Forests
146 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Vampire Island Vacation Homes
147 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Hexen
148 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Three Swords
149 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - wyfwulf
150 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Serious Time: CW for Emotional and Physical Abuse of the Disabled
151 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Serious Time: Continued CW for Domestic Abuse, But Less So - The Details Are Mostly Done
152 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - SERIOUS TIME IS OVER, NOW IS THE TIME OF LAWYERS
153 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - The Joy of Z
154 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - What If Lithuania, But Demons
155 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - The City In Demon Forest
156 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Your Demon And You
157 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - You Probably Don't Want To Do This Until The End Of The Game
158 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - mo monsters mo problems
159 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Suicide
160 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - The Bad Idea Story
161 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Prince of Betrayal
162 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Mother Russia
163 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - The Old City
164 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Veche Is Not In Veche
165 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Don't ask me how the apostrophe is pronounced.
166 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Grandmother Winter's Lessons
167 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - The Sky Father
168 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Ussuran Dueling
169 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Angry Ghosts
170 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - HELL ITALY
171 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Crimedoers
172 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Island Nations
173 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - MY NAME IS VILLAINOVA I AM EVIL
174 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Italian Bread Basket
175 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Witchy
176 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - How To Fuck Up
177 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - More Reasons To Never Visit Hell Italy
178 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - What If A Goat, But Sexy
179 Nations of Theah, Vol. 2 - Mechanics, The Smallest Part Of The Book
180 The Crescent Empire
181 The Crescent Empire - Ancient History
182 The Crescent Empire - Problems
183 The Crescent Empire - The Good Life
184 The Crescent Empire - Hello Poetry
185 The Crescent Empire - One Of The Best Takes On Fantasy Faux Islam Ever
186 The Crescent Empire - The Fire Within
187 The Crescent Empire - The Orthodoxy
188 The Crescent Empire - I Love These Guys
189 The Crescent Empire - To Provide For The Common Defense
190 The Crescent Empire - THE CODE OF SHAMASH-TAL
191 The Crescent Empire - How 2 Jinn
192 The Crescent Empire - What If Baghdad But Also Turkey
193 The Crescent Empire - YOL
194 The Crescent Empire - Vacation Town
195 The Crescent Empire - What If Jesus Batman
196 The Crescent Empire - The Lorax
197 The Crescent Empire - Death Mountain
198 The Crescent Empire - Not Persiaran Has Problems
199 The Crescent Empire - How to Persic
200 The Crescent Empire - Insurgency
201 The Crescent Empire - A Cave Where Devils Live
202 The Crescent Empire - In Theory, Not Canaan
203 The Crescent Empire - The Will of the Council
204 The Crescent Empire - Not Hebrew
205 The Crescent Empire - The very slight shifts to actual Israeli place names are a little weird.
206 The Crescent Empire - Life In Hell
207 The Crescent Empire - Peter And The Wolf
208 The Crescent Empire - How 2 Crescent
209 The Crescent Empire - EAGLE VISION
210 The Crescent Empire - Art Is Magic
211 The Crescent Empire - Devotion Is Magic
212 The Crescent Empire - Wings Are Magic
213 The Crescent Empire - Trust Is Magic
214 The Crescent Empire - Lasers Are Magic
215 The Crescent Empire - War! What Is It Good For
216 The Crescent Empire - Your Poetry Is Weak
217 The Crescent Empire - Sword Fights Also Happen
218 The Crescent Empire - Survival in the Worst Desert Ever
219 The New World
220 The New World - Lost God-Kings of Time And Space
221 The New World - Today In The Land Of Unmappable Jungles
222 The New World - Praise Gods
223 The New World - Cosmology
224 The New World - THE CONDUIT
225 The New World - THE CONDUIT
226 The New World - Conquest
227 The New World - Bad Decisions
228 The New World - Armed Force
229 The New World - Gods Talk
230 The New World - Play Sports
231 The New World - God Times
232 The New World - God Bed
233 The New World - Life of the Not Maya
234 The New World - City Fathers
235 The New World - Rite and Rong
236 The New World - The Power of Writing
237 The New World - Death Gods
238 The New World - A City Sampler
239 The New World - City People
240 The New World - Slave Queen
241 The New World - The Land of Death
242 The New World - These Guys, BTW, Are 'What If The Inca Rejected Their Sun God For A Death God'
243 The New World - O Mighty Queen
244 The New World - The Quiet Life
245 The New World - Art of Death
246 The New World - Dead Magic
247 The New World - Bless You
248 The New World - New Land
249 The New World - New Mechanics
250 The New World - The Vision Serpent
251 The New World - Death Magic
252 The New World - MORTAL COMBAT
253 The New World - A Question That Really Didn't Need To Be Answered
254 The New World - The Great Jaguar
255 The New World - Evil Gods
256 The New World - Hazard A Guess

Mors Rattus Returns

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a game called 7th Sea was produced. I wrote it up for the first iteration of this thread, in 2011. In 2015, AEG announced that they'd made a deal with John Wick Presents, transferring all publication rights to John Wick. In 2016, John Wick crowdfunded 7th Sea Secnd Edition to the tun of $1,316,813. The rules were delivered later that year, and since then, there have been a number of supplements, exanding the setting with more detail on places like the Not Caribbean, Not Middle East, Not South America and, more recently, Not Africa, with promises of delibery of an entire Not Asia-centered core book and supplements for later this year or next. It is time for me to return and see what's changed, and what's better, and what's not.

7th Sea 2nd Edition: Mors Rattus Returns



All of the covers, incidentally, resemble movie posters. It's kinda neat!

The opening prose story has also improved in quality, but that's hardly a high bar. Chapter 1 jumps us straight into the conflicts of the setting, most notably the swashbuckling, the power of magic that lies in noble blood, and the freedom of piracy and adventure, alongside intrigue and nationalism, romance, and...the Syrneth. This is a big change - we're addressing the Syrne right upfront. They were an ancient, ruined civilization with ancient secrets that are now all the rage to try and discover. They are not space aliens, as far as I've been able to tell. The entire space alien metaplot has been scrubbed from the book - as has much of the metaplot in general, honestly, in favor of the Eternal Now. The Vaticine Church and Objectionists are still around, as is the Inquisition, which has recently seized power still.

When we get the list of nations in Theah, you're going to note some changes. We still have Avalon (Not England), Castille (Not Spain), Eisen (Not Germany), Montaigne (Not France), Ussura (Not Russia), Vodacce (Not Italy) and the Vestenmennavenjar (new spelling, but sitll Not Scandinavia and Not Holland). The Highland Marches (Not Scotland) and Inismore (Not Irelend) are now being recognized as full nations, and we've added the Sarmatian Commonwealth (Not Eastern Europe). Secret societies still exist, but the intro chapter doesn't list them. We have new continents mentioned - Ifri, the Lands of Gold and Fire (Not Africa) and the New World (Not South America), along with a mention that there are a number of settled coloniues north of the New World, and of course the Crescent Empire still exists in the east. These will all, we are told, get their own sourcebooks. (And did, except for what is presumably Not North America, so far.)

That's the entirety of Chapter One - it's basically just an introduction to the setting. The adding of the Sarmatians does patch a hole that has been there for a long time, though, in that 7th Sea 1 had...no Eastern Europe at all.

Next time: Chapter 2 - Theah.


Actually, I Quite Like It, Honestly

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Actually, I Quite Like It, Honestly

The setting chapter opens with something I quite appreciate - a section on diversity. While it seems to believe that 17th century Europe wasn't especially diverse - not true, by the way, diversity has been a constant in most of history - it does note that even more than in real history, Theah has a wide range of ethnic diversity. See, the Vaticine Church has always held that all men and women are born equal, regardless of appearance, and have pushed this concept with rather more force than in Real Europe. As a result, cultural migration happened far more often than in regular Europe, and while there are still national stereotypes for what each nation looks like, people who don't fit them aren't seen as exceptions. While the first thing that will come to mind when you say 'Inish' is a pale, blue-eyed redhead, but no one is going to bat an eye if you're black, with brown eyes and black hair. There isn't racism based on appearance - a fact that is a departure from actual 1600s Europe, as the Transatlantic slave trade was getting started and as a result, modern racism was in its infancy. In Theah, racism is usually based instead on where you're born. If you were born in Inismore, you are a dirty Inishman regardless of skin tone, and every kind of ethnicity can be easily found in any nation, fully accepted as a person from that nation - with all the good and bad that brings. National identity has really started to bloom in modern Theah, only about a century old, and it's begun to spread, y'see.

Our first nation writeup is Avalon, aka Not England. Theans tend to use Avalon to refer to the United Kingdom, which is all three of the Glamour Isles, but the name properly refers to only Not England - add in United Kingdom, and it also refers to Inismore and the Highlands. Avalon is a place of faerie glamour and superstition, and with good reason. The isle Avalon itself is a hilly place with many forests and moors, but not much in the way of mountains. They're warm and rainy, and so they have very good cropland. Morning and evening are almost always full of thick fog. Avalon's ruler is Queen Elaine, Keeper of the Sacred Graal, and both Inismore and the Highland Marches have sworn fealty to her. The island is also home to the Sidhe, an ancient race that, long ago, made a great sacrifice to grant the power of Glamour to the people of the isles. Glamour is the power to summon legend, and it is shared by both human and Sidhe, but can only be accessed by those that swear a sacred vow to protect Avalon from its enemies, within and without. (Which is new; before, Glamour was still Sidhe-granted but not explicitly tied to any particular thing. You just had it or didn't.)

While the three kingdoms are technically united, there's tensions. Avalon's royals have historically exploited the other two, subjugating their people. However, Elaine emerged from the civil wars of Avalon, bearing the Graal without explanation. Some still doubt its origins, her right to rule and her worthiness of the crown. Inismore's king, Jack O'Bannon, might be an immortal demigod, or possibly just insane, but either way he's sworn to serve Elaine so long as she remains true to the isles. James MacDuff, King of the Higlands, has also sworn fealty, but many wonder why, and if it is his own desire or if he actually believes it's for the good of the Highlanders.

Avalon, more than any other nation, has nobles close to the common folk. Elaine regularly travels the land, and it is said that her touch can cure any ill. The Avalon people adore her, and indeed can be expected to loyally serve any noble that is good and honorable. A cruel noble, on the other hand, will be hated just as deeply and have to deal with constantly rebellious peasantry. Like most of Theah, society is largely divided between peasant, clergy and noble - but Avalon's added two classes to that list recently, the merchant and the sailor. The merchant guilds of Avalon have grown very wealthy in the last 200 years or so, and they've struck deals with nobles that have a lot of land but not a lot of money. The nobles sold their lands and titles for cash, and that's made merchants a growing and potent middle class. Sailors are even more recent, as Elaine needed a navy even if it broke protocol, and so she announced that anyone sailing under Avalon's banner was a "noble sailor" - equivalent to a knight in rank, and with the right to a percentage of any plunder seized while under the flag, no matter how it was taken. Thus, Avalon's navy has swollen massively.

The shift to make the mercantile class a major thing is new, but the sailor thing isn't, except in the sense that it's being more formally called out. Overall, the entire feel of Avalon as a place of fairy tales and Elaine's court as a mirror of Arthur's are kept, though the specific Arthurian stuff is not being played up in this book. We also note that the native tongue of Avalon was Cymru - Not Welsh - but that almost no one spoke it for years due to the Montaigne occupation. Cymru is regaining popularity, and people with more Not French names (David, William) are changing them back to Cymru equivalents (Dyffd, Gwillim), with more and more kids being named after Avalon cultural heroes of the past. Oh, and Avalon sailors have invented pockets, which are becoming quite popular, as is long hair and, for men, trimmed facial hair. Wigs and makeup are seen as effete. Married women hide their hair under a hat, and maidens wear it braided.

As in 1st ed, Avalon manages its own currency, the pound sterling (and its subdivider, the shilling). These are coins, though bank notes are growing in use for large amounts. Elaine has also allowed use of the Vesten Guilder (despite her advisors' objections) in order to maintain good relations with the neighboring islands, and the Guilder is now nearly as commonly used as the pound. Avalons tend to be extremely hospitable and extremely superstitious, not least because of the Sidhe. When you have literal terrifying faeries wandering around, science has trouble making inroads, and when a Sidhe lord might wander by in disguise for no real reason, you tend to be nice to strangers. The old faith of Avalon was suppressed by the Vaticines, but it has survived, in a sense, in the form of ballads and folk tales, which are enormously popular. No one worships the old gods any more, but their names live on as heroes and kings and monsters, and the old rites live on as folk dances - less meaningful but still present. The songs tend to be fairly formulaic, such that anyone who knows Avalon story patterns can usually join the chorus even if they've never heard the song before, and they're all basically dancing or drinking tunes. The tales tend be rather bawdy, with lots of sex and lots of being a fuckup. The stories are, on the surface, morality plays - but it's always with a sort of undercurrent of comedy and mockery of the morals that the songs openly preach, which makes Avalon folk music pretty unique.

The Old Ways are returning under Elaine's rule - a definite shift from 2nd Ed, where Elaine was instead presiding over what was effectively Not Anglicanism. Instead, Elaine is happy to try and bring back the old faith and invite the Sidhe more fully into their lives. Her religious reforms are controversial, though, with the Traditionalists wanting to more fully purge the Vaticine Church from the island, and the Vaticines seeking to remove the influence of the resurgent Old Ways. Many Vaticines have left Avalon entirely, but not all. The Church still runs a number ouf universities, as Elaine offered the scholars her protection against the Inquisition...and as a result, quite a few of them have converted to the Church of Avalon over the Vaticine.

Elaine is practically an absolute monarch. She has a Parliament, but they can gather only with her permission, and they represent the various parts of the island. She can't go to war without their permission, and requires their permission to pass certain laws. When she wants it, she summons them, presents her case and has them vote. While these formal gatherings only happen on her say-so, the members often gather informally. As long as they don't gather in enough numbers to make a vote, Elaine allows use of this loophole and officially ignores it. She knows the nobles of Avalon are powerful and doesn't want to anger them. Similarly, Parliament has, overall, enough respect for her and the Graal to maintain official respect for the rules.

Elaine has spent much oif her time rebuilding the Avalon military, which had been utterly exhausted by its civil wars. However, rather than use conscription, her focus was on building a navy by offering her court the chance to profit off it. It worked amazingly, and the navy was built in record time. After that, she sent out messages to Eisen warlords and Numan warriors, and while most were too proud to head out and teach her soldiers, several did leave their homes to join Avalon. (Numa, for the record, is a mix of Not Rome and Not Greece in this edition, with Vodacce having absorbed some of it and the rest being Not Greece.) The Numans, who tend to be darker skinned, brought a lot of new ideas to Avalon, which adapted to them well after a few rough years. The Eisen and Numa soldiers were also called on to help dismantle all standing armies on the island, removing the ability for a military coup. Only Elaine is permitted an army now, with nobles only allowed garrisons of 10-20 soldiers for home protection. The nobles are not happy with this, but accepted it when Elaine told them that Avalon couldn't afford both a huge army and a huge navy, as they like having money.

Queen Elaine on Other Nations posted:

Castille: Thank Theus the Vaticine Church is still recovering from the Montaigne invasion, otherwise they would be seeking our heart on a silver platter. We know they plot against us, but are unable to enact their machinations. Let them continue their plotting. The more they split their attentions, the less they focus on us.
Eisen: The wasteland that was once the proud kingdom of Eisen has provided us with a militia to defend our borders. We agree with half of their philosophies, but disagree with none of them. Someone must help them regain their power, but, unfortunately, it cannot be us.
Montaigne: For a period longer than we wish to discuss, the Montaignes ruled our land. Never again. We know them well, and their blood-magic tricks are of no use here any longer. But as long as they keep their attention turned south, we will maintain our cordial relationship with our flamboyant cousins.
The Pirate Nations: The Brotherhood of the Coast is just an excuse for criminals to run rampant on our seas. Yet, La Bucca has proven a promising place to recruit effective Sea Dogs.
Sarmatian Commonwealth: They are too far from us to be considered enemies, but that distance also means they are too distant to be considered friends. Their monarchy is as ours: focused on the will and good of the people. If only they were closer, we might have a stronger kinship.
Ussura: Distant and silent, Ussura is a mystery to us. We have heard and seen little of them, but understand there is deep magic in their blood, magic tied to their land. One of our explorers has told us that their magic is very much like Glamour, and the woman they worship has many characteristics similar to the Sidhe. Perhaps we are cousins after all?
Vestenmennavenjar: It may seem the people of the cold lands of the north have transformed, but they have not. They are still raiders...they have found a new method of robbing our coffers of coin. Instead of coming to our shores with fire and sword, they do so with a smile and contracts. But they are still what they have always been.
Vodacce: Treachery is the word of the day as far as the Vodacce are concerned. Speaking with any Vodacce prince is like walking through a display of glass vases, all filled to the brim, sitting on thin pillars with a floor covered with eggs. They have been trained since birth to pierce any veil, and they wait with their sorcerous eyes to see any secrets, no matter how cleverly hidden. They are talented villains, but villains all the same.

Overall, Avalon is pretty similar to its 1st Edition incarnation thus far. Elaine's absolute power and general distaste for giving up much of it paints her in a somewhat less flattering light, but she's still intended as a very sympathetic figure, and the main shift has been to make a re-embracing of the Not Welsh heritage of Avalon a thing, rather than just going full on Arthur But With Anglicanism.

Next time: Castille.

I Did Prefer El Vago Tho

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: I Did Prefer El Vago Tho

Castille is one of the oldest nations in Theah. It has been an ally to the Crescents, an enemy to Avalon and Montaigne, and, most recently, home of the heart of the Vaticine. Despite its hundreds of years of war and invasion, its heart has remained largely unchanged, passionate and strong. Around four years ago, it was invaded by Montaigne and caught entirely off guard. The invasion was repelled, but at great cost. Farmland was ruined, half a generation slain or crippled. Castille is weak now, almost fallen. Its land remains valuable - it's sitting on top of rich mineral deposits, great farmland and fish-heavy ocean, and until recently, its people never knew want. It has warm winters and long summers, and the knowledge and science brought by the Church had turned it into an economic powerhouse - until the invasion. The nation is ruled over by the Sandoval family, and its land is largely divided into counties run by the Grandes de Castille, as the noble upper class is known. Each Grande rules a land grant, called a concesion, where they are empowered to collect tax and administer justice, and must house part of the king's army. The last king died recently, leaving his throne to his twelve-year-old son. The boy is known as "Good King Sandoval" due to a line by a famous court poet, and the fact that he's held the nation together for four years is honestly more than anyone ever expected from him. This is all pretty much identical to 1e.

While the king is the nominal ruler, it's no secret that he is heavily influenced by his Church advisors. There have so far been three attempted assassinations, but each was foiled, often due to the efforts of the mysterious vigilante El Vagabundo. (I miss El Vago, but I assume the name change was for cromulent Spanish.) So far, El Vagabundo has proven more than a match for plotters against King Sandoval, but that could change. See, the constant presence of Church advisors has kept Sandoval from talking much with the Grandes directly, and the bureaucracy is breaking down. Corruption and graft are rampant, and the economic losses to it are causing basic systems to fail, with the king apparently powerless to prevent any of it.

Still, Castille has always been a practical nation, and they are some of the most advanced on the entire continent. They are the only Thean nation to have aqueducts in all their cities, as well as free public education for all, and their crops remain vibrant. Even the smallest village has a church stocked with medical supplies, a small library and a trained scientist or doctor to help run it. Castillians are, on average, the best educated people in all of Theah. (Note: Theah is Not Europe, the continent, as opposed to actual planet.) Castillians also tend to be passionate people who love food, music and dance. They have a nearly religious veneration for motherhood, and mothers are the core of the Castillian family. Their dances are passionate and, some say, lascivious, their music fast. The Church's influence has also made their music extremely precise, as best encapsulated in the guitar. Again, most of these is as per 1e, albeit more explicit in the idea that the Church has made Castille one of the most advanced places around. (Well, and probably their history with the Crescents, who are also quite advanced.)

The War of the Cross left Castille weak, allowing the Montaigne invasion to surprise them and destroy so much of their infrastructure. The economy is crumbling and the nobles have often become dispossessed. The other nations are now watching and waiting for a chance to strike, to take the wealth and resources of Castille that they've always envied. Good King Sandoval is doing his best, but it's only a matter of time now. Within Castille, the King and the Church are considered to be equal - though some nobles refuse to acknowledge a boy king these days. Under them are the landed Grandes, followed by the landless ones. Grandes are divided into three classes. The highest are those who have a direct familial tie to the King. Below them are those with land and title. The lowest tier are the hidalgos, those with title but no land. There's a lot of hidalgos these days due to the War of the Cross, twenty years back, which they still haven't recovered from, and the Montaigne surprise invasion. Much of the lost land has been taken by the Church. As a result, most Castillians do not consider any social status below the highest rank to be of much note. It's hard to have noble mystique when your nobles are selling their swords for food money.

Before the wars and the corruption set in, life for a Castillian peasant was quite pleasant. They had schools, hospitals and other government services provided to them essentially for free. That is no longer the case in most places. They do still center their lives around family, however. Castillians have no concept of "extended" family. Family is family. Cousin, uncle, second cousin three times removed - they're all family. Families usually trace their bloodline back to a single founder, almost always a woman, and keep the founding matriarch's picture in their homes. Often, they also wear necklaces bearing her image, if they can afford to. As long as the matriarch's blood is shared, that's family, and no matter what sins your family commits, they are family. Only the worst can get you cast out - murder of a family member, say. There is no family justice higher than ostracism.

Castillians favor dark clothing as a base, but with highlights in the colors of fire - red, yellow, orange. Style and pattern vary by location, and most Castillians are extremely proud of their local fashion, with even the poor stitching dyed cloth to their outfits when they can. It's not about status or flair - it's about being Castillian. Traditional men's garb is the sombrero, a short vest, tight pants and a cummerbund, and often leggings, adding gloves, cuffs and collars for social events. Unmarried women are easy to spot - they wear white or cream and colorful kerchiefs. Women's designs often grow more brilliant and multicolored as they age and settle down, and married women tend to wear reds, blues and dark greens, accented with black. Beaded skirts are popular, too, as are elaborately tied braids.

Until the invasion, Castillian nobles and peasants lived very differently. Peasants tended to be very outgoing and cheerful, and would usually work only four to five hours at a time, with long breaks between shifts for siesta - rest and sport. Other Theans called this sloth, but that's hard to credit, given that many siestas were full of street dances, horse parades, musical performance and contests of skill and daring. The nobles were, in theory, above such activities. They tended to be extremely regimented in etiquette and very proper, with excellent education and a taste for fine arts and music, avoiding peasant celebrations. These days, however, the sheer number of displaced Grandes have been forced to adapt, and many find the exuberance of the lower classes appealing. There has been more class mixing now than ever before. The Church has remained silent on this, largely because they're unsure if it's good, bad or other. They instinctually feel it's wrong, but it seems to be keeping spirits high post-invasion, which is practically a blessing.

Ever since the Vaticine Church moved its main seat to Castille 400 years ago, the nation has been the most pious in Theah. It has given Castille a lot of influence politically - there are Castillian diplomats pretty much everywhere in the world - but also a lot of responsibility for living up to the image of the Prophets. It's not been easy, especially with the Church's shift on topics like mercy and forgiveness after the Third Prophet - which have reached a head in the past ten years, as the Inquisition has hit a fever pitch and High Inquisitor Verdugo took power.

Castille's government is fractured at best and very chaotic. The death of King Salvador Aldana left the throne in the hands of a child, now only sixteen. He hasn't even been granted the title of Rex Castilium by El Concilio de la Razon, his advisors - the first time that's happened since the 1380s when the royal family was slain by plague. The Cardinals watch his decrees and reworded them, and he's had a constitutional monarchy forced on him that has allowed the Church to essentially take over the country. It doesn't help that the Castillian bureaucracy was a complex and mired process in the best of times. The army has a lack of solid leadership in one sense - the king is providing no clear orders - and too many leaders in another, as the commanders all vie for ideas with no one to decide between them. The war against Montaigne was won only because the Emperor has a short attention span and Castille got lucky. There are far too many 'leaders' in Castille now, and the corruption runs deep. The King is sequestered away in Vaticine City, and while the economy should be booming thanks to the massive resources of the nation and the Church's methodical administrators, the corruption among the tax collectors keeps the wealth flowing into private pockets. The tax collectors, you see, are operating on their own. Called recaudadores, they collect a minimum tax from all Grandes and then report it to the King or Church if this is not provided in some form - wealth, land, a royal marriage. If this fails, they are allowed to bring in the army to help seize the tax. It doesn't help that a third of the nation's farmland is ruined thanks to the Montaigne. The Church's planning prevented a crisis, but the sheer number of disenfranchised Grandes and worthless holdings was beyond even their planning. Reparations are desired, but unlikely to appear.

Castille's army is in no better shape. Their numbers surged during the war, but the fighting was intense. They now struggle to hold their land along the borders with sufficient men, and most of the Castillian Armada has been lost entirely. While the Castillians famously fight with all their hearts, they are slowly losing hope. They do, at least, have powerful military technology. Their fortresses, protected by wheeled cannon and tracked cannon rings allowing for quick repositioning of guns, stood well against the Montaigne and are much faster than most artillery. They also have been at the forefront of chemistry, allowing their gunpowder to pack more punch into fewer grains, and they also invented the packed powder charge, so they have no need for powder horns and can load and fire far faster than most other armies. They're now experimenting with measured charges for artillery.

Current Relations posted:

Avalon: Due to the "heathen" activities of the present Queen of Avalon, Elaine, there is a great deal of animosity between Castille and the island kingdom. But even the spiteful Concilio de la Razon is not willing to act against her at this time, content instead to support her enemies and wait for her to fall from grace.
Eisen: The armored lunatics of Eisen have proven themselves a threat in the past, but one look at their ruined lands and teetering rulership is enough to dispel the possibility for another invasion from the north.
Montaigne: The Montaigne currently bear the brunt of Castille's scorn for foreigners of all sorts. Prior to their invasion, no military troops except those directly controlled by the Castillians themselves had set foot upon Castillian soil for six hundred years - a very long time for hatreds to brew, as many Montaigne soldiers who served on the frontlines of the war would attest.
Pirate Nations: With the destruction of the Castillian Armada and little hope in sight for the Nation to put another fleet to sea, the Brotherhood of the Coast and the Buccaneers may provide some limited defense against the Sun King's ships.
Sarmatian Commonwealth: Many within Castille look at the recent development of Golden Liberty as a progressive step forward. Some have even mentioned Castille should follow in the Commonwealth's footsteps. But the prevailing powers in Castille rejected such a ridiculous idea. The Commonwealth is backwards - like most Eastern Thean Nations - and has no idea of progress. They are trying to recapture the glory days of the Numanari Republic...days which are clearly nothing more than myth. And there is no point in chasing myth.
Ussura: Castillians travel far less than most, and those who do are rarely interested in the vast plains and deep forests of the Ussurans. Outside of standard diplomatic relations, religious pilgrimages and matters of continental war, the two countries have had very little to do with one another.
Vestenmennavenjar: "Of all the crooked con men of the world, we hate the Vesten the least." Beyond this statement - made by the late King of Castille - nothing can be gleaned of the relationship between these two distant nations.
Vodacce: Between the animosity of the Church divisions and the constant quarreling between the pompous nobles of both countries, Castillian relations with Vodacce are at an all-time low. The most recent demands by Vodacce merchants and inflammatory statements of their Cardinals have only served to worsen the tension along the Vaticine Gulf, and the Grandes have begun to call for additional patrols to ensure their safety.

Castille is likewise fairly similar to 1e. The Inquisition has gotten relatively little press so far in the book, but we still have the boy-king and the failing rule. We're more strongly linking that to corruption caused by like of oversight on the nobility, though, and there's a stronger focus on Castille as one of the most advanced civilizations in Not Europe. The war with Montaigne is more definitively over, though, with a Castillian (Pyrrhic) victory.

Next time: Eisen.

Inexplicable Name Changes

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Inexplicable Name Changes

Eisen is in the center of Theah, which has made it a position of strategic import for pretty much all Thean politics forever. Before the War of the Cross, they controlled who got to move through their borders, both for war and trade. After the War, though...well, Eisen is essentially destroyed. Much of the farmland is still in ruins, even 20 years later, and they cannot even attempt to enforce their tolls - or even pay their soldiers. The Eisen are a proud people - they built the empire of the Vaticine, and it lasts for centuries. Their history is one of valor, constantly. Thus, they often try to live in the past, since the present is so awful. They were extremely proud of having no magic but that which they made by their toil.

And this is where 2e takes a hard right. See, at some point at the end of the War, the Horrors began to arrive. Vampires, skeletons, demons, werewolves. Eisen had survived the War of the Cross, but now, the monsters were here. They have a long history of coming back from the brink of destruction, though. Right now, the nation is fragmented, haunted and full of killers and monsters, but if it could unite and rise, the pride of the Eisen would bring it to the fore once more. This is te land of desperate heroism and courage in the face of darkness. See, while the War of the Cross eventually consumed most of Theah, it began with Eisen Vaticine fighting Eisen Objectionist - Eisen against Eisen, and they learned the price for their disunity. Most of the world now views them with faint scorn, even though their skill in battle is superior to any other. Even Montaigne's greatest general, Montegue, keeps an Eisen advisor. If one of the princes of Eisen can manage to unite the people and bring them together, they could define the role Eisen will play for centuries to come. But for now? Monsters.

Eisen itself is a mountainous region that borders just about everyone on the continent. They have long winters and chilly summers, with lots of rain, snow and mud. Lots of mud. The southern half is full of the black foerests known as the Schwarzen Walder, haunted by the mysterious Schattenmann, the Shade Man who is a gaunt, sticklike creature with an immense pair of shears to dismember you with, while the north has places like the Sudsee, a gigantic lake that has been heavily overfished, or the Unsterbliche Sumpf, the Undying Swamp. The northern forests are full of bandits, and the mountains are home to stories of drachen, gigantic creatures once hunted as proof of valor, but no one's seen one in living memory. The mountains are also home to the iron mines that make up the bulk of Eisen's economy (besides mercenaries), and were once home to the dracheneisen ore, almost magical iron that was legendarily indestructible. The old mines are long since abandoned, though, and what little dracheneisen remains is used to fight the Horrors, which it seems to ward against and is able to harm, even when those Horrors are otherwise immune to damage.

The Eisen are bloodied, but they are not quite beaten. They have more collective experience in battle than any other nation, and are masters of tactics. Their skill at war is the main thing they can sell these days, and their military schools are the best in the world. Eisen mercenaries often find work as soldiers, bodyguards or ship-defending marines, leaving their homes to make money for their families. The Eisen are a stubborn people - they may lie low, but they never give up. Their population has been dropped from 24 million to 10 million in 30 years, with only 6 million of that being refugees fleeing Eisen. The rest are dead, less often by battle than by plague and starvation. The Eisen are, as a result, a grim people. Some have been unable to deal with the pain and horror, retreating to catatonia or the bottle, and even those who do not tend to have volatile tempers and scars from their experiences, visible or otherwise. The men tend to wear short hair and beards, while women often grow it to shoulder length and sometimes braid it.

There are four classes in Eisen. AT the top are the Adel, the nobles, who live in their ancestral castles and fight over acres of land with a bloody ferocity. Below them are the Soldner, the mercenaries. They are some of the wealthiest people in the nation, and often found academies to train others when they grow too old for the field. The third class are the Bauern, the peasants, who cling to their ability to raise food in the increasingly dead soil. They have endured much, and their anger is growing by the year. The final class did not exist before the War of the Cross: the Waisen, orphans. Their homes were destroyed, their families slain. They wander the land as best they can, foraging to survive. Many starve or die of illness, and the survivors are just as often slain for trespassing on their own ancestral homelands. The Adel have a saying: You can easily tell the Waisen - they don't shield themselves when beaten.

The Eisen are a practical and straightforward people. They know tact, yes, but if they don't like you, they'll let you know it. They don't lie very often, except to help a friend or save their own skin. A strong friendship for an Eisen may have them call you their Rucken, their back. This means they would trust you to defend their back in battle, and expect you to never abandon them unless they tell you to do it. They will never check behind them when back to back with you, because they trust you that much. They also tend to be rougher than most foreigners are used to - hugging strongly, speaking loudly. The Bauern and Waisen have no time for fashion - they wear what they can get, though the wealthier ones often like a feathered cap or an apron. Soldner are known for their brightly colored dyed leathers and their distinctive slitted sleeves. They prefer wide-brimmed and feathered hats. The Adel tend to mirror the fashions of nobles elsewhere, but with a few Eisen twists - long leggings, thigh-length skirs and flat, wide-brimmed hats, mainly. (That's all for the men; the women prfer small lace collars and bright colors.)

The Eisen are known for their beer, but now even the Bauern rarely drink it - it's too expensive for them. They hope for clean water, good grains, tubers and butter. Lots of butter. Dip things in the butter. The wealthy get imported fruit and vegetables and often pay people to raise meat for them, which is dried or made into sausage, and their thirst for beer remains a constant. Most other Eisen customs have been abandoned these days for reasons of practicality, replaced by new ones. The food shortages mean that children always eat first, period. Even the most honored guest waits before they eat, for the children to get their fill. It is also now customary for guests to bring enough food for themselves and their hosts, as a 'gift' - largely to ensure no one goes hungry if possible. The Bauern also hold that it is terrible luck to harm or touch a Waisen, as their misfortune is contagious. To avoid it, they say, bathe thoroughly to wash it away. Eisen art and music, at least, is somewhat delicate, rather than military. Their greatest works tend to display scenes of idyllic beauty, often landscapes.

The Eisen are split fairly evenly between Vaticine and Objectionist. In both cases, their churches tend to the austere, forgoing flashy displays of wealth. They are often highly religious, and discussions of faith are common among Bauern at work, while most Adel donate up to 50% of their income to their local church. They also have a practice unique to Eisen, shared among both Vaticine and Objectionist: Soldner all wear iron necklaces that bear the insignia of the pious dead of their class. These are known as Heiligen, and the Eisen believe the souls of the dead will intercede on the wearer's behalf with God, to keep them safe. The most popular inisgnia is the man with a crown of stars, symbol of the late Imperator Weiss, who is remembered for his policies of religious freedom. AFter that, Imperator Gottschalk I is represented by the Vaticine cross, having created the Vodacce papacy and granted it to the Hierophant to rule. The wolf is the next most popular, with Objectionists at le ast, as the symbol of Stefano Wulf - not an Eisen, but for Objectionists, the holiest man since Mattias Lieber. The final popular heiligen is the hawk in flight, symbol of General Stauss, the Vaticine champion who is still fondly remembered.

Eisen is divided now into seven konichreiche, rouhgly 'city-state kingdoms'. Each is ruled by an Eisenfurst, an Iron Prince. The title derives from their former control over the dracheneisen mines. Most of the actual dracheneisen arms and armor were lost, stolen or destroyed during the War of the Cross, however. Each Iron Prince runs things differently. Their borders are often imprecise, too. The first is Freiburg, the Free City, ruled by Niklas Trage, who is probably the most powerful atheist in the world. The War of the Cross destroyed his faith, and he is certain now that all have a price that will make them betray their friends, if offered. He is known to get drunk and verbally accost clergymen. DEspite this, he does his best to help his people and to use their moral weaknesses to manipulate them into doing 'right' as he sees it. He has no desire to expand, claiming only the lands that can be seen from the top of the Wachtturm, the immense watchtower that stands in the center of his city. Freiburg is run on free trade - Trage levies no tax and his only real law is that you must never reveal where your questionable merchandise is from. He attempts not to govern at all, but rather to make his people desire to govern themselves. He is certain Freiburg will not live to see its fifth anniversary, however - there's too many ambitious Eisenfursten, and both sides of the religious divide agree that atheists must not rule. Trage is basically like his 1e version, though I believe they've spelled his name a new way.

Wirsche is ruled by Roswitha von Wirsche, who lost three sons and a husband to the War. She was depressed and listless for a time, but something has changed. Now, her land is booming, producing food where once ethere was nothing but ruin. The people are diligent now, but they are also afraid, locking their doors at night. They do not speak to outsiders, for fear that the Countess is listening. This is entirely new for 2e. Wirsche was, previously, Wische, and was ruled by Reinhard von Wische, who was catatonic, and was full of Waisen and little else. The whole probably-a-vampire countess thing? An improvement.

Posen is ruled by Elsa Posen (Fauner, in 1e), who, like her 1e incarnation, is a gigantic woman of immense strength, skill and arrogance. Her land is largely unharmed by the War and is full of fertile cropland and wealthy iron mines. Not much else to say. Stefan Heilgrund rules over the konigreich Heilgrund, who shares a name with his 1e version and little else. He wants to reunite Eisen and is sunned by all the other Eisenfursten but Niklas Trage - and even then, Trage only sees him as a brash idiot that can be used. He is collecting occult books and objects for some reason, which is also true in 1e. (The reason there was spelled out; I don't believe it is here.) Fischler is next, ruled by Falk Fischler, who put it together from pieces of Sieger and Hainzl. Fischler is fairly similar to his 1e version - he's a depressed and lonely man who has come into great wealthy but has no friends. He was once shunned by the nobles around him for his poverty, and now they fawn on him for his wealth. Fischler's income is based on fishing, but the Sudsee is nearly fished out and Falk is unsure whether to ban fishing for a bit to let it recover - or if that would ruin his people just as fast.

Sieger is the sixth konighreich, ruled by Erich Sieger. As in 1e, it was originally land belonging to a Castillian noble at the end of the War of the Cross, but was abandoned by Castille because Erich was willing to fight to the death over it despite the worthlessness of the area, resource-wise. The land is salted and burned, and Sieger can barely feed what remains of his people, who tend to flee to other konigreiches. Despite this, he is obsessed with retaining his lands and is quite angry at losing some to Fischler. He works hard and is legendarily stubborn. Essentially the same as 1e. The final konighreich is Hainzl, ruled by the cheerful Georg Hainzl, who in 1e was insane, and still is. His lands are largely untouched, and he takes on the role of being Mad King Ludwig, basically - patron of art and music, not super in touch with reality, loves opera. The details of his madness in 1e had him haunted and paranoid, but that doesn't appear to be the case here. His lands produce the best iron in Eisen.

Eisen's main exports are iron, lumber and coal, which are quite expensive - and that money is spent on importing food. 40% of Eisen's food is imported thanks to the War of the Cross, and the Eisenfursten conrol all trade in Eisen save for trade in Freiburg. Once, the Eisen currency was the mark, a silver coin minted by the Imperator, but only some Eisenfursten still accept it. Freiburg uses Guilders and its own coin, the pfennig - a tenth-Guilder coin made with permission from the Vendel League. Posen, Hainzl and Fischler do this also. Heilgrund, Wirsche and Sieger prefer the mark - Heilgrund to use as a rallying point and symbol of the glory days, Sieger because...well, because he's stubborn and crazy, and Wirsche for no reason anyone can tell. Freiburg's Guild moneychangers buy marks for Guilder but will not perform the exchange the other way - they want to take the mark entirely out of circulation.

Mercenaries make up the bulk of Eisen's military presence, with the rest being the private guards of the Eisenfursten, which are quite small. Most of the mercenary bands predate the War of the Cross, and many fought on both sides at various points. They each have their own distinct banner and war cry, along with a charter that sets out their bylaws. The most famous are the Blutgeister, the Blood Spirits, whose warcry translates to 'Spirits, fly!' and who are renowned for the terror they strike in foes. Of the Eisenfurst guards, only Posen and Sieger are of any note - Elsa Posen's guards are extremely skilled and loyal, while Sieger's are the most brutal and callous Soldner in all of Eisen, which takes some doing.

Eisen tactics are world-renowned, and they have four military academies that are recognized as the world's best - Steil, Unabwendbar, Klippe and Gelingen. Steil is only seven years old, founded by a cousin of the last Imperator, Riefenstahl. It accepts only half of those that apply, and focuses on cavalry and infantry maneuvering. Unabwendbar is primarily a school of tactics rather than combat, with a philosophy known as Unwiderstehlich, Irresistable. They learn to embrace rather than struggle against what cannot be changed, focusing on what can be changed in all things. They can often come off as cold, but...well, if they say someone cannot be saved, they're often right. Klippe students are sworn to strict secrecy and new students join only by invitation. It is renowned as the best school in Eisen, and its graduates can be assured of good jobs, but the students have a high mortality rate and the school is believed to be cursed by some. Gelingen, on the other hand, focuses on field education, hunting poachers and watching for invaders or monsters. Their motto is Leren durch taten, learn by doing.

quote:

Avalon: "The only thing good about the AValons is that we know they can't be trusted." As far as te Eisen are concerned, any Avalon has to be watched cautiously. Still, accusing someone of being a thief or a liar is a serious matter, so Eisen usually keep their opinions ot themselves unless they have absolute proof of an Avalon's dishonesty.
Castille: The Castillians are somewhat odd, but mostly good, religious folk. If an Eisen is an Objectionist, he will definitely keep this a secret around the Castillians. They aren't known for their open-mindedness.
Montaigne: The Montaigne prefer style over substance, which greatly upsets Eisen sensibilities. Eisen see the Montaignes as wasteful, arrogent children. Still, they often have plenty of money to throw around, so it's worth being polite to them, just in case.
Pirate Nations: There's nothing wrong with men making a living through force of arms. The threat of pirates keeps many Eisen employed, and their trade often goes to Freiburg, where it helps the Eisen economy even more. The Eisen will not profit if something happens to the pirates.
Sarmatian Commonwealth: The Sarmatians are an odd bunch. Almost like two different families living under the same roof. On one hand, they've given rights to all their citizens, and on the other, they're making deals with demons. A strange Naiton, to be sure. Not exactly sure how to even begin trusting them.
Ussura: The Ussurans are strong, quiet people, if a bit skittish. An Eisen could scarcely ask for a better traveling companion, since they keep to themselves unless there's a fight - in which case they're perfectly capable of holding their own.
Vestenmennavenjar: Although the VEstenmannavenjar are partially responsible for the War of the Cross, they are stout fighters and able craftsmen. Therefore, the Eisen respect them...but do not forget.
Vodacce: The Vodacce weave a web of lies around their victims and then descend to feast upon their helpless bodies. If there's a Vodacce around, always keep an eye on him, or he's bound to stick a dagger in your back.

Overall, Eisen's main changes are the Horrors. Eisen is full of horrorshow monsters, and that's honestly a good thing. Before, it was mostly just Depression Central with some asshole poisoners. I'm not honestly sure why Posen's Eisenfurst had her name changed, but whatevs. The replacement of Coma Dude with Probably A Vampire Lady was definitely a good one. Besides that, not much has changed except for Stefan Heilgrund possibly not being a villain.

The Importance Of Scotland

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: The Importance Of Scotland

The Highland Marches are surprisingly important on the world stage, and always have been. They aren't especially powerful or rich, but their ability to support or disrupt Elaine and her rule makes them extremely pivotal in Avalon's bid to join the world powers. Because of that, Avalon's foes have sought them out as a weak link...and the Highlanders are more than ready to follow the lead of their king, James MacDuff II, in using that status as a weapon. The Marches themselves are wet, foggy and rocky, with bad roads, banditry and lots of vicious beasts. Most travelers prefer horseback or carriages to walking, and the lack of major rivers means that boat travel is rare. The weather is distinctly unpleasant and there are few sunny days, though the frosts rarely get too severe. The food, like the weather, is heavy and rarely changes. Mostly, it's sheep in all of its varieties, though with the discovery of the New World, potatoes have been added to the menu as well, and carrots also grow well there. Most food is boiled or stewed, and fancy preparation is seen as wasteful.

The Highlanders tend to be tall, and their clothing is practical by necessity, made for warmth and comfort over fashion. Men wear kilts by tradition, in the tartan of their family or clan. Kilts form a sash also, which is worn over the shoulder or unpinned to serve as a kind of blanket. Nobles favor giant claymores over the more continental rapier, and wear them almost all the time - even at Parliament. Beyond that, their fashion is similar to Avalon's. Women fvor dresses and pleated skirts, usually rather less decorative than those of other nations, and made of strong and warm fabrics. Hats are rare, but women often wear flowers or ribbons in their hair. Clan and family are very important in the Highlands, though they have very little political power outside the island. Clan tartans are worn in public almost constantly, and dances and folk songs are favored for their ancestral allegiances. Foreigners usually have trouble telling them apart, but locals can easily distinguish a song from one valley over that of another. Indeed, county lines are often drawn based on which dances and songs are used where. The reason this obsession with the old affiliations doesn't spark the old wars any more is that Highlanders draw a clear difference between cultural identity and national pride. It's essnetially like sports fandom - you can wear your colors and sing your anthem proudly, but you're not going to identify as a Red Sox fan before you identify as an American, so to speak, at least outside the occasional bar brawl. After all, six centuries of subjugation by Montaigne and Avalon has a bonding effect.

Officially, women are second-class citizens in the Highlands. They are forbidden property ownership, political office and the appearance of equality. Women cannot sit at Parliament or serve as clan leaders. However, in practice, things aren't quite like that. Most Highland houses rely on the women to run them, and without them, the country wouldn't get anything done. Women are also the traditional caretakers of finances, and they run the banks to the extent that bills are generally addressed to 'the lady of the household.' Noblemen usually defer to their wives over all other advice, and while no woman holds elected office, many are informal community leaders. The army does admit women soldiers, though they make up a tiny proportion of it - albeit one that contains some of the greatest heroes of the Highlands, including the most notorious privateer of Elaine's fleet, Bloody Bonnie McGee.

The Highland nobles are slowly integrating with those of Avalon as the nations grow closer. Most of them still run large farming estates full of gardens and moors, and their education is primarily via home tutors, though some head to Avalon for formal schooling. While the nobles embrace the trappings of sophisticated culture and enjoy the subtleties of hunting, debate and so on, most Highlander nobles prefer to work in politics to being passive. Most of them are patriots, working to better those they lead or themselves rather than focus on mindless diversions. Of course, other countries tend to see them as quaint and backwards, given their isolation. The peasants have a hard life, though the growind middle class has been making things a little better. Most peasants work on the farms owned by the nobilities or wealthy merchant landlords. However, as education and science spread, their lot is improving. More and more are heading to the cities to seek their fortune as merchants or shopkeeps. Generally, Highlander peasants keep to themselves, respect their betters and try to make the most of their lives. They can be quite cheerful, however, and are known to love drinking, singing and competition.

The greatest virtue, for the Highlanders, is honesty. Opposing another is no sin if stated openly, and the idea of a 'good clean fight' is dominant in Highland politics. Promises are rare, but if given, they are held sacred - one's oath is one's good name, and no Highlander will consciously break their word. However, this applies only to the people of the Glamour Isles. Foreigners may be deceived freely, and often are tricked into believing a solemn oath that is broken at the worst possible moment. Beyond that, their etiquette is similar to Avalon's. Men tip their hats to ladies and are respectful of rank, and while honesty makes them coarser than in less open nations, the Highlanders still expect politeness or a good explanation. They're also quicker to fight than many, and duels are considered always appropriate as a way to solve a dispute.

Clan politics traditionally have been the mainstay of the Highlands, with clan dominance being the focus even under Montaigne rule. However, this is changing as clan loyalty shifts to broader political parties. The Highland Parliament is made of the heads of each major Clan, who inherit their seats, and the old rivalries are shifting from blood feud to debate. They are overseen by the High King, who is a direct descendant of Robert I and oversees all meetings and executes Parliament's edicts. He is the shaper of policy and often controls the agenda. He can tehcnically act without approval, but risks censure and rebellion if he does. It is an unspoken rule that the king respects Parliament's decisions, and in turn gets their approval when he puts forth issues. Currently, the Parliament is divided between the Unionists, who support Elaine's rule, and the Separatists, who want independence. The Unionists are the majority, but the Separatists have been growing. King MacDuff is a Unionist of some passion and has been keeping them in check in the belief that the Highlands can gain strength while remaining largely autonomous as part of the United Kingdoms. Independence, he feels, would leave them weak and unprotected by Elaine's privateers, allowing for easy invasion. He doesn't want to throw away practical freedom for theoretical independence.

The main cities of the Highland Marches are Kirkwall and Connickmoor. Kirkwall was built during a centuries-old Vesten invasion, and has stood many sieges since. Now, it is the King's keep and embqassy, and he can generally be found here. The clans meet in the grand hall once a year, and during that week, Kirkwall's population triples and a grand fair is held. Connickmoor is the home of the MacBrides and the center of the Separatist Movement. The MacBride clan leader dreams of independence, but has been constantly stopped by the support for the alliance between MacDuff and Elaine. However, MacBride is a patient man.

The rest of the world sees the Highland Marches as nothing but a vassal state to Avalon. However, the Highlanders maintain strong ties to the Vestenmennavenjar, which has allowed wealth and prosperity to enter their lands fairly often.

Inismore is the other 'vassal state'. For centuries, the Inish were ruled by cruel Avalon kings who outlawed their language, taxed them heavily and enforced order by violence. Many Inish still hate and distrust the Avalon monarchy, even though Elaine holds the Graal. They dislike the phrase 'Avalon Isles', but they know more than any the power and importance of the Graal. Only a worthy monarch may hold it, and that means Elaine is worthy. And yes, she reduced the tax and made Inish legal again, and yes, the military rule is over, and yes, the island has its own king, even if he's mad. But more than that, the Inish know Glamour is frail and weak. If she does but one thing wrong, Elaine could lose the Graal - and with it, the isles would fall to chaos. Thus, the Inish do not support Elaine out of love or loyalty to her. Rather, they are loyal to Inismore, for they know that if Elaine falls, the terrors begin again, and the Inish would do anything to stop that.

The Inish tend to the shorter side, and it is said that when the world was made, the greatest sorcerers ever cast a Gesa, a compelling spell, on the island. It made the code of conduct that has ruled Inish blood for millenia, a code foreign to most outsiders until they visit Inismore. It's all about your reputation. The Inish would kill themselves before doing anything to disgrace their good names. Now, what is honorable and what isn't is very strictly defined by the Gesa of Inismore - and it applies to all, even the king. Indeed, the Inish view of their king is 'the best among equals', quite unlike the rest of Theah. The Gesa is divided into three Great Laws and the Fourth Law that is invoked only when those are broken.

The Law of Hospitality says that friends and strangers alike must be treated well. The King maintains hostels along the roads that will feed and bed a traveler without charge, and in which no weapon of any kind is permitted under the King's Peace. Breaking that peace is punishable only by death. A host that turns a guest away or treats them badly is at great risk of reputation loss, and word spreads quickly among the Inish. Abusing hospitality is just as bad, of course. Generosity is also part of this law - a man is judged by kindness of heart and generosity with money. Those who have have a duty to help those who need, and a man with full pockets that cannot spare a coin is a fool and a monster.

The Law of Bravery states that it is better to die horribly but with courage than to live blissfully as a coward. More important than anything else is how you are remembered after your death, for you are immortal only in memory. The Inish are a proud people, and that pride prevents them from showing pain, doubt or fear - which has given them a rather casual attitude towards violence. Fistfights can be friendly, and they're always respectful...even if triggered at the drop of a hat. Weapons are never used, of course - just fists, until one man cannot get up again without aid. Then the winner helps him up and buys him a drink. The winner always pays - it's a sign of respect for a man who fought until he could not stand, never giving up.

The Law of Loyalty states that a man must always keep his promises, no matter the cost. However, no man can be expected to keep a promise that would make him break the Three Laws, of course. That'd be dishonorable. A man's loyalty is owed to his lord, but his first loyalty is always to his honor - a fact that confuses many Theans. The first and most important concern of all Inish is that their honor is kept intact. Others may find this troublesome, but individualism and honor are taken very seriously on Inismore. Outsiders often see them as arrogant as a result, but it's core to their pride.

The fourth law, only ever invoked once one of the Three is broken, is the Law of Justice. Inish law is not about preventing crime, but punishing it. Any injustice is brought to right, no matter how hard it may be. Justice may not be fast, but it cannot be evaded. Foreigners often see this trait of the island as coincidence, but the Inish know it isn't. Fate intervenes. Justice, to the Inish, is a responsibility. If you witness a transgression, you are dutybound to make it right. You cannot ignore it. The only way to rectify a wrong you've done is to atone with a quest that puts your name clear. Often, this includes three impossible tasks, all of which a good Inishman will try to do, even if it means death. Hell, dying is probably the best way to clear your name.

Inish fashion is extremely traditional - leggings, long-sleeved shirts and cloaks, all wool, with leather boots and belts. No buttons. Lots of jewelery of all kinds, often with intricate knot patterns. The Inish farm practically all year round, and the island is pretty much two-thirds farmland, primarily barley, dairy, hay, potatoes, poultry, sugar beets, wheat and livestock. Fishing is also common. Inish music is primarily singing, and their customs and traditions are built into their songs, with subjects that vary from rebellion against tyranny to war to love to whiskey. The most important part of this is the bard, one of the Inish learned class. They are unique to Inismore, found in noble courts telling stories and writing songs.

Inish religion says that the gods live in far Shadowlands, which can be reached by magic only, though the gates are long closed. The Inish don't especially care about them, honestly. They worship at the right times, on the right nights, but otherwise the gods aren't important, except to note that anyone can become a god, with strong enough glamour. The Inish believe glamour is reputation, and that it has a direct tie to the afterlife. The stronger your legend, the more glamour you're given, and some of the greatest gods were once ordinary people whose legend outlived them, giving them a path to the Shadowlands. That's why you never call an Inish a coward - their reputation matters so much that they have to prove they're not. The keepers of these old waysa re the druids, men and women who hide for a century, until the O'Bannon returned and they could come out into the sun. They aren't always sorcerers - they're teachers who know the secrets of the world, the patterns that show up again and again. They know the right herbs and when to pick them, how to guard against disaster, because they are taught. And because others do not know it, the knowledge looks like magic. Bards are initiate druids, spending their lives learning the secret knowledge by wandering, telling stories and making new ones. They see the patterns as they wander, learning to recognize and understand them as well as serving as messengers with the aid of 'seven-league striders', the magic boots that can cross Inismore in a single day.

Inismore is divided into 26 counties, each of which has one representative in Parliament under the ard ri, the High King of Inismore, who rules from Donega. Outside the town is the Fal Stone, a holy artifact that weeps and sings if the ard ri kisses it. Most of Inismore is lowlands but for the core of the isle, which is mountain. There is no place on the island that is more than a hundred miles from water, and boats and ports are very important to the Inish. The climate is mild and warm, but very wet indeed. The rivers are never dammed or blocked for fear of Sidhe vengeance, as the Sidhe live in the waters and sacred lakes. The most sacred are those with an island in the middle, as the Inish say they are gateways to the Sidhe lands. Perhaps oddly, the most prominent buildings are foreign castles along the shore, built by invaders and now rulked by the people they were meant to keep out.

The O'Bannon is the High King, but he must deal with Parliament, which was established centuries ago by the Avalon invaders. The O'Bannon has neither the time nor patience to deal with the nobles, though, and dislikes his authority being questioned. The economy is essentially linked to that of Avalon, and the coinage is similar. The Vendel guilds have a growing presence in the ports of Donega, Dunkeen and Darwah. Donega, the capital, is largest, due to fishing and trade. It was cursed in the year 00, but the O'Bannon broke the curse by bleeding on the Fal STone. Dunkeen was the center of Avalon rule and is now the main trade city of Inismore, sitting on several Montaign and Vodacce trade routes. Darwah is the port that trades only with the Highlands. It is ruled by the O'Tooles, whom the O'Bannon removed from the throne when he returned. They make no secret of their distaste for the ard ri, but have so far done nothing to sabotage him.

The Inish military is about 90% untrained soldiers and 10% professionals - but those 10% are the important ones. The average Inish army is a mass of madmen led by wild fanatics, and their tactics are unconventional at best. While they're always outnumbered, they are entirely unpredictable, so generals hate fighting them. They have no navy, but have sent hundreds to join the Avalon privateers, and their marines are legendary. For the rest of Theah, they're just Avalon's angry little sibling - no navy, no army, no real economy, no embassies, no threat. The king is a boor and a madman, so why visit? And, honestly, the Inish are okay with that.

Overall, the Highlands and Inismore haven't changed much if at all since 1e, though there's less hinting that James loves Elaine and less talking about how totally awesome and invincible the O'Bannon is. In 1e, he was an unstoppable fae supergod with infinite Glamour power. Here, he's...well, probably immortal and fae, still annoyingly crazy and all that, but at least I don't have to read much about it. I'd still prefer him being gone, though.

Next time: Montaigne.

The French Are Still Assholes

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: The French Are Still Assholes

Montaigne is the nation that leads Theah's culture, art and architecture. Until quite recently, it was at war with Castille, and the peasants suffered greatly from the war, but the nobles have become quite rich on it. Montaigne itself is resource-rich, with farmland as far as you can see in any direction. The cities are separated by vast gulfs of peasant hovel surrounded by arable and heavily worked land, and the cities are immense and wealthy beyond measure, ignoring the life of the rural peasants outside. Everything about noble life revolves around the Sun King, l'Empereur du Montaigne, Leon Alexandre. He's chopped the land up into small parcels, each ruled by a duke, with each duke served by some number of marquis to attend to day-to-day work. They report to the Empereur, but never actually tell him anything is trouble - they are expected to solve that before he hears about it. The life of the nobles is rich, with no understanding of moderation. For the peasantry, life is simple, with minimal education, large families and quiet lives of respectable desperation. Until recently, all men over the age of 15 were conscripted to the military, and many have come back broken or dead, so the farming is largely taken care of by daughters and widows.

It was once tradition for all weddings to be in spring, but the Castillian war changed that - the men would be given leave in winter, when the fighting slowed, you see, and they'd marry quickly and have as much sex as possible before being shipped back to the front. Peasant families are encouraged to be large, to provide more manpower. Nobles, on the other hand, rarely have many children - usually no more than two or three, as Montaigne law states that only the eldest inherits. More than one heir is prudent, but more than three is bad manners...if you aren't l'Empereur and his nine daughters, anyway. Montaigne peasants are hospitable and direct in their words, but the nobility are all about inference. Nothing said is ever what is meant, but instead relies on precedent and metaphor, and diplomats from foreign lands hate being posted to Montaigne as a result, despite the excellent food and lodging. It is considered the greatest rudeness to force someone to have to respond directly, especially on a controversial subject, and the banter can be practically painful in its need to make light of serious situations so no one has to address them. Wit is valued highly - as is intrigue, the favored hobby of the Montaigne court. They are playfully vicious about plot and scandal, and the Montaigne nobles seem to be natural spies as a result of their hobbies. They are also welcome just about everywhere, as the trendsetters of fashion and culture.

The Montaigne army forced the Vaticine church out of the country, and the nobles have reveled in their newfound theological freedom, while the peasants are terrified of their possible godless status. The nobles are decadent in the extreme, with so much wealth they have no idea how to use it all except on mischief and extravagance. The entire nation has been excommunicated, and while the nobles don't care, it has broken the morale of the peasants, and some are willing to kill over it. Still, despite all this, the land is beautiful and rich, opulent in every sense. The Church, before it left, warned that the massive overfarming and overly active production would ruin the land if kept up, but there haven't been major failures yet and no one is worried. After all, the climate is kind and the farms still produce well.

Montaigne nobles are all fashion-obsessed, with excellent and often complex grooming and hair. Peasants tend to have thick hair, cut only once per year, and thick beards on the men. The classes are very firmly and strictly divided. The highest class is La Famille Royale, who have near absolute power. They consist of the Empereur, his wife, their immediate family, and the parents of former monarchs. Mostly, that's l'Empereur's 9 daughters (and 0 sons, which he's sore over), and his third wife, the Fate Witch Morella Alouse Giacinni. Her only child is Dominique, a girl with no magic whatsoever. His prior wife was mother of three, a Castillian, and died of, quote, 'feminine ills.' Below them are the noblesse, the proper nobility - the Dukes and Marquis. Dukes outrank Marquis by right of owning land and descending from the founding families of Montaigne, while the Marquis are their siblings, who control most of the wealth in exchange for overseeing life in the ducal provinces. Under them are the petite noblesse, the gentry. These are people who are noble by virtue of wealth only, lacking both land and responsibility. Some inherit, some lie and steal, but all that matters is they have the cash. They live extravagantly and avoid politics. On equal footing with them are the noblesse errante, those nobles who have somehow lost their lands and chosen instead to serve in the courts as bureaucrats, courtiers or diplomats under a patron. Just below them are the courtier class, the talented commoners that serve to entertaint he nobles with their skills - poets, jesters, prostitutes, actors, writers. Merchants and priests who possess enough wealth can also be considered of this class, though they can quickly be driven out if they don't understand the rules of the court and accidentally offend the powerful.

Below these nobles are the scholars, who have recently become quite popular due to the rise of exploration. While scholars and philosophers have traditionally been well-regarded and supporting them was a matter of noble prestige, archaeologists are the current stars, and most noblesse vie to keep them on hand and build private libraries to attract them, often at great expense. Below them are the merchants and craftsmen, most of whom belong to the Vendel League and thus make a decent income. Some sign exclusive contracts with Montaigne nobles, who love the air of superiority it gives them. Lowest of all are the peasantry, who must work to ensure the rest of the system doesn't collapse. Their life is hard indeed, especially compared to the luxuries and privileges afforded to peasants of other nations such as Vodacce or Castille. They usually work upwards of 60 hours a week, no matter their age or health, tending to the lands owned by the nobles.

Montaigne etiquette is all about avoiding confrontation, at least among nobles, and blending in. They are subtle and conflict-averse to the point that they can talk for hours without actually saying anything, and that is admired far more than honesty. Fashion and trend make parties difficult and tiring to organize, but they remain very common, although most prefer to fund the parties that others host, at least outside the bold, trendsetting cities of Paix, Charouse and Crieux. The peasants tend to be more kind and inviting, despite their hard lives. They have learned not to complain, and they keep as clean as they can in their squalor. While visitors often complain about rudeness or vulgarity in the cities, the rural peasants are universally beloved by visitors.

Peasants rarely own more than one set of clothes; nobles rarely less than fifty. Porte sorcerers are especially easy to pick out among nobles due to their gloves and cosmetics, used to hide the blemishes that form on their arms and hands. Noble fashion generally consists of many materials of great expense, and while royal blue and gold are always popular, they come in many colors indeed. Rococo floral patterns are almost never out of style, and dark colors are seen as ugly and insulting. The Mode du Lac, or Fashion Society, dictates the trends across Theah at least to some extent, and they have grown close with the Vendel League to help spread their message. Men typically follow the Mode, but women may diverge if the queens of Theah end up wearing different outfits than are dictated by the Mode. Likewise, the nobles eat richly, with imported meat, fish and other products that are seen as rare and exotic. Vodacce food, especially, is popular right now, and Montaigne cooking is considered the most innovative in the world. Grapefruit and cantaloupe are also growing in popularity, as are truffles. Merchants generally eat a less exotic but still solid and filling diet, often heavy in breads and imported Castillian crops, while the peasants make do with beans, moldy bread, discarded or old vegetables, spoiled wine and dirty water. The food they grow never fills their own bellies - it goes to feed the nobles or for export, save for what little the peasants can skim and hide from the tax collectors.

Montaigne custom embraces humor, particularly humor that mocks others or even the self, as long as it does not cross certain lines. Those who go too far are ostracized from polite society quickly, and it is not rare for those gifted in ridicule to be popular until they screw up, at which point all abandon them nearly immediately. However, ironically, situations that become so delicate as to be explosive are safer - everyone joins in the ridicule, called 'the game', to make life easier on everyone else - which most outsiders never really grasp. Montaigne do not touch their spouses publically, except sometimes when dancing, but commonly embrace friends or courtiers publically. Touching friends while laughing, particularly in the hand or chest, is also common, as is fanning one's face. Montaigne art and music are as trendsetting as their fashion and philosophy, and it is full of artists and musicians. Harps and string instruments are preferred, while percussion is disdained - for now. Wolffrond von Hazel is working to change that. He's seven years old and considered the greatest musical talent of the last century. He's Eisen-born, but he came on tour with his parents to Montaigne, as they hope to find a patron to support him. He's very popular.

Until the early 1600s, the Montaigne were a very spiritual people, strongly Vaticine, but as the morals of Kings Leon XII and XIII were terrible, the moral fiber of society decayed. The Church's influence on the Montaigne nobles is now essentially nonexistant. They promote banned books and secular movements, what churches remain are heavily taxed, and l'Empereur is openly atheist. The peasants, with the exception of direct servants of nobles, tend to fear they're damned. The Church has worked to try and keep the masses happy and alleviate their strain, but even many Church officials turn a blind eye when the soldiers arrive with gold as "gifts." There is no Cardinal in Montaigne any more, and all of its Bishops are in seclusion or missing, leaving only the Monsignors and priests to lead the flock. They have a rough job of it.

Governance is, surprisingly, actually functional. The politics are Byzantine at best, built on a web of connection and intrigue and rumor, but results happen...as long as you have the wealth and knowledge of how to make it happen. Montaigne has doubled in size since the War of the Cross, and it relies heavily on the nobles to lead and organize things, while they use the new land to grow rich. On average, Montaigne has the highest standard of living in Theah - though the peasants do rather drag it down. Heavy tariffs on trade keep the coffers full, and the nobles' consumption vastly outstrips their production and export...which means that if they ever hit hard times, the nation would be in deep trouble. But they've never had economic problems, so why worry? Their coinage is the soleil, though the Guilder is equally popular, with merchants preferring to take in Guilders and give soleils as change.

The military was once an austere, elite group, but now, it's size is tripled due to conscription, and its command structure is dwindling and largely inexperienced. Most of them are peasants with talent but no real experience, and few nobles bother to enlist. The conscription, of course, applies only to peasants. The losses in Castille were a harsh lesson for the poor and the soldiers, but the rich learned nothing. Many grew wealthy off the war and few nobles died, after all. It hardly helps that the current leader of the Navy, High Admiral Alceste Valois de Praisse III, is the most ostentatious military leader in years. He spends more time at court than at sea, always assuring l'Empereur that the pirates are no threat nearby...though his patrol orders have left the bay west of Crieux essentially unguarded.

The elites still exist, however. The Musketeers serve as police, guards for nobles in transit and agents to perform any number of tasks for the royal family. They swear to serve l'Empereur and wield a rapier, tabard and musket as signs of authority, with each blade specially forged and fitted to their grip, the tabard bearing the royal crest and the musket inlaid with silver. Musketeer recruits must be accepted by a council of 20 serving Musketeers, and they never have more than 1000 members at any time, with old soldiers retiring and new ones joining each spring to maintain peak efficiency. Each would fight to the death for any other, and the trust and loyalty between them is legendary. They are not, however, the personal guard of the Empereur - that honor belongs to the Lightning Guard, who are formed from the best Musketeers only. The force has existed for 600 years now as devoted and righteous defenders of the monarchy, as well as couriers, escorts, investigators and ambassadors.

quote:

Avalon: Though the constant shuffling of government between Montaigne and Avalon has long since settled and commerce across the Montaigne Strait is at an all-time high, long-standing grudges continue between the two nations. Montaigne and Avalon have moved on to new conflicts, however, and internal struggles within both nations serve to keep these hostilities buried at the moment.
Castille: The people of Montaigne have never respected the Castillians, resenting their booming agriculture and export business and holding the daily siesta in contempt. The Montaigne nobility considered the war to be a righteous cause - a blow against the domineering morality of the Vaticine Church - but even the lower classes felt that the Castillians were undeserving of their riches. Most commoners found the war to be a reasonable response to the insults and indignities the Castillians forced on Montaigne over years of trade negotiations and border disputes.
Eisen: The Treaty of Weissburg ended open hostilities between Montaigne and Eisen, but the emotions beneath those angry blows remain. The Montaigne have made an enemy of the Eisen, though it may not appear that way to those outside the conflict. Both sides have made a very public display of trading resources with one another, including employing Eisen generals at the Montaigne trading grounds.
Pirate Nations: Montaigne's navy currently spends most of its time defending trade ships from pirates. The Vendel League recently offered to supply additional mercenary ships as escort vessels, but l'Empereur has not acknowledged their offer.
Sarmatian Commonwealth: Peasants voting? Surely, no. Enough with that. Bring the wine.
Ussura: There has been little contact between Montaigne and Ussura. They are distant from one another, for one thing, and it is simply easier to negotiate with other Nations that are closer to Montaigne. Yet...l'Empereur often asks questions of visiting nobles and dignitaries about the Ussuran land and people, hinting that he may pursue another military campaign when he grows tired of his latest artistic endeavors. Some of his generals have suggested he look west or north instead of so far east, but - so far - he has remained noncommittal about his plans.
Vestenmennavenjar: Montaigne maintains contact with Vesten primarily through the League and its economic charters, which regularly strain their resources. Were it not for a series of tariffs set in place by l'Empereur and his council, the constant machinations of the Vendel League might have caused tensions between these Nations. Despite their differences, both Montaigne and Vesten agree on one thing: luxury goods are wasted on the rest of Theah when Montaigne is willing to pay so much for the best that the Vendel League has to offer.
Vodacce: Montaigne's trade relations with Vodacce are certainly more agreeable, and profitable, than those with any other nation in Theah, for many reasons. First and foremost, the Montaigne love items produced by the Vodacce, whom they consider "larger than fashion." Rumors abound, however, that l'Empereur - who has made an enemy of, or alienated, everyone else - is laying the foundation for a future political alliance.

The biggest change here is the wars. The Castillian War is officially over and Montaigne lost, though the nobles have not seemed to notice that loss. The Ussuran War has not yet started. So that's some timeline shifting that is probably for the better, because the active wars were always a bit weird for making international parties of patriots. Other than that, the nobles remain utterly awful and the Revolution is clearly building up, but has not reached a head yet or even really threatened. It will clearly happen at some point, but it's going to take a while.

Oh, and we lost the metaplot about l'Empereur shoving the Not Pope down the stairs. Honestly? Okay with that.

Next time: The Sarmatian Commonwealth.

These Guys Own, Actually, Like, A Lot

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: These Guys Own, Actually, Like, A Lot

The Sarmatian Commonwealth was once two kingdoms - Rzeczpospolita (more commonly referred to as Rzeplita) and Curonia. However, around 100 years ago, the King of Rzeplita was also the Grand Duke of Curonia and decided to formally unite the kingdoms as a nation most others now call the Commonwealth, though the cost was that the united aristocrats forced a series of compromises on him to limit his power and form the Sejm (pronounced 'same'), a parliament of nobles that would serve as the royal council. By 1667, IE, last year, the sixteen-man council was consumed by corruption and petty politics of wealthy nobles and bishops. The aged, dying king had little power, and the Commonwealth seemed sure to follow him to the grave...but his son found a solution, a cure to the poison of corruption: he'd make all citizens noble. Thus was the Land of Golden Liberty formed. The Golden Liberty has given every citizen of the Commonwealth the right to vote in the Sejm, which has dramatically shifted the balance of power. Of course, all isn't bright - the old voices of the dievai, the dark powers of the shadowed forest and the crossroads, whisper promises of power to those who will make deals with them.

Rzeczpospolita tends to the temperate, with warm summers and cold winters, and rain and snow are common. It lies southwest of Curonia, and most of it is plains and marsh with a number of forests throughout. The river Sejm (renamed by the Sejm in honor of themselves 50 years back) crosses the entire nation, starting in Ussura and ending in Vodacce, which serves as an excellent trade route for Ussura, who have no good access to the southern seas - and thus a good source of fees for the Sarmatians. Curonia in the north is mostly marsh, except for the cursed and haunted Sandaras Forest.

Until recently, the Sejm was just sixteen powerful nobles and clergymen who'd gained their power by politicking, commerce and threats of revolt. The Kings of the Commonwealth signed away most of their rights to the Sejm, but...well, that all changed last year. Just eighteen months before start of game, in fact. See, the Commonwealth was paralyzed and dying, because every member of the Sejm had the right of liberum veto - that is, any single posel ('representative') could kill any legislation by declaring they wouldn't allow it. End of discussion, everyone's done. The rule had been introduced to officially reflect that all members were equal, with equal say, but cynicism and posturing meant nothing got done. King Stanislaw I was dying, and his presumed heir, Stanislaw II, locked himself away in the Royal Library to see if he could do literally anything to make the kingdom survive. He discovered something that'd work. See, any Royal Decree could be vetoed, given the things the kings had signed, with one exception: the declaration of noble title. The King could do that still and no one could stop him. And so, he convinced his father to make one final Decree: all citizens of the Commonwealth would henceforth be nobles, granted the proper title of Sir or Madame, and would have the right to vote in the Sejm. It would take effect within 30 days, and the Sejm could not stop it or prevent it any way. A true democracy would exist. Within hours, they voted unanimously to remove the liberum veto. Stanislaw I also survived an assassination attempt within those hours, thanks to the work of a brave party led by his son and his son's fiance (now wife), a Vodacce Fate Witch.

Now, every Sarmatian may travel to the Sejm and vote, if they choose. Not all do, but they know they can. If the Sejm wants to go to war, the army can turn up to vote against it. If the Sejm wants to raise taxes, the merchants can vote against it. It is the first democracy to exist since the very, very earliest days of the Numanari Empire, and the people are very proud of it. Classes do still exist, but they're blurring. Nobles remain powerful, peasants poor, merchants rich - but it's all shifting. Anyone can walk into the Sejm and call a vote, and while most of these 'common votes' are struck down, well, the real politics is when an entire village shows up to push an issue. The power and privilege of rank are slowly eroding, bit by bit.

Curonia and Rzeplita are two distinct cultures still, but over the last century they've started to merge. The main difference is religion. Most Rzeplitans are devout Vaticines, sometimes extremely so, while most Curonians follow an ancient faith that reveres old spirits and gods. Both see themselves as holy warriors, blessed by divinity - they just disagree on which divinity. Some Rzeplitans see Curonians as heathen, while some Curonians see Rzeplitans as traitors, but they tend to tolerate each other for the sake of the Commonwealth. Both groups are heavily influenced by the fashions, food and philosophies of the neighboring Crescent Empire, and turbans, long coats and elaborate belts are common in all classes, while the most popular sword, the szabla, is based on a scimitar. However, the last year has seen a shift in fashions with the rise of Sarmatism, a sort of idealized chivalry drawn from the legendary past of Rzeczpospolita. The nobles, seeking to distinguish themselves, began to wear clothing popular centuries ago, thick moustaches and long, braided hair, and to carry szablas once more, along with heavily plumed, gigantic hats. The fad boomed, and became embraced by the peasants and merchants as well, with the most popular item being the pas kontuszowy, the cloth belt in dashing color. Among Rzeplitans, it has become a way of declaring nobility of spirit - of being a just, honorable and righteous person, not a greedy pig. Curonian nobles are getting into it, but the Curonian common folk tend to think poorly of Sarmatism.

The currency of the Sarmatians is the zloty, made of one hundred grosz. However, the Golden Liberty has seen the Guilder eclipse both coins in popularity. Rzeplitan food tends to be an eclectic mix of tastes from Eisen, Vodacce and the Crescent Empire, heavy on cream and eggs and kielbasa. They also love soups, and their pierozkies (pierogies) have become extremely popular in Castille and Montaigne. Curonian food is more Ussuran, with a lot of pork and potatoes and dumplings. Cranberries are also common to both, and have become a new export crop that is popular in Avalon, as Queen Elaine loves them.

The Vaticine have been quite powerful since the 1300s, but they've never been able to root out the old faith, and most people, even devout Vaticines, still believe in ancient spirits - ancient, powerful and dangerous. This is because, frankly, they exist. The old gods are still here: the dievai. The Vaticines name them czorts, a Rzeplitan word meaning 'demons', but most call them dievai - 'gods'. Singular dievas. Avalon scholars have claimed they may be the lost court of the unseelie Sidhe, but while they look similar, there are some key differences between Sidhe and Dievai. Sidhe tend to be destructive but largely impersonal beings - essentially wandering natural events. Dievai are anything but. They love to disguise themselves as mortals, befriending heroes and revealing themselves only when they must. They travel the land freely, and so you can never say if the man you meet is mortal or...something else. Best to be polite. That's not to say the Curonians worship dievai - they just recognize them as gods that can change your life on a whim. The priests know how to deal with spirits but are not inherently sorcerers...though it's more common among them than among others, because of the nature of the dievai, who love to make bargains - 'Sanderis', in Curonian. The Vaticines see them as deals with devils, and the dievai may love wagers and bargains, but only at a cost. Maybe your hair, maybe your first child, maybe service. The Church rightly regards Sanderis as extremely dangerous as a practice, but they can't stop it. It's been going on for centuries before they ever showed up, and getting rid of that tradition would take more time than they're willing to put in. They don't like it, but what can you do?

The Sejm's changes in the past year have led to a lot of governmental reforms. After all, now everyone can vote - and so the stroz exist, the watchmen. They are paid to sit in the Sejm chambers and watch for votes starting, when they then go outside and ring bells to inform the city that the voting is beginning. It's an unofficial position, but necessary after two attempts to sneak votes through by night. The commoners work in shifts to ensure there's always a stroz on hand, just in case. The King himself is easily the least powerful monarch in the entirety of Theah. He's basically a goodwill ambassador to other nations and his castle serves as the embassy for visiting dignitaries to stay in. He can make laws, but the Sejm can veto them by simple majority - harder now than it once was, of course. He may also grant noble title, but since everyone already has it, that's basically pointless now. Beyond that, he is limited by the Walezy Articles, signed in the 1550s.

quote:

The King is chosen by the Sejm; his offspring does not inherit the throne.
The King may not make new laws or taxes without the Sejm's approval.
The King's marriages must be approved by the Sejm.
The King may not dissolve the Sejm.
The King must create a royal advisory board who shall be present to oversee his decisions.
The King may not declare war without approval of the Sejm.
The King must provide for a standing army.
The King must protect the religious freedom of all citizens.
The King may be removed from office with a majority vote of the Sejm.

Stanislaw I is a just, fair man, but he is extremely old. The people love his son, calling him Stanislaw II even now, before his selection, but very little is certain in these times, and the Prince has many enemies. He recently married his Vodacce fiance, the witch Domenica Vespucci, and she helped save King Stanislaw's life with him. Some do not trust her motives, but both King and Prince would trust her with their lives and those of their people. The Sejm itself is divided into two houses - the Senat ('Senate'), made of the old Sejm before the Golden Liberty, and the Izha Poselska ('House of Deputies') whom the Senat look down as a lower house. The Izha Poselska has no official number and must be called to order by the King, who thought he would die shortly after his Decree. He has not, and while many love him, he is often unable to call them to order. Laws may start in either house, but both must agree to pass them via majority vote, and neither house likes the other. Thus, in order to get laws pass, each house tends to rewrite them and attach new legislation so that everyone can get part of what they want.

After the assassination attempt on King Stanislaw, the Senat insisted that they and he needed bodyguards. He refused at first, claiming that their rank didn't raise them over others, but eventually agreed conditionally - and so the slachta were reborn. In old Rzeczpospolita, see, there had been an order of knights devoted to honor and the protection of the Sejm and King. The new slachta must swear to abide by their ancient ideals, protecting not only Crown and Sejm, but all of the nation. The officers of the Sejm were made the first knights, given sacred duties. The king chooses six of these to be goodwill ambassadors, promoting justice and Golden Liberty beyond the nation's borders.

Both halves of the Commonwealth provide some military power, but about a third of the army is Curonian by birth. The army is largely volunteers, and is the largest standing force in Theah. Due to multiple clashes with the Ussurans and Crescents, they rely on speed and mobility over brute force, which is rather atypical. The most feared and famous regiment is the husaria, the Winged Hussars - the most dangerous cavalry unit on the continent. They are fearless, and so intimidating in full armor that they've driven forces five times their number from the field. The most common weapon among officers and slachta is the szabla, the Rzeplitan saber based on a scimitar, with a double-edged tip. The blade was originally for nobles only, but is now a symbol of solidarity. It is tradition now that the szabla is not a right - it is a distinction, and wearing one must be earned and maintained by showing true honor, courage and loyalty.

quote:

Avalon: Because of geographical distance, the Commonwealth has little interaction with the Glamour Isles; however, this has emboldened the activities of Elaine's privateers, giving them the courage to raid the southern seas. The ageing King paid little attention to their raids, but Stanislaw II has hired mercenary ships to guard the Commonwealth's trade routes, ensuring the Sea Dogs meet with cannon fire when they try to capture merchant vessels. Some suggested the Prince of the Commonwealth seek Elaine's hand in marriage. It would have been a great match: two great nations united. Stanislaw II considered the option but carried out his father's wishes to marry a Vodacce woman. The Prince knows Elaine's situation is just as perilous as his and hopes he can convince her to at least make a political alliance now that marriage is out of the question. However, the Prince often suspected it might have never been a legitimate question in the first place.
Castille: Castille is closer to the Commonwealth than Avalon in many ways. Half the Commonwealth is devoutly Vaticine, perhaps more devout than any other nation in Theah. Trade between the two countries is strong, bolstered by access through the southern seas. King Stanislaw has openly supported the Church on many occasions, though even he is reluctant to openly support the Inquisition. The Church's more recent activities have caused him to pause on many occasions.
Eisen: The Commonwealth refused to participate in the War of the Cross...until it came across the border. Then, both Curonian and Rzeplitan soldiers fought the invading armies, pushing them north and west, back into Eisen. More than a few disobeyed orders and continued fighting, looting and raiding the already ruined country. Needless to say, tensions still exist.
Montaigne: King Stanislaw is not impressed with the Sun King. He hears about the oppression of the Montaigne people, the wanton poverty, the abuses...everything the Golden Liberty stands against. His nation has diplomatic relations with Montaigne and both countries have embassies, but King Stanislaw seldom sees Montaigne's envoy. She's too busy drinking, flirting and attending lavish parties held by the Commonwealth's wealthier aristocracy.
Pirate Nations: The Commonwealth has a mixed relationship with La Bucca. For years, the King used Buccaneers to protect his trade ships. "Pay them now or pay them later," was his attitude. Now with the King near death, the Sejm has taken a dimmer view: "Buccaneers and pirates are all the same! Negotiating with pirates is like negotiating with your own kidnapper."
Ussura: Because Ussura has no warm-water ports, they must rely on others for overseas trade. Among that list of "others" is the Commonwealth. Ussura is one of the Commonwealth's most important trade partners. Couple that with both nations' proximity to the Crescent Empire and Cathay, and you can quickly understand the tight political bond between Ussura and the Commonwealth.
Vestenmennavenjar: Stanislaw I is forward-thinking enough to recognize that the Guilder is the path of the future. A single unit of commerce used all across the world, easing trade and making diplomacy easier? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Plus, the Vesten are far enough away to not be a military threat.
Vodacce: Zloczynca na Zachodzie: "The Villain of the West." That is how the Commonwealth addresses their neighbor. Vodacce holds an iron grip over southern sea trade and it seems they will never give it up. So long as Vodacce maintains their tyrannical hold over the southern seas, they will always be at odds with the Commonwealth. However, using the famous Merchant Princes against each other has been a reliable strategy so far. The Old King knew how to do that, but as he has grown older, as his wits have dimmed, his successes have faded into failures. Stanislaw II - should he win the throne - has this challenge before him. Establish new relationships with the Vodacce Princes, discover their petty jealousies, and turn those against them. It is a dangerous strategy, but the alternative is costly. Too costly.

These guys are new and I love them.

Next time: Ussura.

A Land Without A Future?

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: A Land Without A Future?

Ussura is seen as a backwards hinterland by most Theans, with a backwards faith and uneducated populace, whose nobles are barely noble at all. And yet, they say this with no small measure of fear, because the forests of Ussura have ears. Families in Ussura gather in the winter nights to tell stories of the Leshiye, the ancient spirits who give blessings and curses, and of the greatest of them all: Matushka, Mother Winter, who walks the woods with broom in hand to sweep children back to their homes...or to steal them and cook them if they do not show proper respect. Ussura is not kind or gentle, but its people are, and they are forged tougher than steel. The land is frozen almost all year, and when it isn't, it is coated in mud. They do not have working roads, dams or other modern infrastructure, and their hovels are primitive even by peasant standards.

If you actually talk to Ussurans, though, they are well fed. The place is not the wasteland it appears to be. The land produces crops almost impossibly, the people have luck with their traps, the fisherman gather hauls that'd make Avalon weep in envy. And yet, to those not born of Ussura, the land can seem actively malicious. Outsiders rarely find game, pick poison berries and mushrooms, lose track of landmarks. And yet the Ussurans wander through it all, wondering why everyone tells them Ussura is so harsh and inhospitable. Matushka provides all you need, does she not? If she is harsh, it is only to make them strong. The Ussurans are a short, broad people, and the nobles with the gift of sorcery can be told by the emerald green eyes that mark the favor of Matushka. (This is a change in 2e; in 1e, Matushka didn't exclusively grant her power to nobles.) Men typically wear long hair and beards, while women pull their hair back, and married women cover it with a babushka. They say that they care for the land, and so it cares for them. That's not to say the trees bear fruit on command or anything so silly - farming is still hard, but the good are rewarded and the bad punished. An Ussuran farmer that works hard through the year and puts his duty before his desire can expect a good harvest, even in a bad year. And no invasion of Ussura has ever gotten past the first river. Cathay's barbarian hordes died of plague and hunger, Eisen's General Johann von der Velde led an army into a deadly ice storm in the 500s...in midsummer. The Ussurans just accept this with practicality and good humor - it works. Why change it?

Ussura has two classes - muzhik and boyar. Muzhik are the peasantry, and they respect size and strength. Rural villages often hold contests of strength of all kinds, from arm wrestling to races to tug of war. Women are allowed to participate freely, but they tend to favor games where their greater stamina lets them make up for their lesser brawn. Boyars are the landowners, who collect a tax of crops in return for land usage. Their status is more to do with how much land they own, and while they sometimes take part in the games of strength, their power will never be as much if they have little land and great strength than if they are weak but wealthy. The greatest of the boyars are the royal family, whose head is known as the Czar or Czarina, a title taken from the Old Republic of Numa. While the title is usually inherited, the family that holds it can change if power shifts enough. All classes wear the same sorts of clothing - the long, warm clothes they call caftan. Boyars generally mark themselves by dying their clothing in bright reds and oranges, and active boyars that manage land favor bright red boots.

Muzhik eat a lot of bread, cabbage, bread, turnips, bread, cucumbers, bread, jam and bread, most popularly an unleavened bread called khleb. They eat eggs and milk more often than meat, which is usually taken only from the hunt. They also eat mushrooms, which they preserve as delicacies in winter. Their customs are dictated by the long winters and short summers. They work like madmen over the summer to get the crops harvested before first frost, and in winter, they spend most of their time in the home, near the stove, drinking and partying to make the isolation pass faster. Important talking is done over chay, a spiced tea, and is done at the kitchen table. Almost all families have a pechka, a central wood-burning stove, and guests are usually asked to sleep near or even on top of it for their comfort. On the last day of each week, the muzhiks take two hours out of their day to offer prayers of thanks to Matushka and the First Prophet at the village altar, typically led by the most educated man of the village. Most villages cannot actually afford a priest, see. Their most important day is Rebirth Day, third day of Corantine, which celebrates the eve of their bargain with Matushka. Every Ussuran, even children, pricks their left thumb with a needle and spills a drop of blood on the soil to nourish her, and the day is spent in song and prayer. In winter, families stay indoors and relax by telling stories, visiting neighbors, drinking and gaming. The game Squares has become extremely popular recently, as it takes several hours to play.

Because Ussura is so large and cold, no Ussuran would dare refuse hospitality to a visitor except under extreme circumstances. It's pretty much the same as murder to refuse them food and shelter, after all. Thus, they have a reputation for generosity. They have a relaxed attitude toward both table manners and casual nudity, and often partake in communal steam baths. After bathing in the steam as long as they can stand, bathers rub themselves down with snow or go swimming in a cold stream, then dry and redress. Foreigners are often shocked by the display - both out of scandal and awe at the ability to handle such brutal extremes. Ussuran carpentry is famous, especially their miniatures, and they are known to spend days on a single doll no bigger than a man's thumb. The work is often extremely detailed and precise, so much so that the seams are entirely invisible for foreigners. Every year, the town of Siev holds a great contest and woodcarvers come from across Ussura to compete, with prizes donated by attending boyars, varying wildly by year. Last year, the winner got a wonderful sleigh pulled by four fine dogs, and the year before that was 20 acres of land and the rank of minor boyar. Ussuran music is, by contrast, loud, boisterous and not entirely on-key. Most of the songs are deeply spiritual praises of the land, or fairy tales such as the legend of the first head of the Riasanovas, who earned the power to become the firebird. (It is unclear if this is a true story or not.)

The official faith of Ussura is the Ussuran Orthodox Church, which combines the teachings of the First Prophet with the native reverance for the leshiye - and most of all, Matushka. Matushka appears as an ancient matron with iron teeth and nails. Children must be polite to her, or she will eat them. However, she generously rewards respect. Ussurans hold that nature serves as a guide to behavior, and visitors that cannot understand this are often utterly baffled by Ussuran custom. The Orthodoxy ignores the Second and Third Prophets entirely, as they feel their messages go against the First's teachings and intent. Why change what works?

The Leshiye, on the other hand, are the nature spirits. They are ancient, powerful creatures that roam Ussura's wilds, blessing and cursing those they meet. All Leshiye are dangerous, even if usually beneficent. They are known to reward wisdom and punish disrespect, and they are no longer quite seen as gods. They are...something. Something other. The Orthodox Church has syncretized them into the faith in a way that most outsiders see as bizarre but Ussurans cannot deny. There are countless Leshiye, but some are greater than others. Matushka, of course, the Grandmother Winter, who is both cruel and giving. Children are taught to call all old women 'Little Grandmother' if met on the road, and always to treat them with respect and dignity, to avoid Matushka's wrath. Her counterpart is Chernobog, the Shadow on the Mountain, who is wicked and cruel and only curses those who disturb him. It is said he lives atop the mountains, hurling lightning at people. He doesn't reward the worthy or tolerate tricks, and his wrath is sudden and pitiless. Borovoi, the Forest Walker, is a huge, thick creature with grass for beard and teeth, and he helps lost travelers at times, and at others he leads them deeper into the woods, depending on how they treat him. Vir'ava, Mother of the Wood, is possibly Matushka's sister or possibly her daughter - it depends on the story. Maybe she's both. While she is never seen with Borovoi, they may be married. She is charitable but when offended she is known to lead people into the caves of napping bears.

The Czar, Keeper of the Knias Council, is the absolute ruler of Ussura. Some say Matushka will not allow a Czar she disapproves of to rule, and when the Czar dies, the Council mourns briefly and then rushes to fill the vacuum. His children may inherit, but they may not, if they cannot prove their strength and leadership. Right now, Ussura is in the midst of a succession struggle. The old Czar was a widower who disowned his eldest son, Ilya Sladivgorod Nikolovich, and remarried the young Eisen princess Ketheryna Fischler Dimitritova in the hopes of getting a new heir. However, he ended up dying mysteriously, and now both Ilya and Ketheryna vie for the throne. (This is a huge change from 1e.)

The Knias Douma is, technically, the Czar's council of advisors, and in most circumstances, were the power behind the throne. Now, however, all is in flux and no one can say who has true power. The boyars are, at least, usually good at manipulating the Czar. There are five Douma seats, each held by a specific family. First are the Novgorovs, rulers of the province Rurik, who control the northwestern trade routes with the Vendel League. Their symbol is the Great Wolf, the king of wolves, and the seat always belongs to a descendant of Arch-Duke Novgorov, who created the Knias Douma. The Novgorovs have the eternal right to cast their vote last in all issues, and their region is most populous of all. The current holder is Prince Aleksi Pavtlow Markov v'Novgorov, whose lack of ambition and mood swings mean that, unlike most Novgorovs, he does not lead the Douma. (This is another change from 1e, where he was very ambitious indeed.) The second seat is the Vladimirovich seat, rulers of Veche, whose sigil is Grandfather Bear, the largest of all bears. Theirs is the second-largest province but the least populated, though its capital, Siev, is a trade hub. Both they and Somojez sometimes trade with the Crescents, and see each other as rivals.

Somojev is ruled by the third family, the Pscovs. They hold the Eisen border but have great influence throughout Ussura, and they've adopted some Eisen culture. Their sigil is the armored drachen, and their province is home to beautiful monasteries and reliquaries, mostly within the Sorivdgrastov mountains, which they guard fiercely. The Pscovs descend from Grand Duke Vsevolod, who was sainted by the Church, and so they are called Tabularius, Guardians of the Faith. Their land is a bastion of the Orthodoxy. Fourth are the Riasanovas of Gallenia, who hold southeastern Ussura and sometimes trade with the Cathayans. Their sigil is Firebird, the burning hawk, and while their family is smaller than the other four, they are known for their ferocity. Last of them are the Pietrovs of Molhynia, who control the north and do only a small amount of trading. Their leader is the disturbing man called Koshchei, whose flesh is as waxen as a corpse and who, rumor has it, has held the seat for centuries - among other wild rumors. Their sigil is the raven before the setting sun.

Ussura primarily exports furs, honey and beeswax, bringing in spices, alcohol and steel. The boyars oversee the trade and have grown wealthy on it, even more than the hardest-working muzhiks might dream. Of course, most internal commerce is barter-based, as Ussura has no centralized coin. The Guilder is making some inroads, but unscrupulous merchants often misrepresent its value, which has made Ussurans somewhat distrustful of currency. You can't eat money, they say. Ussura has no standing army because it has never needed one. Every attempted invasion of Ussura, from the Crescents to the Eisen, have failed because of the land itself. Most boyars maintain home guards, of course, and the Czar has stelets, but that's about it. They do not have a navy, either, unless you count the fishing fleet in Grumfather Bay.

Despite their practicality and strong intellect, the Ussurans are extremely superstitious and have many ways to remove bad "blessings" or other problems. These are simple cures, for the most part, and often causes other nations to ridicule them. You must always plant a tree when a child is born, and so long as the tree flourishes, so will the child. If the child dies, legend has it, so will the tree. In Somojez, children must throw their baby teeth onto the roof and ask Matushka for an iron tooth in exchange. Flowers in even numbers are only given for deaths and tragedies, while odd numbers are used at all other times - and so, the Thean tradition of the dozen roses for a lady would likely be seen as a threat to her life. Every home, the Ussurans say, has its own domovoi, a gentle guardian spirit and a prankster, which lives inside the pechka oven. It will cause minor problems, steal socks, lose the knife and otherwise make mischief, but it is generally friendly.

quote:

Avalon: The Ussurans think the Avalons are great fun to have around. Their tricks delight like few other things. Of course, an Avalon who uses his abilities to rob or cheat an Ussuran is liable to gain a more persistent enemy than he anticipated. Ussurans have long memories.
Castille: "Although you Castillians are somewhat pig-headed, you have your hearts in the right place," a minor boyar once said to a visiting Castillian Bishop. It sums up the Ussuran opinion of the Castillians quite nicely.
Eisen: "There is something wrong with the land," is the general consensus among Ussurans on Eisen. Since they tend to equate a people's land with the people themselves, the Ussurans keep a careful watch on any Eisen they meet, half-convinced that he could go mad.
Montaigne: Ussurans have nothing but contempt for the Montaigne nobles. The use of Porte near an Ussuran causes him physical pain, and the Montaignes' callous disregard for others disgusts him.
Pirate Nations: Ussurans are unbothered by pirates. The only fleet Ussura has is a fishing fleet that sails on the Bay.
Sarmatian Commonwealth: A dangerous, backward, progressive, superstitious, overly pious gathering of conflicting ideals. Best to avoid them. Anyone clever enough to trick a demon is clever enough to trick you.
Vestenmennavenjar: The Ussurans are very pleased with their relationship with the Vendel League. Through their interactions with the League, they have been able to acquire so many new things, such as steel and spices.
Vodacce: Vodacce is a confusing and dangerous place for an Ussuran to find himself, and the Fate Witches are not to be trifled with.

The biggest changes here are a mix. Matushka's pantheon of Leshiye are cool; her favoritism for nobles now is less so. I liked her sorcery for being more egalitarian. Ivan and Ketheryna used to be married, and are now rivals for the throne, which is actually really cool. We get few details on the major NPCs, and only one named leader on the Knias Douma. He used to be a major, ambitious villain; now he appears to be very different. The Ussurans are presented as less backward and more suspicious of outside influences that don't provide obvious benefit - they're quite smart, they just have no patience for, say, currency that they can't get use out of.

Next time: Vesten.

Ex-Vikings

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Ex-Vikings

Once upon a time, the Vestenmennavenjar were the msot terrifying pirates in the north. They came down with sword and fire, taking what they wanted. However, things are different now. See, while the class of ruling nobles, the jarls, controlled the nation, during the 1400s they ran low on money. They were, like many nobles, rich in land but poor in cash. Meanwhile, the merchant class, the carls, needed protection from banditry and piracy. The carls banded together to create an informal organization to protect their shipments, based out of the trade port Vendel. The local jarl, Eindridi Utterstrom, saw potential. He was already one of the most powerful and famous jarls, but he'd lost all three of his sons to battle the previous year and had become depressed. When the merchants came to ask for his help and offer him money, his advisor, Inger Holmstrom, spent three days convincing him to accept. It was money for nothing - no violence, but pay anyway. Utterstrom had always been a supporter of art, which is the main reason the carls picked him and his town in the first place, so he eventually agreed.

It's been 200 years since then, and the investment has paid off in ways no one could ever have guessed. The titles of carl and jarl remain, but they mean something different. No longer do the jarls rule the carls from above. They are equals in rank, and their land is an economic empire. They are one of the greatest economic powers in the world, if not the very top. The jarls sponsor, the carls organize, and the Guilder makes it go. The Vendel League was the most important thing to ever happen in Vesten history. It is a conglomeration of merchants and crafters not only in Vendel, but now across all of Theah. Almost every nation accepts the Guilder, which is the League's currency, and so they are a world power. They still raid the foreigners, but rather than fire and sword, now it's with smile and handshake.

Vestenmennavenjar has had no true MjotuĆ°r in at least 200 years - no high king. Various nobles have claimed the title over the years, but none held it long. It is the Vendel League that control the land now. The jarls still exist, serving as the Vesten military and maintaining peace on the border. They're rather like the sheriffs of Avalon, but with a lot more social distinction. The cultural change has merged warrior and merchant together into one person - two sides of one coin. And that is why the Guilder has a sword on one side and a wheel on the other.

The key element to understanding Vesten culture is wyrd. It means a lot, but in essence it is your destiny or your fate. The Vesten King of Gods, the Allfather, saw a glimpse of the future and knew - it was set, unchanging. This concept, that your life is predetermined, is extremely powerful among the Vesten. Wyrd is why they still have their caste system of jarl and carl. You are born to your role and do it to your best ability. If you avoid it, you will be punished by the wyrd. Merchants were born to be merchants, nobles to be nobles. That is how it is. There is no dishonor in either caste - dishonor has nothing to do with what you are, but in not respecting your wyrd.

Officially, the jarls still rule over the land parcels. They collect the taxes, command the armed forces, appoint officials, perform justice. The carls run the economy. They both rule, in different ways. Traditional authority lies with the jarls, while power often lies with the League, and thus the carls. The line where those end is often blurry, and much of it depends on the local authorities and their relationships. The League assigns a representative to each jarl, officially to advise and unofficially to keep them in line with what Vesten needs. Most of the jarl's authority is from tradition, while the carl's is from need. The jarl has the right to tax, but the carl determines how it is spent. The jarl's wyrd is to protect the land and its people from physical danger. The carl's is to make lives worth living. Jarls are warriors, and carls are providers. Without the jarl, the people would be slain. Without the carl, the people would starve, in mind and body. Both are essential roles, necessary roles for life. Every region thus is ruled by both a jarl and a carl. The jarl protects and serves as political liaison, while the carl is his exchequer and treasurer. The relationship between the two varies by region, and while the jarl has ultimate authority, these days, using it without the carl's blessing is seen as challenging his wyrd and disrespecting the carl's.

The Vesten name four virtues: courage, loyalty, honesty and luck. Courage is valor in the face of danger - but blind courage is just stupidity. Loyalty to family is first of all loyalties, for the land is dark and snowy most of the year and you must rely on family or die. Honesty is with yourself and your family first - you cannot be courageous if you lie to yourself and you cannot honor your family if you lie to them. And luck? Everyone is born with a measure of it. Some have more, some less, some none. Some just have the wrong kind. The Vesten also have a strong belief in the mystical relationship between mead and good stories. Both make you light-headed, both make you believe you can do things you didn't think were possible. And both can get you into a lot of trouble.

Vesten heavily favor warm clothes - long pants, furs, coats. They live near the polar circle, after all. It gets cold. Men usually wear a long shirt, a knee length leather tunic and linen or wool pants tied with a leather belt. They wear tall, pointed leather hats and leather or fur boots. Women just replace the shirt with a floor-length chemise and are otherwise similar. How ornate it is is up to the person wearing it. Lately, they've been incorporating foreign styles into traditional wear - primarily, they take from the Montaigne fashions and adapt it to Vesten traditional outfits. They have also recently invented the top hat, based on the Avalon flat cap, and it's quite popular within Vesten. Not anywhere else, yet.

Vesten's coin is the Guilder, which has transformed the continental economy. Merchants have to use only one currency, never worrying about exchange rates, and the Guilds declared that its value would be set and never change. Many national leaders were slow to realize the effects of this, but the merchants loved it. Guild houses will take Guilders or their nation's coin, but hte Guilder is so easy to use that all the merchants were eager to exchange for it, even at the 5% exchange rate they charged. Merchants could now track prices across nations, and so captains began to be hired to transport goods like fresh fruit, leather, spice. The Guilder is the most popular currency now, having made a world market economy, and as a result, visitors to Vesten are treated like nobles, no matter who or what they are. Vesten is a service economy, the first ever to exist, and business is booming. Tourism is their stock in trade.

The Vesten mainly eat fish, though they also like game meat, like rabbit or venison. They also import a lot of foreign delicacies along their trade routes - Vodacce wines, Castillian fruits, Montaigne bread, Avalon veal. The most important piece of literature they have is the Grumfather Cycle, a collection of epic poetry that describes the creation of the world, the rise and fall of gods and men, and the destruction of the universe in a final batttle. The people that remember and tell it are called skalds, keeping the memory alive, for they hold that a man's soul lives only if the living remember his name. Vesten music sounds primitive to most Theans, with a lot of percussion and lutes, and that music isn't for fun - it's for rituals. VEsten art is heavily invested in sculpture, painting and carving, and some of the most beautiful in the world deck the halls of the guildhouses, as artists seek prestige and patronage. Only Montaigne is their equal there.

The League Guild House is the largest building in VEndel, home to the nine Chairs and 91 Seats that control the Vendel economy. The League takes only Guilders at their auctions - they'll accept foreign coin in foreign lands, but at home, no other currency. The men and women in the Chairs bought their positions when the League was formed. A Chair cannot be bought - just inherited, and the men and women who invented the Guilder four years ago hold all nine Chairs. The Merchant's guild is led by Sigvald Gunnisen, known by most Theans as Master Val Mokk, his trade name. The Carpenter's Guild is Joris Braakenjorsen, called Master Joris Brak. The Blacksmith's Guild Chair is Slema Colbjorsdatter, called Mistress Sela Cole. The Jenny's Guild Chair is Madame Lorraine Weller of Avalon. The Brewer's Guild Chair is Jorgan Skaadalsen, called Master George Skard. The Miner's Guild Chair is Master Eladio Ballesteros of Castille. And, of course, there's Joseph Volker, butler and representative of the late Imperator Riefenstahl of Eisen.

The Vestenmennavenjar do not debate religion as other nations do. Their belief in their gods and their ancestors is not faith - it is fact. The priests can see the ancestors and call on their power, after all. Their rune magic is not magic at all - it is a miracle, gifted by the gods. The Vesten hold that a great hall awaits them after death, but only for those that die in battle. There, they await the coming of a great serpent that will, if they do not fight it, devour the world. The Vesten religion is a living myth, a spirit world that surrounds and interacts with the world. The spirits of ancestors live on, and by naming places for the dead, their myths live on as well. As long as their names are spoken, their souls remain in the afterlife. Those who master the runic arts are called the Ypperste Prest, the high priests. They can see the living myth around them at all times. The Vesten do have some sympathy for Objectionist doctrine and have allowed them into the nation, even sponsoring some cathedrals and universities of beautiful design. Indeed, they've recently begun a three-decade plan to build the tallest and most beautiful cathedral in the world, even greater than those of Montaigne.

The Vesten legal code is simple, but seems backwards to other Theans. It focues on the impromptu courts known as things, which heard arguments from both sides, then decided on a punishment, if required. They convened only when families couldn't resolve things themelves, and the decision had to be enforced by the family involved, which left weak families with little justice. The rise of carls to power changed all that. Now, the things are formal, and the jarl has a duty to enforce their decisions, generally via fines. Besides for murder, the Vesten have no corporal punishment - just fines. For murder, the murderer is branded on the forehead and exiled. If he returns, he is given the Death Brand and exiled again. He will not return again - death will find him. There is no High King and hasn't been for centuries. The Vendel found it wasn't necessary, and in fact believe the place has been running much better without one. Local jarls manage their lands, the League keeps the coins flowing, and when land disputes happen, a thing is called and the jarls stand in judgment, with the League enforcing the decision.

The Vesten army is made from both native soldiers and mercenaries. Their fleets are local navies and hired privateers. What they couldn't get from themselves, they hire, and their military has become one of the best in Theah. The Vendel Irregulars, as the mercenaries are known, are mainly highly paid Eisen, Avalons, Inish and Highlanders. There's been a lot of speculation about why the Sea Dogs don't like to attack Vesten pirates that terrorize the north - and some say it is due to a secret treaty between Elaine and some Chairs of the League. Despite their sophistication, the Vesten remain pirates at heart, and many rumors claim each jarl has their own privateer navy, though the Vendel League denies any knowledge of this.

quote:

Avalon: When Queen Elaine took the throne, she needed allies, and the Vendel League was in the right place at the right time. Both have put high stock in their privateers, but have kept to raiding the less scrupulous nobles and merchants - the Vodacce. A great deal of commerce, trade and communication go back and forth between Avalon and Vestenmennavenjar. The two are close allies...for now.
Castille: Suspicion has made Castille reluctant to adopt the Guilder into her economy despite Vesten assurances of neutrality, and the Vaticine Church has found many of its ships under fire from Vestenmennavenjar privateers lately. Needless to say, Castillians are highly suspicious of the pagan Northmen, but the Vendel League needes Castillian support if they wish to remove Vodacce from the international picture.
Eisen: Eisen is an opportunity that the Vendel League has not overlooked. The Eisen economy has collapsed and four of her Eisenfursten have already accepted the Guilder in lieu of the near-worthless Eisen mark.
Montaigne: No two Nations could be more chummy than Montaigne and Vestenmennavenjar. The two have used each other to make themselves very, very wealthy. However, the carls are very aware of l'Empereur's treatment of his subjects and do not approve. Many have called to cut off relations with Montaigne, but the steady flow of income currently has the vote.
Pirate Nations: The Vestenmennavenjar see piracy as a useful tool, but one they should control. They nver complain about the Vesten Raiders or Sea Dogs. And while they engage their own Buccaneer privateers, they despise freebooting pirates - Buccaneers and Brotherhood alike; "They are nothing more than lazy criminals perpetuating their lives of luxury and vice through violence."
Sarmatian Commonwealth: Many of the Vestenmennavenjar are impressed with this "Golden Liberty" Sarmatia has put forward. And with their forward-thinking Prince poised to take the throne, perhaps that backward little country can finally make a profit.
Ussura: As far as the Vendel League are concerned, Ussura is a large kingdom with limited potential. Ussuran crops are always plentiful, but when the League tries to exchange currency for produce, the farmers reply, "You expect me to feed my family with paper?" The current dispute for Czar means conflict and conflict always leads to profit, but some within the League want to help settle the dispute without violence. "Bloodshed costs more than coins."
Vodacce: If the Vodacce see the Vestenmennavenjar as usurpers, the League looks upon the Vodacce as cranky old men who refuse to look progress in the eye - even if it's holding a gun to their heads. But the Vodacce are still dangerous. Very dangerous. So long as they keep pointing that danger at each other, the League will continue to flourish.

The big thing here? The conflict is gone. In 1e, tradition and innovation were essentially at civil war with each other, as the Vendel gave up the old ways in pursuit of profit. What we have here is more organic and real-feeling, as they mix old tradition with new ideas. However, the conflict between Vesten and Vendel was also an extremely vibrant one in which both sides had some good points. Here, well...it feels like they lost something. I do like New Vesten, but I feel that in losing that internal conflict, they needed to replace it with one and didn't, at least in this book. Also, rune magic isn't in this book - it's in one of the Nation books. Whoops.

Next time: Vodacce.

The Asshole Country

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: The Asshole Country

Vodacce is a place of paranoid rules. Always check both shoulders, never meet a woman's eyes unless you know you can outfight her husband, and never turn your back on a challenge - you won't get a second chance to turn around. It is a dangerous, dangerous place for the reckless or stupid. Most of it is either swampy or mountainous along its mainland, with lots of mining but not a ton of farmland. It is divided into territories ruled by seven Merchant Princes, each of whom guards their resources closely. Treachery is common, even among family. It was once the seat of the Old Empire, but it's been centuries since that fell, and the capital lies empty. The Princes have rejected it and its promises of republic and debate in favor of spies and plots, turning their cities into miniature kingdoms rather than sharing an empire. Each Prince controls part of the nation's economy and exports - wine, craftwork, Syrneth artifacts, Crescent trade routes. Vodacce is a pretty sexist place - men fight and run things, with hot tempers and fast blades. Women are expected to be cold, calculating. Only the women of Vodacce possess sorcery, the Sorte Strega - fate witches. They are expected to aid their husbands by manipulating destiny itself.

Vodacce men are expected to have affairs and fall in love; respectable women do not. Married couples rarely meet before their wedding, though husbands are expected to send poetry and gifts once the engagement is finalized. However, most romance is directed instead at courtesans, who exist separate from other Vodacce women. Respectable women are illiterate, as the men fear it would make them too powerful. Courtesans, on the other hand, are expected to be highly educated, to better please their clients with discussion. The art and architecture of Vodacce, in general, is extremely open and jovial and intellectual - all a grand stage to play out the treachery upon. The cities build tall, making the best use of every possible bit of space and connecting the high buildings with treacherous bridges. It's beautiful but highly fragile - the entire thing could, with bad luck, fall into the sea. But hey, it's better than the politics. The Princes are all ruthless, but have reluctantly come together to fight a trade war with the Vendel. The problem is that each is watching for a chance to betray the others for personal gain, as well - after all, there haven't always been seven Princes. Once, there were as many as twelve...and once, as few as three.

Vodacce pride is strong, and Vodacce tempers hot. A man is judged by what he will fight over, by how much wealth he has, and by how he spends it. A proper man has enough money to spend it freely and without care, but only a fool is taken advantage of. The women, of course, must act differently. They rarely act publically, supporting their husbands by craftwork and magic, especially among the nobles. The divide in social class is stronger here than anywhere but Montaigne, but at least the peasant life isn't so harsh. The peasants work long hours, spending most of the day until noon farming, then take up to two hours for lunch, then nap. They wake again at four, working into the night. Once the chores are done, they eat dinner and sleep. That's their entire lives, really, outside of festivals and feast days. Above them are the middle class - artisans and merchants. Vodacce craftsmen are renowned for their skill, and bartering is the national pastime. A bargaining session can take hours, because a man who can't get a good deal is no man, and a woman who cannot shop properly for her household is worthless. In all cases, the wealthier and more powerful the urban people are, the further from the water they live. The poor live on the water or lower levels, while the middle class can afford higher floors, often on top of the roofs of the poor. Nobles and the very rich live in high, narrow buildings made with elaborate suspension, careful architecture and, often, a hint of magic.

The nobles of Vodacce descend from the Senatorial families of the Old Republic. The Merchant Princes, called signore, are not so extravagant as Montaigne nobles, but neither are they as dignified as Avalon. It is said that a Vodacce noble has two hearts - one that beats for duty, the other for love. The Princes take their titles deadly seriously, and their pride and wealth are both immense. They rarely gather together except on policy matters or extremely formal occasions, like weddings and funerals. Policy meetings are only ever held on neutral ground, to avoid bickering and tactical disadvantage. After all, they don't trust each other at all. They have, as a result, little chance to show off their wealth to each other, so they've found other methods to do it. They take turns holding elaborate feasts for the lesser nobles, who travel through the year, telling stories of the excesses of their hosts - all in the understanding that the current host will go out of their way to outdo the last. Some say that Vodacce spends too much on wine and finery, to the detriment of her Princes, but for Vodacce, wealth is the tool of pride, not the end goal.

The courtesans are a social class to themselves - professional prostitutes of extreme skill and education. To Vodacce men, romance is a virtue, and a man is expected to court women even after marriage. Marriage is politics, not love. Women of good breeding must be modest and shy, so they make poor targets for romance - and so the courtesans exist. A man can talk to a courtesan about things he'd never say to his wife, can take her places where proper women cannot go, and when he is done praising her as a goddess of love, he can move on. Vodacce courtesans are renowned for their knowledge of etiquette, music, the arts and scholarship. The job is often handed down from mother to daughter, and they are allowed to break most Vodacce rules on the roles of women. They can read, attend university, act in public - anywhere their clients choose to be, in fact. However, there are disadvantages. Vodacce noblewomen are highly limited, but they are kept very safe and secure, while a courtesan must survive on her wits, trying to curry favor with nobles who will defend her if she has problems. It's easy to spot a courtesan - they are the women in bright colors, covered in jewels and libertine styles of dress, who always wear decorative masks in public, usually patterned on animals and covering only parts of the face. (In theory, this is to add an element of excitement to their image; in practice, it is also to protect their identities from wives.)

Noblewomen, on the other hand, tend to be among the least educated women in Theah. Those born with Sorte are never taught to read - an act only vulgar women do, anyway. Church scholars have, in the past, often said that this is an ideal example of the price mortals pay for sorcery. Enlightenment, you see, comes from knowledge - and if a soul is forbidden knowledge, how can they know grace? Sorte, the power to see the strands of fate and manipulate them, is possessed only by women - a fact that enraged the men who first bargained for the power from mysterious forces, and so they made the traditions that still hold sway over women today. Women with the gift are expected to serve their father until they marry, when they then serve their husbands. They wear modest black dresses and thick veils, so that their eyes can never meet those of any man not their husband.

The ultimate sin for a Vodacce man is to show cowardice. Duels among the Vodacce are extremely common, over even minor slights. Dishonor is not in picking fights, you see, but in declining them. These duels aren't usually fatal, but instead to the scarring - whoever can scar the opponent worse wins. Sometimes, they're to first blood. Vodacce men are also expected to keep their promises. Breaking your word is shameful to you and your family, and your family's patriarch will punish you for it. Of course, openly doubting the word of your social superiors is cause for a duel to the death. Vodacce men, like courtesans, wear their wealth openly and opulently, favoring brocades, velvet and leather in dark shades. Women wear simpler clothes, and neither sex wears faceted gems or mirrors - it is bad luck to see your own reflection in more than one place at a time. Noblemen wear baggy, loose trousers, linen shirts with loose sleeves and flared cuffs, and heavy embroidery. They usually wear knee-high boots when out and about, and frock coats that flair under the waist. Sleeves are usually removed when dueling, but a vest is kept to hide extra weapons in.

Vodacce food is mainly rice, pasta (having been imported as an idea from Cathay) and seafood, with a wide variety of fish, crab and lobster. They grow some citrus and vegetables, but import most of it. The middle class and nobles also import beef and venison, and oysters are considered a delicacy, though they aren't rare in Vodacce. (Just everywhere else.) For the Vodacce, high or lowborn, family is important. Your profession is probably hereditary, and your father's reputation is as or even more important than yours. If your father was the best fisherman ever, that is your pride too, and will get you more business. Another noted custom is that the dead are given absolute respect. No matter how much you hated a man in life, you never speak ill of the dead.

The Vodacce are master craftsmen, and their art reflects this. They have some painters, but tend to instead favor weaving, goldwork, cuisine and other arts that involve the making of physical objects. They are hedonists, after all, who love physical experiences. While they appreciate grand operas and productions, they tend to prefer romantic and dramatic music, especially the songs of troubadours. Men are expected to know how to sing and play an instrument, and most ballads are either romantic, witty or both. Women also sing love sings, but only ever in private, either for other women or their husbands. In public, they rarely sing except for historical or familial ballads.

Vodacce faith is...strange. They are devoutly Vaticine, yet they have many witches and adulterers. The Vodacce Church has spent a lot of time defining what is and is not sin, and it is said that the most decadent men are clergymen - though if so, it's never been proven. Inquisitors are not welcome in Vodacce. For the people, religion is a political tool. The nobles and Church have always been close, and they control five of the ten Archdiocese seats of the Vaticine. In practice, for any policy to be made official, favors must be traded with the "Vodacce Five", and even the Hierophant cannot easily disrespect their authority and expect to get anything done. The Princes have used this many times, even after the Church's seat moved to Castille. The key difference between Vodacce views on sin and those elsewhere is that Vodacce sin is primarily defined by inaction, rather than action. Sloth is the most reviled, of course. Envy, they say, is a sin because you should not seek to be your neighbor's equal, but to become grand and be envied by others. Greed, they say, is wanting what you have no right to. If you can earn what you want, you are a fool not to do so. Lust, to the Vodacce, is not about the wanting - it is about not acting on it. If you have feelings for a woman, pursue her. Sin is allowing your desire to become a spiritual impotence. Vanity is a sin not in taking pride in your appearance, but in taking unwarranted pride in it. Know yourself, and know what you really look like. Wrath...well, if you're mad, challenge someone. Sin is cowering in your home and raging impotently, not addressing the harm done to you. Gluttony? That's consuming more than you should. They just define 'how much you should consume' more liberally.

Each of the Merchant Princes controls a different part of the economy and a different region. Each wants to rule all of Vodacce, but right now only three have the power to really make a go of it - Bernoulli, Falisci and Villanova, who all want to manipulate their weaker cousins into supporting them. (Yes, they're all technically related.) The Bernoulli family has always been a strong supporter of the Vaticine Church, and as a reward, when the Crescent general contact with the world ended in the 1200s, they were given sole rights to trade with the Crescent Empire, and they've prospered greatly by it. They donate heavily to the Church, and the patriarch, Gespucci Bernoulli, is very devout. He's in his early sixties, and his sons are becoming more active in his business, frequently heading to the Crescent lands for pleasure as well as trade. The Faliscis make wine, and Donello Falisci sees no reason to change that. Falisci wine is worth as much as small estates, sometimes, and the Faliscis control the most fertile parts of the mainland. As for the Villanovas, they are the oldest and most powerful family, known for the deadly treachery. Giovanni Villanova took control of the family when his father, Allegro, died in an unlucky fall at the age of 32. His brother Giam stepped in to advise the 10-year-old Giovanni, but became ill soon after, dying after two years of terrible pain. Funny, that.

The Lucanis have only had their territory for around a century. Before that, it was Villanova land, but the patriarch awarded it to the Lucanis as payment for some loyalty or service. They've been struggling to keep it since. The Mondavi are the agricultural barons of Vodacce - but not by wine, like the Faliscis. Rather, they grow rice in the marshes of Vodacce, and while that's not the most lucrative export, it is a very stable income. They're happy to maintain the status quo. The Vestini family control the creation and export of domestic luxury goods, having paid many craftsmen heavily to move to their lands. It was, at the time, a maneuver to bolster themselves, as they had plenty of power to fight off the other families - even murdering a Prince's youngest son for challenging them. And last are the Caligaris, led by the very elderly Vincenzo Caligari. He's obsessed with tradition, and his home is modeled on the old senate of the Old Republic, and his advisors wear medallions that resemble senatorial seals. He practically lives in a museum of the old Empire, full of ancient tomes, scrolls and Syrne artifacts. He's obsessed with finding these things, ever since his father's lingering death, for he believes that the correct combination of tools will keep him safe from aging and sickness.

Vodacce continues to use the coinage of the Old Republic - a bronze coin called a republic, divided into ten smaller coins called sedilo, or seats. They refuse to accept the Guilder, and the Vendel refuse to accept their currency. There is no exchange rate. Likewise, Vodacce lacks a standing army. Each Prince instead keeps a house guard and a small set of young men to garrison the traffic checkpoints to the Crescent Empire. However, pretty much every nobleman in Vodacce can fence, a tradition that dates back to the fall of the Old Republic. There isn't an official navy, either, but most Vodacce merchant ships carry cannons and crews of well-armed mercenary marines to repel pirates, and the merchant fleet could, if needed, be used as a fairly respectable naval force.

quote:

Avalon: Officially, the Vodacce want nothing to do with Avalon, and vice versa. However, there are rumors that the two countries are carrying on trade in secret using the Sea Dogs as an intermediary.
Castille: Vodacce's relation with Castille is strained at times, almost the way feelings between siblings sometimes run hot. The two nations are more similar to each other than to any other country, but they often butt heads, mostly regarding their shared religion.
Eisen: The Vodacce keep a careful eye on the Eisen. With the country in such dire shape, the Vodacce fear a desperate mob of Eisen may attempt an invasion to avenge themselves for the War of the Cross.
Montaigne: The Montaigne people are Vodacce's largest market for luxury goods, and the two peoples have a lot in common with one another. This makes for very good relations between the two countries.
Pirate Nations: Thanks to the predictions of the Vodacce Fate Witches, the merchants of Vodacce suffer from less piracy than might be thought. They still keep a close watch for pirates, and hang any they capture, but it isn't as much of a concern as it could be.
Sarmatian Commonwealth: The Commonwealth Prince, Stanislaw II, has a Vodacce wife. That makes him a cousin of sorts. He has been crafty dealing with the Merchant Princes, playing one off the other. So far they respect his skills, but only for so long. And as for this "Golden Liberty" idea? That sort of nonsense had best not come across the border to Vodacce.
Ussura: The Fate Witches are afraid of the Ussurans, warning of a dark shadow that looms over them protectively. This has made the rest of Vodacce very cautious around them. They are very careful not to do anything that might insult or upset them, or their mysterious protector.
Vestenmennavenjar: The situation with Vesten is strained. The two nations are already engaged in a trade war that could quickly become a shooting war. In the last few years, there have been several instances of a Vodacce Prince sending a trade group too far north. More than one of these groups were politely returned home in chests. The main reason that no serious action has been taken by the Vodacce is that no single Prince has sufficient power alone to attack the Vesten. Besides, if he did, he'd have to explain his actions to his cousins, and admit to them that he'd attempted to trade outside his borders and behind their backs, as well.

Not much has actually changed here. Same names, same plots.

Next time: boats.

Seas, They're Seven

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Seas, They're Seven

There's seven seas around Theah. The first is the Trade Sea, between Avalon and Vesten. It's got shallow water, and its only real danger is that the tides often make the reefs appear to move, so even experienced captains can lose their bearings and run aground on the reefs. The second is the Widow's Sea near Avalon and Montaigne, so called for all the sailors lost to pirate attacks and, more recently, the War of the Cross. The Widow's Sea is full of sharks, sirens, fog banks that come from nowhere and the "sea mirage" phenomenon, where ships appear on the horizon but vanish as you get closer. The third sea is La Boca del Cielo off the coast of Castille, also called the Vaticine Gulf, which is a whale breeding ground guarded by the leviathans, whales triple their normal size which are unnaturally aggressive. The waters are deep and cold, and the place is a favorite of the Brotherhood of the Coast. There are also rumors of an immense sea serpent called Estallio, which eats leviathans, but there's never been a confirmed sighting.

The fourth sea is the Numanari Approach, named for the Numanari islands of the south. It lies between Vodacce and the Crescents, and until recently the Church maintained garrisons there to prevent access. Numa recently declared independence, however, and has now declared the sea open to all, so trade with the Crescent Empire has begun once more - as has piracy. The fifth sea is the Maw, between Vesten and Eisen. It is so called because the Vesten sailors thought their island looked like a dragon's head when they saw it on maps, and it is heavily guarded, as the Vendel League hires a lot of mercenaries - mostly ex-pirates set to hunting their compatriots. The sixth sea is the Avalon Strait (or the Montaigne Strait, depending on who you ask). The Sea Dogs guard it heavily, and while it is the fastest route from the southern waters to the northern, Avalon's ships demand a "tax" from all travelers. Going around the Glamour Isles takes days, though, and puts you in the sights of Avalon and Vesten pirates.

As for the seventh sea - it's a legend. Sailors speak of a place where the sun and moon share the sky, where stars go backward and the water is silver. Scholars debate what this means, where the seventh sea truly lies. Sailors have reached it, sailed for days, lost, only for the sky and water to return to normal and the ship to be thousands of miles off course. A recent archaeological discovery, the alchemical compass, may hold the key to it - the Explorer's Guild believe the Syrneth used the device to sail the Seventh Sea's strange waters.

We then get a section on court life. The most active international courts are in Avalon, Vesten and Montaigne; Castillian courts are smaller, more open and more community-based, while Eisen and Ussuran courts are small, insular affairs, and Vodacce courts are full of intrigue and are somewhat more exclusive. Sarmatian courts tend to be debate halls on issues of state, not parties. Court is tiring - it takes hours for most to get dressed for it, several servants, tracking all the fashion and rumors and trends...it's exhausting. Currently, the fashion is to carry a book to read - even if you're illiterate. (You hire a servant to read it to you.) Some are normal books, others quartos used to make picture books. Courts are mainly used for power brokerage, marriage arrangement and favor trading, but also entertainment. People love a party.

Dueling has been a big controversy in the past 50 years, and some nations were looking to ban it entirely. However, in 1644, three owners of fencing academies got together and signed a blood pact. They then approached their nations' rulers, gaining their approval, and the Duelist's Guild was formed. Now, to be a duelist, you must join the Guild. The law is complex, but boils down to this: only a duelist may challenge someone to a duel. So, if you want a duel, you must either be or hire a duelist. If you aren't, you can be arrested for challenging, and if you are challenged by a non-duelist, you can have them arrested. Duelists can, of course, easily be hired to make the challenge and oversee the duel...though many continue to duel illegally, in the shadows. The Duelists don't like that, though. They've got Guildhouses across Theah, and most duels happen in those Guildhouses, in front of witnesses and seconds. While the Guild denies permitting illegal duels behind their closed doors, for the right price, you can make arrangements. Duels sanctioned by the Guild are either to first blood or the death, and death duels are rare. While a Duelist may be hired to fight for you, you can also pay them the same price to make the challenge and then let you fight for yourself, which most Duelists are more than happy to do. It's less risk, after all.

Modern Thean ideas of honor mostly derive from old ideals of chivalry, drawn from a lot of stories - mostly Avalonian stories. The ideals are dying, and those who cling to them are known as gentles or romantics. The fall of chivalry really began in the 1460s with a Montaigne knight named Bastion. He was the peak of chivalry, loved by all, and he died when a peasant armed with an arquebus shot him in the back and he drowned in his own blood. He was a man of honor and all it got him was a horrible death. The average Thean looks out for themselves first, then their family, and no one else. Not that they're all schemers or plotters - they just keep themselves to themselves. Chivalry is a game for rich people and dreamers. However, the gentles are not all gone yet, and some still admire them for their honor.

A gentle will never break their word - period. They are usually quite particular about giving it out, as a result, and while no honorable person would hold them to a promise made while drunk, they'd probably try to keep it anyway. They would die before betraying their bond, after all. Anyone who claims to be a gentle and does so will see their reputation utterly ruined, and reputation is vital. They will go to extreme lengths to avoid sullying it, and anyone who insults their reputation should expect a challenge, while public disgrace often provokes a death duel.

We also get a side note on the Thean calendar - it is a seven day week, 24 hour days. The days are Soldi, Veldi, Amordi, Terdi, Guerdi, Redi and Voltadi. The original calendar was 10 360 day months, but is now 12 30 day months, as two months were added to honor the Old Empire hires Imperator Corantine and Julius Caius. Now, the months are Primus, Secundus, Tertius, Quartus, Quintus, Sextus, Julius, Corantine, Septimus, Octavus, Nonus and Decimus. Each season is three months long, and at the end of the year, the extra days make up the Prophets' Mass, a 5-6 day celebration.

Next time: The Vaticine.

Vaticine Apparently Means Prophet

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Vaticine Apparently Means Prophet

The Reformed Vaticine Church is easily one of the most potent and influential groups in Theah, with their power taken from the many commoners and somewhat fewer nobles that support them. They began in the time of the First Prophet, in the Old Empire, and they built their own army, education system and, indeed, were the cause of most technological and philosophical progress on the continent for many centuries. However, they are now being harshly criticized over corruption and greed, and many are beginning to doubt their authority and doctrine. The Objectionist Movement, begun a hundred years ago in Eisen, has altered the Church forever - almost a third of the flock has become Objectionist. It's not an easy time for the Church right now, though many within it believe that it all could've been avoided it the Cardinals had listened to warnings.

The Vaticine message is simple: the Creator made the world as a riddle to be solved. The closer humanity comes to that, the closer they are to understanding the mind of God. (This is a rather more Gnostic take on religion than Actual Catholicism, which the game acknowledges. Knowledge, not faith, is the cornerstone of the Vaticine.) The Church's credo was developed under orders from Imperator Corantine of the Old Empire, after his conversion, and it was put together in the year 325 AV ('Anno Veritas') at the Corantinian Convention. It consists of six articles of faith, which all Vaticine believers take as true. These are memorized and recited before Mass.

Article One: We believe in one true God, the Creator Almighty, Maker of Paradise and the World, and of all things visible and invisible. The only god that exists is Theus, the Maker of the Universe. Those who belong to the Faith may not believe in any other gods or powers, and must not use sorcery, which the Church teaches came from Legion, the Great Adversary. See, use of sorcery is acceptance of powers other than the Creator, which is heretical and can be ended only by death and cremation.

Article Two: We believe in one holy and prophetic Church. If there is only one God, then there can be only one Church, the Vaticine. Only the rites taught by the Prophets are ordained by them, and therefore the Creator. Those that follow these beliefs and rituals stand as the army of the Prophets when the world ends. All other churches are false, deceitful lies that will lead believers only to the Abyss and not Paradise.

Article Three: And in its Prophet, who spoke the Creator's message for man and his salvation; who foretold the coming of three further Prophets; who delivered himself unto his enemies; and who was martyred for us in the days of Augustin Lauren. The First Prophet is the key to the entire credo, for it was he whom the Creator used to speak His message and spread the word of the three yet to come and their wonders. He gathered the first saints to be his followers, those who had achieved enlightenment by reason, and preached that only by acceptance of others, even those tainted by magic, could salvation be attained. And it was he whom corrupt sorcerers and the rulers they advised put to the flame.

Article Four: And in the Second Prophet, who bore a staff, who spoke the Creator's message, and delivered men from evil; and who was betrayed by the unfaithful and was martyred for us. The Second Prophet came from the Empire of the Crescent Moon (now considered infidels), claiming to be sent by Theus. He was doubted, for he looked different than other men of Theah and he spoke such claims, but all those who opposed him were struck dumb, and all sorcerers he met were made powerless. It was he who, claiming his flock were slaves to their homeland, led them through the desert, where he was then betrayed and murdered by his own brothers.

Article Five: And in the Third Prophet, who bore a sword of pure flame; who spoke the Creator's message; divided the righteous from the unrighteous; and made the way clear for him who shall follow. The Third Prophet was born into chaos, and he was neither understanding nor tolerant. He was of noble blood, and he declared a war on nobles, igniting a war of faith. It was he who shifted the Church from Vodacce to Castille and he who disrupted the harmony of the Church by changing how many thought in a single decisive act.

Article Six: And in the Fourth Prophet, who shall bear a balanced hourglass; who shall be announced by trumpets; and the dead shall awaken and he shall reign in the visible and invisible world forevermore. The Fourth Prophet shall bring Armageddon, beginning the cosmic battle for all human souls. His kiss will breathe life to the globe, and his army will be the dead. He will lead them into a new age of truth and glory, where all will command their own destiny and live in beautiful service to Theus for all time.

All administrative divisions are based on the number ten at each tier, and religious divisions in each nation need not conform to political districts. At the lowest level is the church. Any region that recognizes the Prophets will have churches, and as per the Third Prophet's Declaration of Deference in 1267, "any fellowship without the blessing of a place of worship to the Creator shall be considered without the blessing of His Church." As such, the church is generally the first thing built in any new town. It serves as a community center, a court for magistrates, a town hall and the focus of any number of festivals and holidays. It is a refuge for the needy, a hospital for the sick and a sanctuary for the penitent. A church is run by its most senior priest. Within the church, the priests and congregation will elect one priest to be High Priest and represent them on the Parish Council.

The Parish is the smallest district of administration, made of ten churches in close proximity. The Parish is governed by a Monsignor, who represents it on the Diocese Council, elected from among the High Priests of the Parish. The Diocese is the next level up, made of ten Parishes. The Diocese is governed by a Bishop, elected from the Monsignors. The Archdiocese is next, the second highest and most powerful district. Each is quite large, made of ten Dioceses, and governed by an Archbishop that represents them on the Hieros Council. The Archbishops choose ten of their number to serve as Cardinals, each representing an Archdiocese and also maintaining a Rectory in Vaticine City. The highest rank is the Hieros, who sits just under the Prophets in rank and power. The Hierophant is selected by the Cardinals from among the Archbishops, and serves for life. The Hierophant lives in Vaticine City, which has been in Castille since the 1200s. It's not an easy or stress-free job, and so the Cardinals serve as the advisors of the Hierophant, and traditionally the Hierophant visits a court of a Vaticine monarch every other year for the summer - generally, Castille or one of the Vodacce princes. The Vaticine City was in Vodacce until the Third Prophet, and until the 13th century most Hierophants were Vodacce. At present, there is no Hierophant - she was murdered by an unknown assailant some time ago. All Church positions are held for life or until you retire. Retired officials become normal priests in the local church they first began in. The Vaticine holds that all are created equal, and that the sexes are equal. Priest is gender-neutral - there are male and female priests.

The three most common of the many, many rituals of the Church are Mass, Baptism, Marriage and Ordainment. The Mass is the gathering of the faithful in a church to pray. Most Mass is held in Old Thean, the trade tongue and common language of the Old Empire. However, Eisen and Avalon have translated the hymns into their own languages. Baptism occurs at the age of ten. A child receives an oral exam of scripture, and failure grants a one year grace period, called deferment, to allow the child to study again until they succeed. Ordainment also requires an oral exam - a rather more difficult one, and deferment lasts three years for it. A student that fails twice is not given another deferment - they simply cannot try again. Marriage, under Vaticine belief, is a social contract before Theus. A wedded couple agrees to uphold the tenets of the Church and ensure that the next generation also does. Priests can marry, provided their prospective mate is baptized and Vaticine. The primary holy books of the faith are the Book of Common Hymns, which lays out religious etiquette, procedures, rituals and hymns, and the Book of the Prophets, which consists of four Vigils - one for each Prophet, including the one yet to come, with the Fourth Vigil being delivered by the Third Prophet and supposedly documenting the end of the world.

Because the primary sacrament of the Vaticine is knowledge, not faith, they actually are generally unconcered with your faith and belief, but rather with what you have learned. Philosophical debates are the primary occupation of the Vaticine establishment when they have nothing else to do, and currently two major issues focus much of their philosophical attention. The first is the question of free will. Determinism is the theory, at this point in time, that all decisions made by humanity are predetermined by Theus, and it's the dominant paradigm. However, many scholars have begun to argue that mankind must have choice - not because determinism is illogical, but because of the importance of choice. If there is no choice, they say, then nature is impersonal and uncaring, and Theus cannot have the character the Church teaches that He does. It is unlikely this heated debate will be resolved any time soon.

The other is love. See, the Church recognizes love as a concept, but not in the way poets do. You must love your neighbor, no matter who they are. You must love your spouse, no matter who they are. Love is universal, for all mankind, not for just one person. The love of romantics, the Church has always argued, is base lust. However, the romantics now sing of a new kind of love, a love between two people that no others can experience, share or understand, an eternal fire without reason. The question of whether True Love exists, and if so, if anyone has truly felt it, is a more minor diversion for the Church, but one they find quite fascinating.

The biggest change here is in the detail, focus, and admission that these dudes are Gnostic as fuck.

Next time: The Inquisition

HELLFIRE

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: HELLFIRE

The Inquisition are a clandestine order in the Church, made by the Third Prophet after he rose to power and charged to seek out and destroy sorcery. They answered only to the Hierophant and had a lot of authority over Church procedure, with Vaticines being expected to aid them in any way they required. Because of their efforts, sorcerers had to remain hidden for centuries. However, the Hierophant always kept them in check, with each one keeping an eye on them, limiting their membership and quietly removing any too-ambitious Inquisitors that might step beyond the bounds of their power. This kept them focused on their duties rather than taking over the Church. However, over the centuries, the Church grew more conservative and gave the Inquisition more leeway in how they worked. This reached a head when the Hierophant was murdered. Now, the Inquisitors answer to no one until a new Hierophant is chosen, and Cardinal Esteban Verdugo has moved to seize power, expand the goals of the Inquisition and fill its ranks with fanatics. They've declared war on the universities, burning books and killing professors that oppose them. They kidnap their foes and execute them as heretics, and many that oppose them are too sacred to act. Within a single decade, they have come to control much of the Vaticine Church.

The Inquisition is built around a small core of High Inquisitors, priests and Bishops that are charged to carry out the Third Prophet's edicts. They answer directly to Cardinal Verdugo and command a massive network of assistants and lackeys, controlled by faith, fear or blackmail. Those of the network who willingly involve themselves in the Inquisition may claim the title Inquisitor, as well. Because the Inquisition is, in theory, secret, all Inquisitors and High Inquisitors hold normal positions in the church, pretending to be ordinary priests and lay agents. They target scholars, sorcerers, Objectionists and anyone that questions Church policy. When they gather sufficient evidence, they strike without warning, relying on surprise and terror as their weapons. They attack by night, always ensuring the local authorities are distracted. They hang their victims oin sight, or burn them if they have time, along with any experiments, books or notes. They then vanish, leaving only cryptic warnings.

The Inquisition is only able to move openly in Castille, so far. In all other nations, they must use more subtle means. In Montaigne, they hide among the Vaticine peasntry, while in the chaos of Eisen, they merely avoid the Eisenfursten and their troops. Vodacce's political infighting makes for excellent cover as well. Avalon, the Commonwealth, Ussura and Vesten are their hardest targets - these nations do not approve of Vaticine zealots. Currently, two main forces oppose the Inquisitors. The first is the secret society called the Invisible College, and the other is the masked vigilante El Vagabundo. Between them, they've stopped Verdugo's worst crimes...but without a new Hierophant, they can do little but slow him.

The Objectionists, meanwhile, began in 1517, when a youngish monk walked up to his Bishop's door and nailed a piece of paper to it, alongside many other pieces of paper that the monks wanted to discuss. The author of this particular paper was Mattias Lieber, a name that would, within five years, be known across the world. It was a list of questions that challenged all Church authority and called for a fundamental and sweeping reform of the entire Church philosophy. Lieber denounces his fellow monks to the Hierophant, demanding an explanation for, quote, "the Church's inexcusable crimes and decadence." He was excommunicated and set to die, but he was smuggled out of Castille by King Franz II, returning to Eisen. There, he used the newly invented printing press to spread his ideas, as well as translating the Book of the Prophets into Low Eisen and distributing both. His efforts started the Objectionist movement that spread first in Eisen, then across the continent.

Objectionism resembles the Vaticine faith in many ways, but with key differences. First, the Church is no longer the arbitrator between Theus and man - no one can interpose or filter the Creator's teachings. Theus is everywhere and needs no interpreter. Priests may not absolve sin - only Theus. The Church cannot make miracles - only Theus. Thus, humans should appeal directly to Theus, not rely on the Church to do it for them. They can do this by reading the Book of the Prophets and acting on its teachings, expressing faith by charity, hard work and helping the needy, for all creatures have a measure of Theus' grace, which must be used to further His works. The Church can facilitate, but has no claim to absolute authority.

While Objectionism is roughly structured on the Vaticine model, it has fewer ranks and those have less authority. Individual priests, called chaplains, oversee a church. Deacons are senior chaplains that coordinate 20 churches. Above them are the Apostles, who coordinate across entire provinces or nations.That's as high as you go, and currently there's 25 Apostles, none of whom has any authority over any other. They are elected by the deacons, who can also remove them by vote of no confidence. There are no dioceses, Bishops or Hierophant. Chaplains may not absolve sin or declare heresy. Fasting, pilgrimage and miracles are not required. Baptism is at age seven, with no exam. Chaplains have only limited official duties - they hold mass, oversee marriage and conduct funerals - but they're also expected to be examples to the congregation. When not proselytizing, they are expected to work in universities or hospitals to better lives. The Vaticines, obviously, do not like them. Tensions rose in the century following the Objectionists' formation, until they exploded into the 30-year War of the Cross. Finally, with that over, the continent has decided, as a whole, that both faiths will have to exist alongside each other.

Avalon technically also has its own church - in 1554, the King refused to accept a Castillian Hierophant and formed the Church of Avalon, which Elaine has taken as her own as well. Elaine is, as part of this Church, equal to the Hierophant in all spiritual matters. (So yeah, the Not Anglicans do exist, they just got a poor writeup in the Avalon section that barely mentioned them.) Inismore and the Highlands feature mostly Vaticine and Objectionist churches, and of course the Old Faith is in all three. Castille is steadfastly Vaticine, and pretty much every Castillian attends Mass at least once a week. Any Objectionists there are very quiet about it. Eisen is pretty much Objectionist at this point, largely because the Vaticine Eisen have mostly left the nation. Montaigne's peasants are devout Vaticines; its nobles are very much not. The entire nation was excommunicated by the Hierophant before her death, but many churches still operate there to serve the peasants. The Sarmatians are a mixture of Vaticine teachings and pagan beliefs, in large part because the dievai manifestly exist. Ussura follows the Ussuran Orthodox Church, of course, which accepts only the First Prophet. (The Vaticine has essentially given up on them and decided to "allow" them to be "backwards" barbarians.) The Vesten are largely still adherents of their own pagan faith, though the Vaticine have some footholds - not a lot. The Vesten also donate heavily to Objectionist missions and cathedrals, but no one is entirely sure why. Vodacce, of course, is Vaticine and always will be,

Due in large part to the Vaticine Church, Theah is somewhat ahead of the actual mid-1600s on Earth. Their last ten years have seen the invention of the microscope, reflecting telescope, discovery of human anatomy, plus major advances in astronomy, physics ands chemistry. With the rise of the Inquisition, however, those advancements are threatened. The Inquisitors believe that the time of knowledge is over - the end of the world is coming, and all must prepare rather than dabble in useless curiosity. Archaeology is still limited to shovels, brushes, notes and investigation. Theans are growing to understand things slowly, but important artifacts are often destoryed by accident or stolen by private collectors as art pieces. Architecutre is quite advanced - not, perhaps, on the level of suspension bridges or skyscrapers, but they can build 400 foot cathedrals, and while they lack mass production infrastructure, Theans know how to make concrete on a small scale. Roads are typically cobbles, roofs are covered by tin, and windows in the bigger cities are usually glass.

Theans know that the planet Terra is a sphere that orbits the sun Solas, and is orbited by a moon. They know of five other planets that also orbit the sun; their telescopes are too primitive to see more than that. They know the size of Terra within a 1% margin of error, and may predict both solar and lunar eclipses. Telescopes have been around for a century, but it was only a few months ago that Alvara Arciniega invented the first reflecting telescope, which the Invisible College has spread to the scientific community in the hopes of further refinement. Chemistry has recently emerged from alchemy with the publication of Jeremy Cook's The Rational Chemist in 1661, and now only a few still practice alchemy. In 1662, Cook invented the first air pump that should have proven the existence of air, but he was shot for his research by the Inquisition, and it only survived due to the Invisible College.

Mathematicians understand algebra, trigonometry, geometry and the zero. They lack calculus as yet but it should be along soon. Probability is not rigorous as a mathematical discipline. Medicine is significantly more advanced than our world was at the time. Humor theory was denounced by Franz Deleboe in 1661, and while he was kidnapped by the Inquisition, his theories leaked and have been expanded on. Hygiene is understood as impacting survival rate in operations, but the reasons are not. They know bullets must be removed from gunshot wounds before stitching, that bandages need occasional changes and should be boiled to ensure cleanliness, and they know sick people spread disease, but have discovered neither viruses nor bacteria. The microscope has been around in Vesten since 1608, used to view blood corpuscles, insects and small plants. It has greatly advanced medicine, biology, botany and entomology.

Physics has seen a number of breakthroughs despite the Inquisition's best efforts. Static electricity was harnessed in 1662 with a rotating globe of sulphur, invented by Maria Alvarado as a practical demonstration of her studies. At the time, the Inquisitors were too weak to stop a prominent and respected scientist, though they did come close to wiping out the evidence (and life) of Alvara Arciniega's discovery of the light spectrum via handmade prisms. Fortunately, he was a good enough swordsman to kill three Inquisitors and flee to the countryside, where he made his telescope. Theans do have magnetic compasses and astrolabes, but lack a chronometer accurate enough and resistant enough to moisture to easily measure longitude. The Montaigne know how to do it, but their method involves using Porte to teleport home and look at a clock. It's not used all that often, but it means they have the best maps in the world.

The musket is the weapon of choice for warfare, usually with pike support. Rifles do not yet exist, so accuracy isn't great. Cannons have been developed, but they lack the ballistics to make mortars. The Montaigne have developed primitive and highly unreliable grenades; their peasant grenadiers have an average lifespan of three battles. In duels, rapiers are most common, with sabers reserved for cavalry.

All of this is broadly where it was in 1e, with the note that 1e had a dude in Ussura who'd invented a single rifle, and also there was primitive blood transfusion, which doesn't appear to have made it.

Next time: Pirates!

Yo Ho Ho, A Pirate's Life For Me

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Yo Ho Ho, A Pirate's Life For Me

While there are literally hundreds of pirate crews out there, there's five groups that pretty much everyone knows the name of. First, the Brotherhood of the Coast. See, the Castillians had hired a band of thugs, brigands and former pirates they called the Black Spot Fleet and set them to killing other pirates. The Brotherhood was formed when a bunch of their victims banded together under a charter of mutual protection, led by the legendary Captain Roberts, First King of the Pirates. They defeated the Black Spots for good, and declared that each Brotherhood ship was now a nation unto itself, with the captains elected by the crew as representatives of a free republic of piracy. Of course, the entire thing would've scattered were it not for Gentleman Gosse, the most civil and polite of all pirates. See, he was elected as the second King of Pirates after Roberts was slain by the Devil Jonah (read: Davey Jones). Gosse worked to build a solid foundation to keep them all together, then retired to make way for the Third (and current) King of Pirates, a woman known as Captain Bonaventura. Now, she has declared war on the entire world. She says that if the governments of Theah will not recognize the Brotherhood as a true nation, then they will continue to seize their ships, cargo and lives.

Second are the Buccaneers of La Bucca. La Bucca was a prison island far off the Castillian coast, and it's now a beacon of freedom and liberty. The prisoners faked a plague outbreak, using it to capture the island. The Castillians, Vodacce and Vesten all sent warships to seize the island, which ended in a four-way stalemate until the three warships found their potable water had mysteriously vanished, perhaps by magic or sabotage. The Buccaneer leader offered them a choice - sign a treaty or die of thirst. They relented and signed the treaty. That leader is a man named Allende, whom most believe to be a sorcerer due to the strange events surrounding him. A former prison guard claims to have shot him point blank, only for the man to stand back up unharmed, for example. Allende and the Buccaneers welcome any to use their harbors safely and freely for as long as the island is in view, to trade for water, salt pork and information, and the ships that crew there are always happy to sign Letters of Marque for any that'll hire them. However, once the island is out of view, its inhabitants are happy to engage in vicious piracy against any ship whose name is not listed on one of their various Letters of Marque.

Third, the Crimson Roger, is less a group and more a single ship. Its crew are bloodthirsty, vicious and terrifying. They take no prisoners and leave no survivors. They seem to target ships bearing Syrneth artifacts more often than others, and no one is entirely sure how they find them. There is only one eyewitness account of the Crimson Roger - the captain of His Lordship's Mistress, a merchant ship that escaped an attack after the Crimson Roger sank her sister ship, the Grey Dog. He reported that the crew of the Crimson Roger used strange devices in combat, possibly of Syrne origin, and their captain was a tall man with curly hair and a scythe that could cut through flesh and wood like they were paper. The captain shouted at the fleeing ship, telling them to tell the world of the Crimson Roger and her Captain Reis, and that when they next met, he'd cut them all in half. The captain of the merchant ship retired in terror, and within a month His Lordship's Mistress was lost at sea, along with all hands. The captain was found cut in half, lengthwise, in his home a week later, with the word 'Reis' written on the wall in blood. Queen Elaine has placed an 8000 Guilder reward for proof of Reis' death, which presumably would require his scythe.

Fourth, the Sea Dogs are a group of pirates in the northwest who focus on Montaigne and Castillian ships. They favor small, fast ships and never attack Avalon vessels of any kind. Some believe they are connected to Queen Elaine, which she denies, but few believe her. The Sea Dog crews seem to operate largely independently, and the most famous of them is the crew led by Captain Jeremiah Berek of the Black Dawn. Berek is a dashing man whose crew is loyal to the death. Some say he uses Glamour to gain this loyalty, but there's no solid proof. The Sea Dogs appeared in the Avalon battles against the Castillian Armada, and Berek's daring leadership played a huge role in their defeat, which only strengthens claims that the Dogs work for Elaine.

Finally, the Vesten Raiders seek out merchant ships while crewing longships out of, usually, cold fog banks. They wield the power of Vesten skalds and Eisen mercenaries, and the drums they beat to time their oars have become feared by all merchants. When they appear, they blow a ram's horn three times. This is a signal to their prey - lower sails and surrender, or be prepared to fight to the last. The Raiders do not take prisoners - they have no interest in slaves. They do, however, make a policy of leaving one person alive whenever they slaughter a crew, to spread word of their deeds. More hysterical tales claim they have rune-covered figureheads that spit lightning, that they go to battle in a madness and wear horned helmets, that they can shrug off blows that'd kill any man. More sensible merchants know these tales are caused by drunkenness, but also that the Raiders are a terrifying threat to any merchant ship not backed by the Vendel League.

Then you have the secret societies! They operate behind the scenes of the world, manipulating events for their various goals. They are:
The Brotherhood of the Coast: Pirates that prey on the corrupt and decadent and fight to be free men, even if it kills them.
Die Kreuzritter: A group descended from 12th century Eisen knights who travelled to the Crescent Empire to fight 'heathen hordes', and discovered something that utterly changed their order, transforming them into monster hunters who battle armed with knowledge few have.
The Explorer's Society: A group who began as a scholarly club in Castille's Odiseo region, and is now a society of adventurer-scholars seeking out the lore and secrets of the Syrneth ruins. They have gone underground to avoid the Inquisition.
The Invisible College: A small team of priests and scientists that have worked to resist the Inquisition, smuggling papers and research to be conducted out of view of the Inquisitors. They will see science pushed forward, even at risk of their own lives.
The Knightly Order of the Rose and Cross: A gentle's order dedicated to the ancient ideals of chivalry - protecting the weak, defeating injustice and making the world better. They are either the world's greatest heroes or a bunch of idiot manchildren who have no idea what they're doing. Or both.
Los Vagabundos: A small, elite group of heroes, begun in Castille but now covering the continent, who seek to uphold the rule of just kings and queens and overthrow those that oppress the people.
Mociutes Skara: The Grandmother's Shawl, a group begun in the Sarmatian Commonwealth during the War of the Cross, who respond to disasters to bring aid, comfort and shelter. They seek to end war forever.
The Rilasciare: An extremely disorganized but very dangerous organization, dedicated to overthrowing what it names the Two Tyrannies: monarchy and the Church. It does this by wielding the power of ideas.
Sophia's Daughters: Vodacce women are practically slaves, and so a covert organization has developed that seeks to change that, one Prince at a time. While their focus is primarily Vodacce, they are also happy to work to protect and advise women with power in any nation.

Next time: The Syrneth, 2e.

They're Magical Hi-Tech Ancient Ruins BUT NOT ALIENS

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: They're Magical Hi-Tech Ancient Ruins BUT NOT ALIENS

So, the Syrne. The Syrne were a pre-human civilization with ruins scattered across the globe, and these ruins have become a treasure trove for archaeologists and adventurers - if a dangerous one. Their partial artifacts have been found across Theah and surrounding islands, all over the dang place. Well preserved sites are rare, however. Around 50 years ago, Leandra Souza founded the Explorer's Society in Castille, and now there are chapterhouses in several nations, dedicated to learning as much as they can about the Syrneth, preserving their artifacts for study. Adventuers and independent treasure hunters funding by nobles also hunt for Syrneth artifacts, not for information, but for money. See, Syrne artifacts are highly fashionable right now, and private collections are very prestigious, so nobles will pay a high price for whatever you find.

Some Syrne ruins are obvious. There are buildings in Montaigne that, while inhabited by humans for centuries, were not built by them, quite clearly. They are tall, impossibly slender, and have no clear means of support. Other areas, they're buried deep, and some locations are even heavily trapped or home to unnatural beasts. One of the more famous ruins is in the tunnels under Charouse, capital of Montaigne. There are maps, but none cover the full extent of the tunnel system, which averages 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide in most caverns. They have existed far longer than the city and were deliberately made. Spiral pillars support stone arches with decorative carvings, and the stone matches none in the region. Currently, the tunnels are mainly in use as a sewer system for Charouse, and no one is actually sure where the waste drains to. Some people also live in the tunnels. Several Explorer parties have gone into them, and while most passages are full of human waste, they've made some interesting finds. Strange ornamental metal objects have been found which would fit on a humanoid figure, though some believe these are discarded Montaigne decorations...albeit in a style that matches no Thean fashion, and in areas where there was no waste. More impressive was the discovery of the so-called Star Map, a vast spherical chamber reached via narrow bridge, suspended 50 feet over the bottom of the sphere. Gemstones line the sphere, reproducing what appears to be a map of the Thean heavens...including stars that don't appear to exist in the sky. It is believed based on some geometrical calculations that the chamber lies directly underneath l'Empereur's palace. L'Empereur is not especially friendly to the Explorers and has set the city guard on them, and the local residents don't welcome them, either. Shortly after the map was discovered, the explorers had their rooms ransacked and their notes stolen. No one is sure if this means the royals knew about the chamber or not, and if so, why.

Then there's the Signore Catacombs, which may or may not be a natural feature. The Signore Islands are all of hard, non-porous rock, and the entire chain is run through with tunnels. They follow no pattern and their surfaces are rough, but there are regularly spaced shelves in the stone. Like the Montaigne tunnels, these go for miles and are largely uncharted, though they're only an average seven to eight feet tall and five to seven wide. Often they run in levels, stacked atop each other, with the sea flooding the lower levels. The Merchant Princes of Vodacce have used the tunnels as tombs, as the shelves are wide enough to hold human bodies, and have been in use for that by several major families for generations. This makes it hard to tell if anything found in the tunnels has been there for centuries or whether it just washed out of the sea or fell from the various corpses.

Other sites exist throughout Theah in small pockets. A number of western islands are apparently old Syrneth havens - most famously the Thalusian islands west of Avalon, but pretty much every island out in the west seems to have at least something. Explorers travel there often, as no one owns the islands and so no one can bar them except pirates and rivals. There are reports of aeries in the Ussuran mountains that are too large for any known bird, and pirates speak of lands in the south where lakes boil and giant insect remains have been found. Of course, some of these tales are almost certainly inventions of fancy. Syrne ruins also show up sometimes in other continents, but most nations care less about preserving them than the Explorers do.

The sidebar on who the Syrne are explains the sum total of what the game is going to set down in stone. The Syrne appear to have been similar to humanity, but with technology that is more advanced than 17th century science can understand or conceive of. There is no record of their appearance, but they were probably bipedal, and their tools seem designed for human-like hands of human-like size. Because they appear to have quickly and completely vanished, most scholars believe some great disaster destroyed them, though some believe that the Leshiye, Dievai and Sidhe are surviving Syrneth remnants. If so, none of the three are willing to admit or talk about it.

Besides the Syrne, Theah also has monsters in its wild lands. Most are not capable of intellect, though some can. These tend to be the most dangerous. Constanzo Rodriguez of the Explorers has spent most of his life cataloguing animals, and his ever-growing Complete Bestiary has brought the old man lots of prestige. It includes several monsters. Ghosts appear to be the lingering souls of the dead, typically wandering the place they died and appearing as they did the moment of death. Some ghosts appear to interfere with the use of some sorceries - most notable Montaigne's ghosts, which can prevent the use of Porte in their vicinity. Some Montaignes have also got the rare talent for trapping ghosts in mirrors, and some nobles display them as entertainment at parties. The Church associates them with the sin of Envy.

Ghouls are ape-like monsters that can, apparently, sense the wounded from miles away. They prefer to eat living flesh, but are generally too weak to capture it themselves, so they prey on injured animals...and humans, as they can't seem to tell the two apart. Field hospitals must be guarded by night to prevent ghoul attacks, and most soldiers are terrified of ghouls finding them while injured. Ghouls following an army are a bad omen. The Church associates them with the sin of Gluttony.

Kobolds are typically found in uninhabited forests, especially in Eisen. They were the models for the stone statues used as gargoyles atop cathedrals and other buildings. This is because kobolds are very bloodthirsty, but very territorial, and will never settle in an area in which they see another of their kind. The statues are an attempt to trick them. They have immense fangs and claws, are very tough, and their bite is mildly venomous. The Church associates them with the sin of Greed.

Sirens have an upper torso resembling a human woman and the lower body of a fish. They exclusively eat meat, and they love human flesh. They are known to imitate drowning women to lure in ships, in the hopes of an attempted rescue turned meal. They sometimes beckon for sailors to swim with them for the same reason. They also follow ships in hopes of shipwrecks. Once a sailor is in the water, they will swim up and make soothing warbles before attacking with sharp nails and shark-like teeth. Their necks expand to accomodate large pieces of meat, and they make a high keening while eating that is believed to be a sound of satisfaction. This is called the siren's song, and it is terrifying to most sailors. The Church associates them with the sin of Lust.

Wights are mobile corpses. They tend not to use weapons, favoring their own hands, turned into filthy, bony talons. However, despite this, they are quite clever and may even be capable of reasoning, though they do not ever speak. Most pious Theans believe Wights are born when a man who is too proud of his deeds dies of unnatural causes, whose pride prevents them from moving on to the afterlife. Rodriguez disputes this, believing that wights are actually caused by a sort of disease spread by contact with other wights. Because wights are so hard to destroy, the few cadavers he's gotten to examine are all too mangled for dissection, however. Wights are most often found near the sea. The Church, obviously, associates them with the sin of Pride.

Other monsters of Theah include drachens, griffons and night terrors, none of whom are encountered very often. No drachen has been seen in living memory, in fact. Night terrors seem to be able to invade dreams and attack from them, while griffons hunt in large packs. Beyond this, little is known of their behavior. The Church identifies drachens with Wrath, night terrors with Sloth and griffons with no particular sin.

Next time: Chargen.

We are literally 16 pages from the halfway mark and just now hitting chargen

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: We are literally 16 pages from the halfway mark and just now hitting chargen

If I have one major problem with this book it's organizational. We literally took half the book to reach the part where mechanics even begin to exist, and will be past that before we know how, like, dicerolls work. Whoops. Anyway, we start off with the standard Wick-style game sugestion of reaching character concept by answering 20 questions.

quote:

1. What Nation is your Hero from?
2. How would you physically describe your Hero?
3. Does your Hero have recurring mannerisms?
4. What is your Hero's main motivation?
5. What is your Hero's greatest strength? Greatest weakness?
6. What are your Hero's most and least favorite things?
7. What about your Hero's psychology?
8. What is your Hero's single greatest fear?
9. What are your Hero's highest ambitions? Her greatest love?
10. What is your Hero's opinion of his country?
11. Does your Hero have any prejudices?
12. Where do your Hero's loyalties lie?
13. Is your Hero in love? Is she married or betrothed?
14. What about your Hero's family?
15. How would your Hero's parents describe her?
16. Is your Hero a gentle?
17. How religious is your Hero? What sect of the Church does she follow?
18. Is your Hero a member of a guild, gentle's club, or secret society?
19. What does your Hero think of Sorcery?
20. If you could, what advice would you give your Hero?

Having done that, you now get your Traits. As before, they are Brawn (strength and power), Finesse (coordination and agility), Resolve (willpower and endurance), Wits (ability to think on your feet) and Panache (charm). You start with all of them at 2, and have 2 additional points to spend as you like. Then, you add your Nation Bonus. Each Nation provides a bonus to one of two traits, your choice. I feel like they went with ten nations solely so they could have each trait be a bonus to four different nations. You apply the Nation bonus after spending your two free points.

Now, you select two Backgrounds. Backgrounds represent your past and its influence on you, but do not limit what you become. Each Background provides:
1. A Quirk, a trait that you can follow to gain Hero Points.
2. Advantages. You get all the listed ones for free. I want to say they all provide 5 points worth of advantages (before any national discounts) but I'm not totally sure. If your backgrounds have overlapping advantages, you get another advantage of the same cost as the duplicate, which you may choose freely.
3. Skills. You get 1 rank in five different skills. If your backgrounds have overlapping skills, those start at 2, not 1.

The Basic Backgrounds, which anyone can take, are:
Archaeologist: You studied Syrne ruins, and gain Hero Points when you turn artifacts over to museums, universities and public sites.
Aristocrat: You're a born noble, and you gain Hero Points when you prove that there's more to nobility than fancy clothes and court.
Army Officer: You were a command-ranked member of the army. You gain Hero Points when you seize command in moments of intense violence or danger.
Artist: You made art. You gain Hero Points when you make sacrifices to make Theah more beautiful.
Assassin: You were a hired killer. You gain Hero Points when you go out of your way to avoid killing an enemy or refuse an action because it might kill someone.
Cavalry: You were a cavalry soldier. You gain Hero Points when you apply your horseriding skills in uncommon situations.
Courtier: You were a diplomat and courtier. You earn Hero Points when you turn the tide of violence with charm or flair.
Crafter: You made useful things. You gain Hero Points when you use normal crafting skills to solve a problem that others deem too complex for such a simple solution.
Criminal: You broke the law. You earn Hero Points when you break the law in pursuit of a noble goal.
Doctor: You healed the sick. You earn Hero Points when you tend to a Villain's injuries or those of innocents harmed by a Villain.
Duelist: You devoted your life to the blade (or other weapon). You earn Hero Points when you resort to fighting to defend a noble cause.
Engineer: You studied how to apply knowledge and math to solve problems. You earn Hero Points when you use your technological skills to solve problems.
Explorer: You sought out far lands. You earn Hero Points when you see things few if any Theans have ever seen before.
Farmkid: You were raised on a farm. You earn Hero Points when you solve complex problems with simple methods from back home.
Hunter: You were a hunter. You earn Hero Points when you use your hunter's skills to save people from danger.
Jenny: You were a prostitude or seduction artist. You earn Hero Points when you resolve conflicts with seduction or sexiness.
Mercenary: You fought for cash. You earn Hero Points when you choose to use your skills for a reason worth more to you than money.
Merchant: You sold stuff. You earn Hero Points when you sell something for far less than it is really worth to someone who desperately needs it.
Naval Officer: You were in a ship's command crew. You earn Hero Points when you put the needs of the crew before the needs of the mission.
Orphan: You lost your parents young. You earn Hero Points when you endanger yourself to ensure someone else doesn't have to be alone.
Pirate: You were a pirate. You earn Hero Points when you make a personal sacrifice to ensure another's freedom.
Priest: You served as a priest. You earn Hero Points when you put aside words and take action to practice what you preach.
Professor: You taught others. You earn Hero Points when you use obscure textual knowledge to solve complex problems.
Pugilist: You punched people. You earn Hero Points when you drop what you're holding and fight unarmed, regardless of your foe's weapon.
Quartermaster: You took care of ships' supplies and other details. You earn Hero Points when you solve a problem for your crew.
Sailor: You sailed. You earn Hero Points when you put aside your own desires to ensure the safety and comfort of your allies.
Scholar: You knew things. You earn Hero Points when you endanger yourself in pursuit of knowledge.
Servant: You worked for someone else. You earn Hero Points when you endanger yourself to help someone with a difficult task.
Ship Captain: You commanded a ship. You earn Hero Points when you're the last of the crew to get to safety.
Soldier: You fought for an army. You earn Hero Points when you stick to the plan even if it puts you in danger.
Spy: You sought secrets for a nation. You earn Hero Points when you take great risks to discover secrets.


All Glamour Islanders may take the following backgrounds:
Bard: You told the old stories. You earn Hero Points for solving problems by following Legendary examples.
Knight Errant: You gained the magic of the Knights of Elilodd. You earn Hero Points when you uphold ideals of knightly virtue in ways that get you into trouble.
Privateer: You had a charter to sink ships for Avalon. You earn Hero Points when you defeat enemies of Crown of Avalon.
Unification Agent: You were hired by the Crown to keep the peace. You earn Hero Points when you ensure the United Kingdoms remain stable.
Avalons may take the following background:
Puritan: You were a reformed Objectionist that wanted to purify the Church of Avalon of Vaticine practice. You earn Hero Points when you expose the corruption, hypocrisy or ineffectiveness within the Vaticine Church.
Inish may take the following background:
Saoi (Wise One): You were granted the highest honor of Aosdana, a state association of artists. You earn Hero Points when you endanger yourself to protect artists.
Highlanders may take the following background:
Seanchaidh (Warrior-Poet): You were a historian and storyteller-lawyer. You earn Hero Points when you enforce the ancient laws of your people.
Castillians may take the following backgrounds:
Alquimista: You were a successful alchemist. You earn Hero Points when you improve others' lives via Alchemy.
Antropologo: You studied people, not ruins. You earn Hero Points when you solve problems for groups of strangers.
Diestro: You studied the art and beauty of the sword. You earn Hero Points when you beat trained duelists at fencing.
Mirabilis (Priest): You were a master scholar of the Vatiicine and member of the Ordo Doctorem Mirabilis. You earn Hero Points when you give of yourself to demonstrate the compassion and love of the Vaticine Church.
Eisen may take the following backgrounds:
Hexe: You were a master of Hexenwork, the dark sorcery of the dead. You earn Hero Points when you go out of your way to ensure the dead stay that way.
Krieger (Warrior): You survived the War of the Cross. You earn Hero Points when you fight to defend the defenseless or prevent destruction.
Ungetumjager (Monster Hunter): You hunted monsters. You earn Hero Points when you choose to hunt down inhuman creatures to ensure they can't hurt anyone again.
Vitalienbruder (Pirate): You were one of the Eisen dedicated to fair trade and equality on the sea. You earn Hero Points when you take from the rich to give to the poor.
Montaignes may take the following backgrounds:
L'Ami du Roi (Courtier): You are a favorite of the King. You earn Hero Points when you leverage that favor to solve problems.
Mousquetaire: You were sworn to protect the King and your fellow musketeers until death. You earn Hero Points when you are seriously injured while protecting your comrades or king.
Revolutionnaire: You were pledged to see Montaigne freed from the tyrant aristocrats. You earn Hero Points when you make personal sacrifices for the sake of liberty.
Sorcier Porte: You were a master of Porte, the sorcery of portals. You earn Hero Points when you close a Blessure opened by a Villain.
Sarmatians may take the following backgrounds:
Posel (Envoy): You were an advisor to the Sejm. You earn Hero Points when you insist on democracy when it'd be to your advantage not to take a vote.
Tremtis (Expatriate): You fled to the Commonwealth seeking asylum. You earn Hero Points when something from your past returns to haunt you.
Winged Hussar: You were a member of the greatest cavalry in the world. You earn Hero Points when you and your steed head recklessly into battle or conflict regardless of danger.
Zynys (Soothsayer): You tricked the Devil at the crossroads and gained his power. You earn Hero Points when you use something evil to do good.
Ussurans may take the following backgrounds:
Cossack: You were of the east, a horseman and warrior. You earn Hero Points when you leave something important behind so you can travel light.
Progressivist: You sought innovations to bring home to Ussura. You earn Hero Points when you endanger yourself to secure advanced technology.
Touched by Matushka: You were given power by Matushka - for a price. You earn Hero Points when you teach lessons in ways that'd make Matushka proud.
Whaler: You hunted whales. You earn Hero Points when you face down creatures that could swallow men whole.
Vestenmennavenjar can take the following backgrounds:
Bearsark: You fought with trance-like fury. You earn Hero Points when you let the GM decide your next action.
Guildmasteren: You helped manage the Vendel League. You earn Hero Points when you use Vendel League resources for something more noble than profit.
Sjorover (Pirate): You practiced the old ways of raiding. You earn Hero Points when you endanger yourself to ensure your place of honor at the Allfather's table.
Skald: You learned the secrets of the bones and fire. You earn Hero Poins when you use your Seidr knowledge to help other Heroes solve problems or thwart Villains.
Vodacce can take the following backgrounds:
Bravo: You swore to protect someone else. You earn Hero Points when you endanger yourself to defend that person's life.
Consigliere: You advised a Merchant Prince. You earn Hero Points when you take great risks to protect other people's secrets.
Esploratore: You traveled on behalf of a Prince. You earn Hero Points when you use foreign, non-Thean goods or knowledge to solve problems.
Sorte Strega: You must be a woman to take this. You have the power to sense and manipulate Fate. You earn Hero Points when you commit yourself to dangerous acts that you believe are destined.

After that, you get 10 points to spend adding or raising your skills, 1 for 1. You can't go above 3 in any skill this way. A skill at 3 lets you reroll any one die when you take a Risk using that skill. At 4, you also get the ability to make 2 Raises with a set of 15 when using that skill, rather than just 1 Raise per set of 10. At 5, you also get exploding 10s - that is, every time you roll a 10, you add and roll an additional die to your roll when using that skill. Skills are designed to be pretty open-ended in how they're used.

Skills:
Aim: Guns, throwing things, ranged combat.
Athletics: Acrobatic feats and dangerous physical stunts.
Brawl: Unarmed combat, grappling, dragging people.
Convince: Appealing to someone's better nature or getting them to trust you.
Empathy: Telling if someone is lying or how they're feeling.
Hide: Sneaking, concealing things, ambushing people with any weapon, making disguises or camouflage.
Intimidate: Forcing people to do what you want with threats - any kind.
Notice: Investigation and detecting detail.
Perform: Captivating audiences, getting across messages or emotions in your performances, doing shows.
Ride: Riding mounts, driving carriages, high speed vehicle chases.
Sailing: Navigating rigging, steering ships.
Scholarship: Nerding out about stuff, knowing things, medical skills.
Tempt: Bribery and seduction to get people to do things they really shouldn't.
Theft: Picking pockets, cracking safes, picking locks.
Warfare: Tactics, army command, breaching defenses.
Weaponry: Armed melee combat.

Then you get 5 points to buy any Advantages you didn't already get from your backgrounds. We'll get into those next time.

Next time: Sorcery is less than half the price of being a duelist each time you take it. This is completely accurate to its usefulness.

We are now halfway through this book.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: We are now halfway through this book.

So, advantages. Advantages cost between 1 and 5 points, though some Nations get discounts to some Advantages, and others have restructions. Except for a handful that are specifically noted, you can only buy them once. Advantages with the "Knack" tag (a K in a circle) cost a Hero Point to activate, but do not generally require an Action to perform - they just happen when you spend the Hero Point, though usually it'll need to be on your turn to make any dang sense. An Advantage with the "Innate" tag (a meeple) can only be taken at chargen and never through advancement. (Knacks, incidentally, only work on PCs if they allow it. You must pay them the Hero Point, and if they refuse it, the Knack just doesn't work on them.) The GM may veto use of an Advantage if it would be utterly silly, like seducing Elaine during the middle of a public speech, but generally speaking they can do what they say.

One Point Advantages
Able Drinker: You are never adversely affected by alcohol, ever, no matter how much you drink.
Cast Iron Stomach: You suffer no negative effects from spoiled or raw food, and you may gain sustenance from them, no matter what, ever.
Direction Sense: So long as you have any kind of reference point, you are never lost. You may not know what city you're in after getting knocked out, but you can always perfectly retrace your steps, no matter how winding the path, and you never get lost and turned around.
Foreign Born (Innate): You were raised in a different Nation than your own. Pick that Nation. You get a Bonus Die whenever you take any Risk that'd somehow benefit from your dual heritage.
Large (Innate): You can't take Small. You get a Bonus Die on any Risk that's easier due to being huge.
Linguist: You speak, read and write all Thean languages, even the dead ones.
Sea Legs: You get a Bonus Die on any physical Risk while on a ship at sea, and you are immune to all treacherous footing on a ship.
Small (Innate): You can't take Large. You get a Bonus Die on any Risk that's easier due to being tiny.
Survivalist: When in the wilderness, you can always find enough food for yourself and up to five other people, except in the most extreme wilderness, such as the desert or tundra. There, it's you and up to two other people.
Time Sense: You always know the time, and how long to the next sunrise or sunset, with less than a minute margin of error.

Two Point Advantages
Barterer (Knack): 1 point less for Glamour Islanders. You can activate this to get someone to cut you a deal, give you a discount or assure someone who knows you that you're totally good for it.
Come Hither (Knack): You can activate this to lure someone into a private room, then later leave the room without them, removing them from the scene. They may be rescued, but only long after you're gone.
Connection: You choose a specific type of contact. You can always find someone of that type to give you basic info or help you in some minor way that doesn't cost them or endanger them. If you want something harder to find or dangerous, you must spend a Hero Point or pay a cost they stipulate.
Disarming Smile (Knack): You can activate this to prevent someone from drawing a weapon, starting a fight or resorting to violence. They may still defend themself - but they won't start it.
Eagle Eyes: As long as you have clear line of sight, you can see perfectly out to a mile away. With a spyglass, you can even pick out fine details like the inscription on a ring. You get a Bonus Die on any Risk that relies on your keen vision heavily.
Extended Family (Knack): 1 point less for Ussurans. You can activate this to reveal a distant cousin that lives nearby and can give you resources, info or shelter.
Fascinate (Knack): You can activate this to grab someone's attention until the end of the scene or until you stop talking and/or paying attention to them, whichever comes first.
Friend at Court (Knack): You can activate this at a ball, feast or society function to reveal you have a close friend also attending.
Got It! (Knack): You can activate this to immediately pick a lock, crack a safe or disarm a trap.
Handy (Knack): You can activate this to instantly make a broken item, damaged gun, leaky ship or other similarly broken thing function normnally for the rest of the scene. At the end of the scene, or if it takes additional damage, the thing becomes entirely unusable until you have time to do serious repairs with proper tools.
Indomitable Will (Knack): You can activate this to automatically resist an attempt to intimidate, seduce or goad you.
Inspire Generosity (Knack): You can activate this to convince somneone to give you something you want, free, by the easiest means for them to do so.
Leadership (Knack): 1 point less for Sarmatians. You can activate this to inspire a group that can hear you to act, so long as they are at least of neutral disposition towards you. They will do whatever you command as long as it's not unreasonable, such as suicide.
Married to the Sea: You have access to a Ship. If you already had one, the Ship gains an additional Background.
Perfect Balance (Knack): You can activate this to move across a thing beam, jump to somehwere or otherwise perform a feat of perfect agility and balance.
Poison Immunity: 1 point less for Vodacce. You suffer only mild, brief discomfort from all poisons that are not normally lethal. Lethal poisons may also cause you to vomit but are still otherwise harmless.
Psst, Over Here (Knack): You may activate this while undetected to automatically lure someone away and knock them out, leaving everyone else unaware of you still.
Reckless Takedown (Knack): You may activate this to immediately defeat an entire Brute Squad, regardless of its Strength. After you do, you take 1 Dramatic Wound.
Reputation: You have a rep. Define it. When using it to your advantage in a social Risk, you get a Bonus Die. You can buy this multiple times, either to boost a rep's Bonus Dice (1 per purchase) or have multiple reps.
Second Story Work (Knack): You can activate this to find a way into a building or restricted area and enter it, bringing up to one other person with you. Everyone else has to find their own way in or wait for you to open a path.
Slip Free (Knack): You can activate this to escape from manacles, ropes or otherwise free yourself.
Sorcery: You gain your nation's Sorcery. You may earn this Advantage after chargen only via a Hero Story, not any other kind of Story. You may take this multiple times, with different effects based on your Sorcery.
Staredown (Knack): 1 point less for Eisen. You may activate this to intimidate someone into backing down from a threat, letting you into somehere or otherwise getting out of your way.
Streetwise (Knack): You can activate this to find a fixer, information dealer, black market or similar criminally inclined figure.
Team Player: When you spend a Raise to make an Opportunity, you can spend a seond Raise to activate it on behalf of a willing other Hero, so they don't have to spend their own Raise to do it.
Valiant Spirit: You begin each session with 2 Hero Points, not 1.

Three Point Advantages
An Honest Misunderstanding (Knack): You may activate this to edit, redact or otherwise alter something you or another Hero just said, 'reinterpreting' it into something inoffensively complimentary.
Bar Fighter: You get a Bonus Die when making Brawling Risks to fight with improvised weapons.
Boxer: You get a Bonus Die when making Brawling Risks to fight using only your own body.
Bruiser: You get a Bonus Die when making Weaponry Risks to fight using a two-handed weapon such as a zweihander, claymore, halberd or battle axe.
Brush Pass (Knack): You can activate this to pick someone's pocket, steal their ring off their finger or plant some small handheld item on them without being noticed.
Camaraderie: 1 point less for Montaignes. When you spend a Hero Point to aid an ally, they get 4 dice, not 3.
Deadeye: You get a Bonus Die when you make an Aim Risk using a pistol, blunderbuss or thrown weapon.
Dynamic Approach (Knack): You can activate this to change your Approach during an Action or Dramatic Sequence.
Fencer: You get a Bonus Die when making Weaponry Risks to fight using a one-handed bladed weapon.
Foul Weather Jack: You may have two Hero STories active at once, not just one.
Masterpiece Crafter: 1 less for Vesten. Pick a type of item, such as weapons, armor or paintings. When you make one of that type, you may spend extra time on it to make it of greater quality. When using normal materials, this is purely cosmetic - it is notably good quality and will draw a higher price if for sale, but that's it. If you use exotic materials, such as making a sword from meteoric iron, you may make it into a Signature Item for yourself or another Hero. The time required and if a material is exotic enough to qualify are up to the GM.
Opportunist (Knack): You may activate this when another Hero spends a Raise to make an Opportunity to immediately activate that Opportunity for yourself.
Ordained: 1 less for Castillians. You can always expect a refuge, shelter and meal at any church, and have free access to most, but not all, Church libraries. You get two Bonus Dice on social Risks against those that share your faith.
Patron: You have some kind of patron that keeps you employed. You start each session with 1 Wealth, and you may spend a Hero Point to call in a favor from your patron - usually a political or mercantile one. Your patron may occasionally ask you favors or otherwise want you to produce something, depending on what they pay you to do.
Quick Reflexes: Pick a skill. When using that skill, you may always take actions as if you had an additional Raise. (So if you roll 3 Raises, you act as if you had 4 for timing purposes. If you spend 2, you then act as if you had 2 Raises instead of 1.) You can take this multiple times, but it must be a different skill each time.
Rich: You begin each session with 3 Wealth.
Signature Item: You have an important item. Describe it and why it's important. You may always spend a Hero Point to have it appear in the next scene if it's lost or stolen, to get 2 Bonus Dice on a Risk while using it, to attack a foe to deal Wounds equal to Raises spent plus your highest Trait while using it, or the prevent Wounds equal to Raises spent plus your highest Trait while using it. You must describe how it helps you do that when you do it, of course, and it has to make sense to the GM.
Sniper: You get a Bonus Die when making Aim Risks using a long-barrel musket, longbow or crossbow.
Tenure: You can expect refuge, shelter and food at any university, and access to most, though not all, of their libraries. You get 2 Bonus Dice on social Risks against members of institutions of higher learning and those that respect university education.
Virtuoso: Choose a type of performance, such as song, a specific instrument or dance. You get a Bonus Die when making Perform Risks using that art.

Four Point Advantages
Academy (Innate): You attended a military academy. When making a Risk using Athletics, Warfare or Ride, you may add +1 to the value of all rolled dice.
Alchemist: Castillians only. You may spend a Hero Point to produce an immediately useful exlir or potion. Using one in an Action or Dramatic Sequence requires a Raise, of course. Examples are smoke bombs, a single-round buff to a Trait, or extremely slippery oil, but anything of similar utility the GM agrees makes sense is probably doable.
Hard to Kill: You are not Helpless when you have 4 Dramatic Wounds. Instead, any Villain that takes a Risk against you while you have 4 Dramatic Wounds gets 3 Bonus Dice instead of 2. You have an additional tier of Wounds, becoming Helpless when you take your 5th Dramatic Wound.
Legendary Trait: Select a Trait. When you roll a Risk using that trait, remove one die from your pool. That die automatically rolls a 10. If your 10s explode, it also explodes.
Lyceum (Innate): You studied at a lyceum or finishing school. When making a Risk using Convince, Intimidate or Tempt, you may add +1 to the value of all rolled dice.
Miracle Worker (Knack): For some reason, you know how to heal wounds. You can activate this and spend a Raise on your Action to heal another Hero you can touch, curing them of one 1 Dramatic Wound.
Riot Breaker: You're good at fighting groups. When you take Wounds from a Brute Squad, you take fewer Wounds based on REsolve, to a minimum of 1.
Seidr: Vesten only. You know how to see Names and have studied as a Skald. You can spend a Hero Point to make a speech about another character, giving them a 1-die Reputation of your choice (or increasing an existing one by 1), or altering one of their existing reputations of your choice but keeping its dice the same. If you change a Reputation, anyone who uses the new one against them gets its Bonus Dice as well. You may spend a Hero Point to cast runes, dice or bones. When you do, you may ask the GM a single yes/no question about the future, which they will answer honestly (for that particular point in time; it doesn't control dice rolls - just gives the most likely answer). Beyond that caveat, this is never wrong. You may spend a Hero Point while looking at a mortal human to instantly know their name, regardless of any disguise or lie, and you may always recognize them (and their name) for the rest of the scene.
Specialist: Choose a skill you have 3+ ranks in. When making a Risk using any other skill during an Action or Dramatic Sequence, you do not have to pay additional Raises to improvise with that skill. You may repurchase this to swap your chosen skill, but if you do, you lose the old one.
Trusted Companion: You either have a small group of loyal people or a single ally who would die for you. If your ally or allies help you in a Risk, you get a Bonus Die if you can describe how, specifically, they help. If you send them out to do something and they must make a Risk, the GM will have them roll 5 dice. They can take 5 Wounds before becoming Helpless.
University (Innate): You attended university. When making a risk using Scholarship. Empathy or Notice, you may add +1 to the value of all rolled dice.

Five Point Advantages
Duelist Academy: You have a Dueling Style and access to Duelist Techniques. You may purchase this multiple times, gaining a new Style each time. (It is not usually worth it.)
I Won't Die Here (Knack): 2 less for Eisen. You may activate this to ignore all negative effects from Dramatic Wounds for the rest of the round, including becoming Helpless.
I'm Taking You With Me (Knack): 2 less for Vesten. You may activate this to increase all damage you deal for the rest of the round by your number of Dramatic Wounds.
Joie de Vivre (Knack): 2 less for Montaignes. You may activate this just before a confrontation with a Villain to make a pithy or clever comment about how it's always darkest before the dawn or something similar. Every Hero that hears the speech counts all dice that roll equal to or under their skill on their next roll as 10s.
Spark of Genius (Knack): 2 less for Castillians. Select a field of academic study. When you make a Risk and can call on that specialist field, you may activate this to get additional Raises equal to your Wits automatically.
Strength of Ten (Knack): 2 less for Ussurans. When performing a feat of raw strength as part of a Risk, you can activate this to increase the value of all rolled dice by the higher of your Brawn or Resolve.
The Devil's Own Luck (Knack): 2 less for Glamour Islanders. You can activate this after taking a Risk to reroll any number of dice that you choose, keeping the new rolls (barring any other reroll effects). You can only use this once per scene.
Together We Are Strong (Knack): 2 less for Sarmatians. You can activate this to give any number of your Raises to another Hero in the same scene that can see or hear you.
We're Not So Different... (Knack): 2 less for Vodacce. You can activate this to convince a Villain you are on their side. They consider you a trusted ally until they see you do something Heroic or you refuse to do something Villainous for them. You can only use this on a given Vllain once, ever.

So, having picked your Advantage, you then get to pick your Arcana. All Heroes, according to the Sorte strega, are touched by Fate, which gives them an aura that can be read. You have two Arcana - your Virtue and your Hubris. Your Virtue is what makes you truly Heroic, while your Hubris is your greatest emotional challenge. You select one Arcana to be your Virtue and another to be your Hubris. (You can have them both be the same, but you don't have to.) You can activate your Virtue once per session. There is no cost to doing so. You may choose to activate your Hubris to gain a Hero Point, and the GM can offer you a Hero Point to activate it - but you can refuse that. You never jhave to activate your Hubris.

Arcana:
The Fool: As a Virtue, you can activate this to escape danger from the current scene, though you can only rescue yourself this way, no one else. As a Hubris, you get a Hero Point when you investigate something unusual and dangerous.
The Road: As a Virtue, you can activate this when you meet a character for the first time - even a Villain. They treat you as friendly for one scene. As a Hubris, you get a Hero Point when your Hero decides they can't do something without someone else's help, whether that's them spending a Hero Point to give bonus dice or using an Advantage on your behalf or whatever.
The Magician: As a Virtue, you can activate this and target a Villain. Until the end of the scene, you can't spend Hero Points and they can't spend Danger Points. As a Hubris, you get a Hero Point when you chase power and make a dangerous or troublesome deal.
The Lovers: As a Virtue, you can activate this when another Hero takes Wounds to prevent them from taking any Wounds. You take one Dramatic Wound instead. As a Hubris, you get a Hero Point when you become enamored with someone you really shouldn't.
The Wheel: As a Virtue, you can activate this to delay an Opportunity or Consequence by 1 Action. As a Hubris, you get 2 Hero Points when you choose to fail a Risk without rolling instead of 1.
The Devil: As a Virtue, you may activate this after a Villain spends Raises for an action. The Villain loses the spent Raises, but the action automatically fails. As a Hubris, you gain a Hero Point when you accept someone's lies or bad deal.
The Tower: As a Virtue, you may activate this to gain 2 Hero Points instead of 1 from a Quirk or Hubris activation. As a Hubris, you get a Hero Point when you show disdain, contempt or otherwise look down on a Villain or someone else who can cause harm to your friends.
The Beggar: As a Virtue, you may activate this to discover the type of a Brute Squad or the Rank and Advantages of a Villain. As a Hubris, you receive a Hero Point when you want something and do something unwise to get it.
The Witch: As a Virtue, you may activate this to ask one yes/no question about an NPC, which the GM will answer honestly - and including any qualifiers that need more full explanation. As a Hubris, you receive a Hero Point when you try to get someone else to do your dirty work and it backfires.
The War: As a Virtue, you may activate this the first time you wound a Villain in a fight to cause a Dramatic Wound on top of the normal Wounds dealt. As a Hubris, you get a Hero Point when you go back from a fallen comrade or refuse to leave a wounded ally.
The Hanged Man: As a Virtue, you may activate this take a Risk's Consequences in place of another Hero. As a Hubris, you get a Hero Point when you spend an action pausing in hesitation, doubt or uncertainty before actually doing anything.
Coins (for the Ferryman): As a Virtue, you may activate this to take your first action before anyone else in the round can act, no matter what. As a Hubris, you get a Hero Point when you refuse to leave well enough alone or quit while ahead and it gets you in trouble.
The Thrones: As a Virtue, you may activate this to cancel the effects of Fear on you and your friends. As a Hubris, you get a Hero Point when you're stubborn and refuse to change your mind in the face of evidence.
The Moonless Night: As a Virtue, you may activate this when you act secretly or through intermediaries. For the next Risk, all of your dice count as a Raise when calculating Raises. As a Hubris, you get a Hero Point when you fail to understand something important about the plot and this leads to danger for you or others.
The Sun: As a Virtue, you may activate this when you're the center of attention. For the next Risk, all of your dice count as a Raise when calculating Raises. As a Hubris, you get a Hero Point when you refuse a meaningful offer of aid.
The Prophet: As a Virtue, you may activate this to know whenever someone lies to you for the rest of the scene. As a Hubris, you get a Hero Point whenever you strongly defend an opinion at an inappropriate time or place.
Reunion: As a Virtue, you may activate this and pick another Hero in the scene. You both pool your Raises for the round, sharing the same pool for the purpose of spending Raises on taking actions. As a Hubris, you get a Hero Point when you bring up old grudges or bad feelings when it will lead to trouble.
The Hero: As a Virtue, you may activate this to add your target's Fear rating as Bonus Dice to your Risk. As a Hubris, you get a Hero Point when your brash, cocky or reckless action causes trouble for you and another Hero.
The Glyph: As a Virtue, you may activate this to prevent any magical effect of any kind from affecting you. As a Hubris, you get a Hero Point when you refuse to solve a problem using Sorcery, artifacts or other mystic effects you don't trust.
The Emperor: As a Virtue, you may activate this to give a Hero Point to all other Heroes in the scene. As a Hubris, you get a Hero Point when you lose your temper and fly off the handle, causing trouble.

Next time: Advancement.

Story Time.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Story Time.

Your character sheet, at this point, is mostly done. However, next up is your Story. Each PC has one (or sometimes two) Hero Stories, and these are your main method of advancement. (Well, them and GM Stories, but those are GM-controlled and dealt with later.) First, when you make a new Story, you decide what theme you want to explore. You can usually only have one Hero Story at a time, which you must either resolve or abandon before you can get another. So, first, we come up with a simple description, usually just one word. Revenge. Absolution. Amnesia. Then you expand it a little with a sentence that specifies what. Revenge: I must find the man who killed my parents. Amnesia: I can't remember who I am. Absolution: I failed to protect my sister, and must find a way to atone.

Now, we must determine what we want - our Goal. There's two parts to that. First, the Ending of our Story. Endings aren't meant to be suspenseful for the players - they tell the GM what outcome you're aiming for with the Hero Story. GM Stories can be suspenseful, but with these, you know what you're going for. So for our Revenge story, let's say our Ending is 'I slay the man who killed my parents.' Amnesia: 'I discover that I am the younger brother of Queen Elaine, royal of Avalon.' Absolution: 'I save a young girl from a monster, like I couldn't save my sister.' So now we have our solid ending - though the game does suggest we put these in third person to remember that our Hero probably has no idea what the ending is. These should always be some actionable goal we can do, eventually. If the Ending becomes unattainable, the player and GM work together to craft a related but feasible Ending. Second, we determine the Reward. See, when a Story resolves, that's when a character gets advancement. Depending on what we want, we know how many Steps the Story has.

Steps, see, are how many distinct, related events must occur before we can reach the Ending. Steps should be achievable, but we don't know all of them in advance. In facy, when a Story begins, all we know is the first Step. Revenge: Find the man who sold my parents out to the killer. Amnesia: Learn my name. Absolution: Find evidence of a monster. You can be as detailed in the Step as you like, but you only need the one when you create a Story. Once the Step hsa been completed, you may choose to write the next Step at any time - immediately or you can wait a bit, it's totally up to you. If a Step becomes impossible, just erase it and replace it. (You cannot, however, put in diversions that are unrelated to your Story in as Steps. Do what you're doing and stay focused on that Story, then come back to your Hero Story later.)

So, what's the stuff you get? Anything. You want to increase a Skill? That'll be a Story with Steps equal to the new rank in the skill. A new skill at 1 needs only a single Step, while improving a skill to 4 takes 4 Steps. Advantages take a number of Steps equal to their point cost. You can erase one of your Quirks and replace it with another Quirk - any existing one or one you and the GM write up - for 3 Steps. You may change your Virtue or Hubris for 4 Steps, though you can only have one Virtue and one Hubris at any time. You can shift a point in one Trait into another Trait for 4 Steps, or increase a Trait by 1 for 5 Steps. However, your total Traits can only equal 15, no more, so you can only increase Traits twice. After that, you have to shift them around to change them. Removing a point of Corruption costs five Steps.

That's most of chargen! There's just a few bits left. First, you speak Languages equal to your Wits score (assuming you don't have Linguist). Everyone has Wits 2, so everyone can start with their native language and Old Thean, which is Not Latin and is the trade tongue that almost everyone knows. Second, you may choose to join a Secret Society. There is no cost to doing so, but your Society may (and probably will) ask you to do stuff from time to time. If you choose to begin play in a Society, you begin with 2 Favor with them. You do not begin play with any Wealth by default; that doesn't mean poverty, however. It is assumed that a Hero can always afford the basic necesseties of food, shelter and clothing, as long as they are available to buy at all. Wealth is there to buy extra stuff.

How do you earn Wealth, then, besides Patron or Rich? Well, you can choose to take up a Profession. To do this, you select the skill that'd be relevant - Perform for a musician, Weaponry for a bodyguard, etc. You tell the GM what you're doing and, assuming you have the time and opportunity to work, you gain Wealth equal to that skill. Unspent Wealth is usually lost between sessions, however, unless you're trying to save up for something. In that case, the GM may allow you to bank half your Wealth between sessions, but you always lose at least half your total Wealth at the end of each session.

What can you do with Wealth? Well, you spend it. When you're in a social Risk that could be influenced by money, you can spend Wealth. Each Wealth spent lets you reroll one die. You can spend 1 Wealth to get a high quality common item - a good sword or horse, say. 3 Wealth lets you hire a Strength 5 Brute Squad to serve you for a scene. 5 Wealth lets you buy just about any piece of equipment that is not unique, even stuff not readily available or which is illegal. 8-10 Wealth is enough to get a business, house, ship or other piece of property. Obviously, if an adventure ends in you getting paid for something, you get the appropriate Wealth at the start of the next session, rather than losing it when the session ends - presumably, with the adventure, after all.

Then you mark your Death Spiral. (The game instructs us to always say 'Death Spiral' as overly dramatically as possible.) This is your HP bar. It consists of four sets of 4 Wounds and 1 Dramatic Wound, with a total of 16 Wounds and 4 Dramatic Wounds (assuming you didn't buy the Advantage that adds more). Normal Wounds are basically meaningless; Dramatic Wounds are not. When you take damage, you fill in Wounds equal to the damage taken. If you ever have to fill in a Dramatic Wound star, you take a Dramatic Wound. However, that's not always totally bad! When you have 1+ Dramatic Wounds, you get a Bonus Die to all Risks. When you have 2+, Villains get 2 Bonus Dice to any Risk rolled against you. When you have 3+, all of your 10s explode. When you have 4, you are Helpless.



Next time: How the fuck does this system even work, anyway?

Risk It All

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Risk It All

Any action that isn't important and risky and dangerous isn't rolled. That'd be silly. Your PCs are Heroes, and Heroes don't fuck up when doing totally normal things! That'd be dumb and bad narrative. So, all the game cares about are Risks. Risks are what you do when there's something on the line, something that matters. You roll dice when there's a Risk. Risks are considered to have three major elements: your Approach, the Consequences, and Opportunities. Your Approach is how you plan to solve a problem, which is composed of your Trait plus your Skill. This also determines how you can spend Raises when acting during a Sequence - any action you want to take that isn't covered by your Approach costs an extra Raise to do. The best way to define your Approach is think about why you're doing something, what you want and how you're going to get it, the game says. Any pairing works, though it may take some thought to describe how you plan to, like, do a thing with Resolve+Aim.

All Risks also have Consequences - stuff that can hurt or hinder you when you do it. You're running across a burning room? Catching on fire might be a Consequence, or revealing your secret identity due to your mask burning away. Once you've declared your action, you have to deal with the Consequences - no takebacks. Most Risks have one or two Consequences, but a really dangerous Risk could have up to four. Opportunities, on the other hand, are moments you can exploit based on your Approach. Maybe your tough stance means you can lock eyes with the pirate captain and force a one on one duel, or you spot a loaded pistol just as you need it, or spot a friend while running in a foot chase. The GM will tell you any available Opportunities when you announce your Approach, just like Consequences. Not all Risks have them, but a nice and very dramatic Risk usually has one, sometimes two.

So, in essence, the GM gives you your situation and asks what you're going to do. You tell them the GM your Approach - what you want to do, and how. The GM then decides if that's a Risk or not. If it isn't, you just do it, no roll. If it is, the GM tells you what pool you're using. You gather up the pool dice, plus any bonus dice you might have, and the GM will tell you the Consequences and Opportunities, as well as why what you're doing is a Risk. So let's say you want to run through a burning building. The Consequences here might be that you're going to take 2 Wounds, because of fire. But you have an Opportunity - you spot a documents on a desk containing useful secrets, but it's about to catch fire. All Risks have at least one Consequence, and may or may not have Opportunities, all determined before you roll. So here, you're going to need 1 Raise to cross the burning room, and you need 1 Raise to resist each Wound, and 1 Raise to seize the Opportunity and get the paperwork before it burns. Doing an action generally always costs just the 1 Raise - anything else is to mitigate Consequences, seize Opportunities or otherwise get extra stuff done. There is an exception: again, if you want to do an Action during an Action or Dramatic Sequence that is not covered by the Approach you're using, you have to spend an additional Raise to improvise.

So now you roll your dice. You want to add up the values on the dice to achieve sets of 10. Any set of 10 you make is a Raise. If you can't make a full set of 10 out of dice, they're useless. So, let's say you roll 10, 7, 5, 5, 2, 2. The 10 is 1 Raise. The two 5s can be grouped as 1 Raise. And the 7, 2 and 2 make 11 - enough for 1 Raise. So 3 Raises out of that roll! You get no special benefits for having a set that's larger than 10, but it counts as a Raise still. So now I have to choose - I spend one Raise to get across the room. I can now spend the remaining 2 and take no damage but lose the paper, or take 1 Wound and get the paper, as each Wound is a Consequence that must be resisted.

If you are making an Approach with a skill you do not have, you can roll as normal, but your pool is smaller and any action you take is going to cost an extra Raise. This can stack with the Improvising cost - so if you want to do something you have no skills in and it doesn't fit your Approach for the Sequence, well, that's 3 Raises total. If you make a roll and manage to get no Raises, something Interesting happens. You may not necessarily fail, but the scene changes. Maybe a new Villain shows up, maybe there's a dramatic shift. Regardless, the GM decides the outcome of the action you were trying, and you suffer any and all Consequences, and you miss all Opportunities.

As a note, when someone would take Wounds from Consequences, you may choose to interpose yourself and take some or all of them instead, by being close enough to help and spending 1 Raise per Wound you want to take in their place. The GM is strictly instructed to use Consequences only to make things more interesting and dramatic, and never to just screw over the party. That's not fun, and the GM's job is to ensure everyone is having fun. Don't just screw them and make them fail. Remember: at any point, a player may choose not to roll, to willingly just fail the roll and gain a Hero Point, taking any Consequences and missing any Opportunities. That's when the heroes should fail. Well, that and when they roll poorly and it makes the story more interesting for them. Gotta be fun, remember.

You may also spend Raises to create Opportunities for other Heroes. Specifically, you may spend a Raise to make an Opportunity for the next Hero to act. They're still going to have to spend a Raise to take advantage of it as normal, of course. But by making an Opportunity, you are basically writing them a permission slip to do something that otherwise couldn't be possible in that situation. You're giving them a narrative chance that didn't exist before you spent the Raise. Maybe you are fighting a guard and you spend a Raise to make an Opportunity by knocking the gun from his hand, causing it to skitter towards the jail cell where your friends are prisoners. They can now try to grab that as an Opportunity before the guard gets it back, and now they're armed in a situation they would otherwise not be able to be armed in. The key is that it has to make sense and be fun - interesting, not ridiculous or dumb.

There are also some ways to get extra dice: flair. There's two kinds of flair, and they can stack. First, the first time you use a unique skill in a scene, you get a bonus die. So the first time you use Brawl, you get a bonus die, but not the next time this scene you use Brawl. If you swapped to Athletics, though, you would get a bonus die the first time you used that. Further, if you give a description or quip as you act, or you interact with the scenery in a cool way, or otherwise make things more fun? Bonus die. These don't even have to be very long descriptions - 'I go for my sword and charge with a battle cry' counts, anything more than 'I'm gonna go with my Weaponry skill' or 'I roll Intimidate'.

There's one other thing you do with Raises: you can try to influence another character's actions. This is called Pressure, and is usable by Heroes and Villains. To apply Pressure, you pick your target, and name a specific action, like 'attack me' or 'run away'. The next time your target tries to do anything but that action, they must spend an additional Raise. The easiest way to apply Pressure is usually with social skills, even in ACtion Sequences, but if you're creative, nearly anything can work. However, once a character has been Pressured, no one else can Pressure them until the initial situation's been resolved and they are no longer under Pressure. (Note: the Pressure remains if they do what you told them to do. It will stay until the scene changes such that it's no longer relevant, or they spend the extra Raise to do something else.) Applying Pressure is an action like any other, with the same Raise cost as any other. However, a Villain may apply Pressure to all Heroes present in a scene by spending a Raise and a Danger Point, rather than just a Raise.

Hero Points and Danger Points are very important. A Hero begins play each session with 1 Hero Point, by default. You can gain them by activating your Hubris, choosing to fail rolls, following your Quirk (for a max of 1 Hero Point per Quirk per session), or by having the GM buy dice you were unable to use in Raises. For each die the GM buys this way, you get 1 Hero Point and the GM gets 1 Danger Point. Hero Points, besides activating Knacks, can be used in a number of ways! You can spend a Hero Point to add a die to your roll before rolling a Risk, one for one. You can spend a Hero Point to give another Hero 3 dice to their roll before a Risk by providing aid or moral support, but you can only spend one point on it and they can only get help from one person on a given Risk. You can spend a Hero Point to take an action while Helpless, acting as normal for that action. (Side note: if you choose to fail a roll? You get to narrate how you fail. You have total control, as long as you still end up...well, failing.)

The Danger Pool, on the other hand, fuels Villains. It begins each session with 1 point in it per Hero. The GM may spend Danger Points on several effects. First, a Danger Point can make it so that all Heroes must get a total of 15 for each Raise this Risk or for the entire Round in a Sequence. A single Danger Point will add two dice to a Villain's pool. A Danger Point can be spent to activate a Brute Squad's special ability or a Villain's special ability. And if a Hero is Helpless, a Billain can spend a Danger Point to murder them. The only one of these that can have multiple points spent on it is the dice adder - anything else, you only get to spend one Point at a time. The GM can't try to murder two people at once, or increase the total needed for Raises to 20.

Next time: Sequences, Wounds and Helplessness.

More Than One Thing Happening At Once!!

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: More Than One Thing Happening At Once!!

So, for a lot of times when it's just one Hero taking a Risk at a time, the GM just does that one Risk and moves on to the next. However, when multiple Heroes are involved, or when a Hero and Villain face off, or when timing is important? That's when you get an Action Sequences. A fight, an escape from a burning ship, a carriage race, boarding the enemy. These are often fast and confusing, so the GM has to maintain order without slowing down the action. These work by having everyone, at the start of the round, declare their Approach and make a roll using it, like a normal Risk. The GM then tells everyone what Consequences and Opportunities exist, if any, and when they will happen. Some may have time limits.

Now, you check to see who has the most Raises. That person goes first. If multiple characters have equal amounts, Villains go first, then the Heroes in any order they want. Once the first person acts, whoever has the most Raises then goes next, and so on, until everyone is out of Raises. You can spend more than one Raise at once, obviously, so you can often go from 'I have 5 Raises' to 'I have 2 Raises' in a single Action, what with Consequences and Opportunities and so on. Once you run out of Raises, you can't do anything else - Hero or Villain. When everyone is out of Raises, eithre the sequence ends or you go back to the top of the round and start over, depending on how things played out.

So, time limits? That's when Consequences or Opportunities either take effect or go away, respectively. So if you're in a burning ship, the powder room may explode at 2 Raises and deal 5 Wounds - so whenever the count hits 'okay, who's got 2 Raises?' and no one can say 'I do, I go now' as the next person acting, the powder room explodes and everyone takes 5 Wounds (assuming they haven't already bought down the Consequences or used their actions to get the hell out of the way by then). With an Opportunity, its time limit is 'you must use it by then, or it goes away.

Most things only cost 1 Raise to do, but again, you may have to spend extra due to being unskilled or acting outside your Approach, and of course you may spend Raises to avoid Consequences. One thing you'll often run into is that you may have to deal with Consequences immediately - so if you say you're running across the room, and that makes the Villain's minions fire on you, you have to spend your Raises to resist that Consequence now. You can't do it next time your turn comes up. If two characters are both trying to do the same thing, or to counter each other, you both have the option to spend as many Raises as you choose on that action. Whoever spends more is the one who gets what they want - but you have to do it all or nothing, you can't add more later.

So, let's tak damage. By default, you deal damage with Raises. When you make Raises during a Risk, you can spend them 1 for 1 to cause Wounds to your opponent. You may also spend Raises, 1 for 1, when someone spends Raises to inflict Wounds on you - again, 1 for 1, to reduce the damage you take. So if the Villain stabs you and spends 4 Raises on Wounds, you can spend 4 Raises to negate those, or 2 to negate 2 of the 4, or so on. There is one exception to this, though: guns. Guns actively raise the stakes, when in the hands of Heroes or Villains. (Brute Squads do not get a special gun bonus. They are Brutes, they just follow the Brute rules.) Anyone shot by a Hero or Villain takes a Dramatic Wound automatically, on top of the normal damage. While their target can spend Raises to reduce the normal damage, that automatic Dramatic Wound cannot be reduced. You can't dodge a bullet. However, it requires 5 Raises to reload a gun, though this can be done over multiple Actions.

When another Hero would take Wounds, you may spend your Raises to jump in the way and redirect damage to yourself, 1 for 1, even if it isn't your turn to act. At the end of each Scene, you recover all normal Wounds. Dramatic Wounds do not heal, however, until the end of the session or until you manage to get medical aid. Mundane healing is not cheap - it takes several hours per Dramatic Wound healed, and costs 1 Wealth per Dramatic Wound healed. Magical healing cannot be purchased with coin, though it does exist.

So, if you have four Dramatic Wounds, you're Helpless. A Helpless character is prone and can't stand. They may still roll dice for Risks, but must spend a Hero Point to take an Action - one point per action taken, in fact. A Villain may spend a Danger Point and declare that they are going to kill a Helpless Hero. They then spend all of their remaining Raises. This murder resolves at the end of the Round, after all other Actions. Any Hero may spend a Hero Point and all of their Raises to save the Helpless Hero, even if it isn't their turn. They describe how they get to and stop the murder, and the Helpless character is now safe for the rest of the scene, or until their savior becomes Helpless. If a Villain is attempting murder outside an Action Sequence, a Hero can spend a Hero Point to stop it, but that is the only action they can take.

The game also notes that there deliberately is no dodge skill. Just going 'I try not to get hit' is boring most of the time - it doesn't advance the plot or action, it just maintains the status quo. The only time it matters is when you're trying to delay a villain from getting to somewhere by interposing yourself for as long as possible - and in that case, be active with it. Use Weaponry to parry them and harass them, Athletics to dive around them and change the field, kick wax in their eyes with Brawl. Do things.

So what is a Dramatic Sequence? It's identical to an Action Sequence in most ways, except for timescale. Action Sequences are for things that are going to take only a few seconds - a fight, dodging immediate danger, escaping fire, that kind of thing. A Dramtic Sequence builds tension and takes time. It is a sneaking entry into a Villain's castle, seeking their hidden treasure. It's an interrogation by the city guard. It's a high society gala where you hope to find information, or an infiltration without getting caught. Dramatic Sequences use the same rules, but they're slower. There's more time to make decisions - they're just equally important decisions. The main difference is in pacing. Action Scenes are extremely high-paced, full of adrenaline and danger. Dramatic Sequences are slower, with questions of trust, resource and faith. They are tense and cerebral, but they're not high octane in the same way. The stakes are different. One type of Sequence can shift into the other and back - if you're sneaking, it's a Dramatic Sequence until you get caught, and then it's a fight - an Action Sequence. If you're dueling a pirate, that's ACtion...but if you decide to negotiate in the middle, even at swordpoint, now it's Dramatic.

Now we're into the GM section - and specifically, the rules on Brute Squads. Brute Squads have exactly one statistic: Strength. The number of Brutes in the squad is its Strength. Brute Squads don't really act the same way as other characters - they are a source of Consequence. When facing a Brute Squad, the Consequences are always this: take Wounds equal to the Squad's Strength. Only once all characters have acted does the Brute Squad get to do anything, normally. If it isn't taken out by then, it will deal its STrength in Wounds to a single Hero. Each Squad can only deal damage to one Hero at a time. Squads can, however, split into multiple Brute Squads of lower Strength. Brute Squads can reorganize this way at the end of each Round.

There are also five special kinds of Brute Squad, each of which has an Ability. The GM can activate this Ability by spending a Danger Point at any time. Guards can activate to forcibly retarget an attack made against a Villain onto themselves, reducing the Wounds dealt by that attack by 1. Assassins can activate to go before all other characters in the round, dealing their damage immediately, rather than going last. Duelists can activate to make a second attack, which can target a different Hero than their first one. Pirates can activate to abduct any non-Hero character from the scene. If they do, they reduce their Strength by 1, as one Brute escapes the scene with the abductee. Thieves can activate to steal any single item in a Hero's possession. If they do, they reduce their Strength by 1, as one Brute escapes the scene with the item.

Next time: Villains.

Bad Guys Are Crazy Strong

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Bad Guys Are Crazy Strong

Villains are, by design, much more capable than any single Hero. Villains have a fairly limited sheet, however. They have a Virtue, a Hubris, and then three stats: Influence, Strength and Villainy Rank. Strength is a Villain's personal capability. Any intellectual tricks, personal charm, sword skills, sorcery - that's all Strength. Strip away their money, their political power, their minions...what's left is Strength. A Villain's Strength determines how many Advantages they can have. Influence is the money, resources, minions, allies and political power. It's the power to change the world. Some Villains will have a lot of Strength and not much Influence, or vice versa. The really scary ones have both. Their Villainy Rank is their Strength plus their Influence.

Weak Villains tend to have Villainy Rank 5. This is your middle manager in the gang or your guard captain. Strong Villains - a mercenary captain or skilled assassin - woulld be about Villainy 10. Epic Villains - your generals or cult leaders - are around 15. And Mythic Villains, the best there are at hwatever they're doing? They're around 20. The reason for this is simple: dice. Whenever a Villain of any kind takes a Risk, they roll dice up to their Villainy Rank. Villains don't declare approaches - they just roll however many dice they want, up to their cap, and make Raises to do things. Villains do not have to use their true power if they don't want to - they may want to hide it from the Heroes. However, Villains only make Risks when trying to do stuff to the Heroes, most of the time. For most other things, they just spend Influence. And yes, this does mean that Villains are rolling huge dicepools and never have to spend Raises on improvising. Villains are nasty that way.

There are ways Heroes can weaken Villains. The big one? Undermining their Influence. Whenever a Hero acts indirectly against a Villain, such as by stopping their tax collectors or dueling their minions, or getting rid of their allies, that's going to reduce the Villain's Influence. Of ocurse, you do need to have some general idea of what you want to happen when you do this. Influence is a stat that changes often. As Villains complete their schemes, it grows. They gain underlings, kill rivals, bribe people and so on. As they are foiled, it shrinks - and with it, their Villainy Rank. It is much harder to reduce a Villain's Strength - that tends to be permanent. Unlike Heroes, Villains have larger Death Spirals, too. They can take Wounds equal to their Strength before taking a Dramatic Wound...so a Villain with Strength 10 takes 44 Wounds before they go down.

The main thing Villains are doing is Schemes. A Villain is always active. They're never just waiting for you. They want more Influence. A Scheme is a specific plot, crime, heist or other activity meant to increase a Villain's power. Villains must invest Influence into their Schemes. It's a bet - I bet you that you can't stop me this time. Villains cannot use Influence that is currently invested in Schemes, so that temporarily will lower their Villainy, too. Schemes always culminate in Action - if they're gathering information, they're going to have to rob a museum or kidnap someone to get it. Villains can be subtle, but they aren't timid. They don't just ask around - they grab you and rake you over the coals. Schemes are stuff like 'rob a bank' or 'rig the election in my favor' or 'murder the king' or 'steal this artifact.' Schemes are always active plans, not reactive, and they always result in action.

If the Heroes fail to stop a Scheme, the Villain gains double the Influence they spent on it. If the Heroes do foil the Scheme, well, the Influence spent on it is gone and nothing is gained. Whoops. Other stuff in the foiling may also reduce their Influence further, such as if you take out a minion they sent to accomplish the Scheme. That gets rid of their minion and foils the Scheme. Influence is good for Villains because it's currency. They spend it to get things - largely, recruiting other Villains or Brute Squads. Not that every Brute Squad or Villain you introduce is going to work for them. If the PCs piss off the cops, the cops are going to come after them but the Villain is not directly involved. If the Villain hires assassins, however, or bribes a judge to have the Heroes convicted - that, he pays for in Influence. It's when they're explicitly sending someone after you.

A Villain can spend 2 Influence per 5 Strength he wants to hire another Villain to serve him. He can spend 1 Influence per 10 Strength he wants to hire a Brute Squad. He can spend Influence equal to a Hero's Panache to get one of that Hero's allies to betray them. He can spend 1 Influence to bribe an official or to discover an NPC's true identity. He can spend Influence equal to a Hero's Wits to discover the Hero's identity. He can spend 1 Influence to find a secret location. And to get out of any scene without being killed or taken captive? Spend Influence equal to the highest Trait among Heroes present. Influence is obviously quite powerful, but what about Strength? It abstracts out all the stats that would otherwise be on the Villain's sheet. All Villains can have 5 points in Advantages, plus additional Advantages equal to their Strength. Any effect that would vary based on skill ranks or traits uses the Villain's (Strength/2) for those, rounding up.

Then you have Monsters. A Monster is similar to a Villain in a lot of ways, except that it's...something supernatural. They're all over the place in Thean legend. Vesten legends speak of a pack of wolves led by a telepathic wolf the size of a horse. Sarmatians speak of a creature whose fangs dripped venom and whose blood was purest shadow. Eisen legends have a ton of demons and monsters and vampires and shit. And you can say they're just stories. Most people believe that...except in Eisen, where they've always known better, thansk to the Walder being full of monstrous nightmares. Die Kreuzritter were founded specifically to hunt these creatures. Other groups, though, they say they're fiction. The real monster is tyranny, or ignorance, or heresy. They're wrong. The real monsters are Monsters.

Monsters are similar to Villains but only have STrength. Monstrous Villains do not have Influence, most of the time. Vampires or werewolves might, as they can pass for human and operate in human society, but most Monsters just have Strength. To make up for this, they also have Monstrous Qualities rather than Advantages, which give them powers that normal mortals couldn't dream of. Some Monsters also have Qualities that give them a Fear Rank. Anyone facing such a Monster loses 1 die on all Risks for each rank of Fear the monster has, barring use of special traits to get past it. If a Monster hunts in a large group, like a pack or horde, it's a Monster Squad - like a Brute Squad, but rather than having a special Type, like Assassin or Duelist, it has one or two Monstrous Qualities.

Monstrous Qualities
Aquatic: It operates easily underwater. If a Villain, it gets +5 dice while underwater to all Risks. If a Squad, it deals double damage while in water.
Chitinous: It's got a tough shell or skin. It can spend a Danger Point to ignoe all Wounds dealt by a single attack.
Elemental: It's made of elemental power. Pick an element. If a Villain, it gets +5 dice whenever exposed to or using that element in a Risk. If a Squad, it deals double damage when using that element. Also, no matter which, it cannot take Wounds from its element.
Fearsome: It gets Fear 1, plus 1 per 5 Strength, and can spend a Danger Point to double its Fear Rank for a round.
Nocturnal: If a Villain, it gets +5 dice to any Risk at night or in total darkness. If a Squad, it deals double damage in those circumstances.
Regenerating: Villain only. It can spend 1 Danger Point to heal all Wounds in its current tier (the space between Dramatic Wounds) and 2 Danger Points to heal 1 Dramatic Wound.
Relentless: Any attempts to evade or escape it cost 2 Raises instead of 1, and it can spend a Danger Point to just show up in any scene that it is physically possible for it to enter.
Shadowy: Any attempts to track or locate it cost 2 Raises, not 1.
Shapeshifting: It may spend 1 Danger Point to take on a new form, completely indistinguishable from whatever it is mimicking except for a single specific thing chosen by the GM, such as cat's eyes or fangs.
Swift: It can spend a Danger Point to immediately take an action, regardless of who would normally act right now.
Teleporting: It can spend a Danger Point to exit or enter any scene, even if it would normally be physically impossible, by teleporting somehow.
Tentacled: For every 5 Strength, it has one Tentacle. Tentacles are Strength 5 Monsters that are destroyed if they take a Dramatic Wound.
Unliving: Monster Squad only. The Squad can spend 1 Danger Point at the end of the round to return to full Strength.
Venomous: It can spend a DAnger Point at the start of the round. If it does, any time it deals damage this round, it also removes one Raise from its target.
Winged: If a Villain, it gets +5 dice if it has room to fly. It loses its ability to fly (and associated bonus) if it takes 2 Dramatic Wounds, lasting until it has time to recover. If a Monster Squad, any attempt to deal Wounds to the squad costs an additional Raise.

Lastly, we've got Stories and Corruption. GM Stories function very similarly to Hero Stories, but they drive the game forward. They have a Start, a Goal and some Steps. They should, however, be more flexible. You should always be able to shift the Goal to still be possible, regardless of what the Heroes end up doing. The PCs should never be penalized for not following your roadmap - just write the next Step and keep going, even if it seems like a non sequitur. Unlike a Hero Story, there is no definite reward attached to a GM Story. Rather, whenever the Story is completed, the PCs acan each select the reward they want for however many steps was done. You will usually share the Goal of your Stories with the players, but you don't have to, or can even tell them a false Goal...but the game warns not to do this much, as it can make the players resent you. Better to just give a vague or unclear Goal if you want to maintain the mystery, and to keep in mind what kind of style your players like in terms of information presented to them.

Also unlike Hero Stories, GM stories should have a few Steps outlined rather than just the next one. The trick is to start out early steps specifically, and be increasingly vague with later steps so you can go back and change them if needed. Only tell the players the very next Step, though - don't tell them your vague plans. The book defines a few kinds of GM Story: the Season Story, which is almost always five Steps long, takes place over several sessions and is meant to serve as a set of long-term story arcs for the big picture of the game, the Episode Story, which is a smaller arc that usually takes only one session, maybe two, to play out and is often only 2-3 Steps long, sometimes only 1 (though this should be rare - there's not a lot of useful one-Step rewards), the Character Story, in which you focus on learning more about or helping a specific NPC and which can vary wildly in length and Step number depending on complexity, and the Retroactive Story, which is where the GM goes 'wait, shit, I forgot to write down Story stuff for what we've been doing, uh, okay I'm gonna make one out of what we've done this session, the goal was achieved, now we just have to figure out the steps.' These are usually 1-3 Step stories, they're basically Episode Stories that were entirely unplanned.

Now, let's finish things off bad in this chapter: Corruption. Corruption is what happens when a Hero does villainous shit. You gain Corruption Points by performing evil actions. Evil actions are defined broadly as one of two things: 1. Intentionally causing unnecessary pain - not just temporary pain because you're doing something that hurts but is helpful in the long run, but...torture. Hurting the helpless. Any time you torture someone, that's an evil act. 2. Inaction. Any time that another character is in mortal danger and you could save them without risk to yourself...and you don't? That's an evil act. Heroes help people in need, especially when there's no risk to themselves. That's evil for this game - causing pointless suffering and not helping people. The first time you do an evil act, you get 1 Corruption Point. Second time? 2 Points. Third? 3 Points. And so on. The GM must always warn the PCs and give them a chance to back off from doing something that'd gain Corruption, but the GM is also the final arbiter on what gains Corruption.

Okay, fine so far. But whenever a Hero gains Corruption, the GM rolls a d10. If the result is less than or equal to the Hero's total current Corruption Points? The Hero is now an NPC Villain. You're not playing that guy any more. Done. And since, if you don't get rid of any, your 4th Evil Act will put you at 10 Points, total, well, goodbye character. The only way to remove Corruption Points is to do a Redemption Story - a 5-step Story which, the game says, must be completed before you can complete any other active Story. Do it, and you lose 1 Corruption Point. I would have far fewer problems with this if it wasn't a random lose-your-character button...and if some of the Sorceries, like Hexenwork or Sanderis, didn't play with the Corruption system as part of their gimmick. But because those are both true, this system suuuuuuuucks.

Next time: Sorcery.

I Cast A Spell On You

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: I Cast A Spell On You

Hexenwork is an exclusively Eisen form of sorcery. In much of Eisen, however, its use is illegal and punished by death. In others, however, it is seen as a necessary, if grim, tool to use against the monsters. Those who practice Hexenwork, known as hexe, use it to fight the undead...or for nefarious and disgusting ends. The undead, in this case, are defined as anything that was dead but no longer is. It doesn't matter how they got back up - if it died and started moving again, it shouldn't exist. When you learn how to use Hexenwork, you get the ability and knowledge to create an Unguent, a sort of greasy ointment made out of human corpses, various plants, poisons, monster bits and other gross and/or mystical shit. Unguents are used to help fight the monsters. However, due to the grisly nature of the components and the temptation to harvest those components from particularly fresh bodies, well...it can easily lead to evil. Those who practice Hexenwork must take great care that they focus on protecting others, and even then, some of the powers of the sorcery can ride up to just the edge of what is moral.

The game also literally gives this a content warning, because Hexenwork is fucking gross and heavily involves desecration of the dead and sometimes cannibalism. So...be warned. This shit ain't classy.

Every time you take the Sorcery Advantage for Hexenwork, you get the recipe to one Major Unguent and two Minor Unguents. There are seven Majors and 13 Minors, and this is deliberate - if you want all of them, your last purchase is going to be less useful than any of the ones that came before. Unguents always use something that came out of a corpse - blood, eyeballs, tongues - and sometimes also require rare herbs, venoms or blessed water or wine. Normally, Unguents decay at the end of each session and you can only keep one unused Unguent between sessions. However, they can be used by anyone once made, though using them in an Action Sequence requires a Raise. However, any Unguent made using body parts from a hexe are more potent. These produce double the normal amount of doses and do not degrade at the end of sessions. As a result, many Villainous hexe hunt other hexe for their parts.

To make an Unguent, you need at least one hour, and a kitchen or lab to make one in. You spend a Hero Point and combine the materials to produce one dose Major Unguent you have the recipe for, and two doses of Minor Unguents per instance of the Sorcery Advantage. You can mix and match these Minor doses as you please - all the same Unguent or different, in any mixture you want. So if you have bought Sorcery (Hexenwork) 3 times, each time you make one of your three Major Unguents, you also produce 6 doses of any combination of Minor Unguents you know.

Major Unguents last for an entire scene, unless otherwise noted.
Dead Man's Blood: A mix of blood from a fresh corpse, some herbs, poisons, roots and similar. If introduced into the body of an undead Monster - either by getting it to eat the dose or injecting it - then it renders the Monster Helpless for the rest of the scene. However, doses are relatively large - you can't just coat a blade in it and stab the thing, you need an actual full syringe jabbed in, or mixed in with a meal somehow.
Ghost Eyes: You make a paste out of a recent corpse's eyes mixed with mandrake and holy water, then smear that on your eyelids. You can see, for the rest of the scene, any and all spirits, ghosts and other Monsters that'd normally be invisible.
Corpse Tongue: You take the severed tongue of a corpse, soak it in nightshade and grind it to a fine paste, which you rub on your tongue. You may then speak to a dead body, asking it about anything it new in life. You get (Resolve*2) questions, and it must answer honestly. Once your final question is asked, you vomit and the corpse disintegrates. It cannot be questioned further, even with another dose.
Master's Bread: You take a dead brain and mix with some hallucinogenic herbs and mushrooms into a sort of dough, which you then dry and eat. Once you eat it, you can give a single command to an undead Monster Squad, which they must immediately perform, such as attacking a particular target or smashing a barricade. They cannot be made to attack themselves. If used against an undead Villain, it instead gives one free Raise to any social Risk against that Villain.
Spectral Prison: You take moss from a tombstone or mausoleum, boil it, and then mix it with salt and bone meal into a thick paste. You can then use that to make a closed circle or other geometric figure. As long as the figure remains intact and closed, no undead Monster may cross it or use its powers to affect anything on the other side of the line. They can take other actions, like speaking or shooting a gun across the line, but cannot use any supernatural effects across it. Further, no undead Monster may break the line by any means, though it can try to get someone else to do so.
Funeral Porridge: You take the kidney and liver of a corpse and mash them into a porridge mixed with sedatives and poisons. A living person that eats the porridge suffers an immediate Dramatic Wound. If they die on the same day as consuming the porridge, they arise as an undead Monster under your command within three days, and you pick what kind of undead when you make it. The monster treats all of your commands as if permanently under the effect of Master's Bread. Creating Funeral Porridge is always an Evil Act, as is feeding it to someone.
Wraith Walk: You grind up a human heart and mix it with herbs and sedatives. When you consume it, you immediately fall unconscious and your spirit exits your body. as a spirit, you can move freely and have perfect awareness of your surroundings, but cannot sense anything going on around your body. You can fly, move through walls and are invisible, but are subject to any effects that affect undead, and may be seen by any means that allow detection of invisible Monsters. Your spirit is very fragile, and if it takes a Dramatic Wound, you immediately return to your body and take an additional Dramatic Wound. If you do not return to your body before the next sunrise or sunset, whichever is first, you die. If your spirit suffers a Dramatic Wound but cannot return to your body for some reason, you die.

Minor Unguents last a single round, unless otherwise noted.
Revenant Venom: You take potent venom from spiders or snakes, and mix it up. Then you apply it to a weapon, which must remain sheathed until you want to use it. The next time the weapon is drawn, for one round all of the Wounds it deals to an undead Monster are doubled. However, it cannot be applied to dracheneisen - the two materials do not coexist, and the venom boils away on contact with the metal.
Reaper's Poison: A blend of batural poisons and [ure silver shavings. When you throw a flask of it at an undead Monster, you can spend Raises as normal to cause Wounds. If the Monster takes at least 1 Wound, it suffers the poison for the rest of the round, taking an additional Wound every time it takes an action. It cannot reduce these poison-caused Wounds in any way.
Scourgebane: A mix of herbs, poisons and communion wine. When you throw a flask of it at an undead Monster, you can spend Raises as normal to cause Wounds. If the Monster takes at least 1 Wound, the GM cannot spend Danger Points to activate any of its Monstrous Qualities for the rest of the round.
Tears of the Prophet: A mix of anointing oil and rare spices. You may apply it to a dead body that has not been affected by any other Hexenwork. The body cannot return to life by any means.
Mother's Mercy: A soup of wild vegetables and holy water. Drinking it removes all effects of disease, curse or deblitation caused by the undead. If someone who has eaten Funeral Porridge drinks this, they die immediately but do not return as an undead Monster.
Father's Fury: You make a holly-wood stake and smear it with a mash of herbs and natural poisons, then get it blessed by a priest. You may take an action to use this on a Helpless undead Monster. If you do, the Monster is utterly destroyed and can never be returned to life again.
Black Broth: You mix moldy bread with Monster blood and swamp water. You choose a single Monstrous Quality at the time of brewing. When the broth is drunk, it gives that Quality to the consumer until the end of the scene. Willingly and knowingly drinking Black Broth is an Evil Act, as is tricking someone else into drinking it.
Red Thirst: You mix rotten meat and berries, then boil them with some herbs and roots. You may spend a Raise in an Action Sequence to smear it on yourself. Any undead Monsters that attack must target you with all of their attacks this round.
Summer's Smile: You make a poultice of water from a fast stream and some sickeningly sweet herbs. When it is applied to a Dramatic Wound caused by an undead Monster, the Dramatic Wound heals at the end of the scene.
Winter's Scowl: You mix holy water, a rose stem and a few drops of hexe blood. The water then hardens into an impossibly thin and sharp ice blade. When you attack an undead Monster with this, you spend Raises as normal to deal Wounds. If you inflict at least 1 Wound, the Monster is stunned for the rest of the round and may not take any actions, though it can still spend Raises to reduce damage, if it's a Villain. After one use, the blade shatters.
Autumn's Sigh: You mix seeds of a rotten pumpkin with red wine and a teardrop. Anyone that drinks it will sleep soundly for the night, with no nightmares, either natural or supernatural. They will awaken normally to stimuli, but fall asleep easily and have idyllic, restful sleep.
Spring's Laugh: You mix fresh spring flowers, tree sap and rainwater into a thick syrup. Anyone that consumes it is immune to Fear from an undead Monster for one scene.
Widow's Veil: You take a wilted chrysanthemum grown on a grave and wash it with holy water, then get it blessed by a priest. Anyone who pins it to their clothing is immune to the first attack or supernatural effect targeted on them by an undead Monster. After that attack or effect is prevented, the flower crumbles uselessly to dust.

In 1e, Eisen's magic was, instead, Zerstorung - a sorcery that destroyed things via disintegration. It was also completely gone. The real power of Eisen was dracheneisen, which does still exist, but you can't start the game with any, and to get it you either have to find it or make friends with Die Kreuzritter and convince them to let you have some. We'll cover what it does in this version when we get to secret societies.

Next time: The Knights of Elilodd

Wait, There's Only 20 Of Them?

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Wait, There's Only 20 Of Them?

The Knights of Avalon are the sorcerers of Avalon, descended from the legendary knights of King Elilodd. See, way back when, the Sidhe promised King Elilodd that his people would have their blessing for as long as his line sat on the throne. Magic spread through the Isles, as the Graal sought out those most loyal and imbued them with power. The legends of those knights and their successors have been...well, stories, ever since. That is, until Elaine returned in the 1650s. When she took her throne, another pulse of magic spread across Avalon, giving the power to a new generation. Those who heard and answered this call gained power they never thought possible...but they were still beholden to the will of the Isles. The new Knights were bound by a code, the Knight's Gesa, and if they broke it, they would lose their magic. While all of King Elilodd's Knights were loyal to him, not all of the new Knights have sworn to Elaine, and in fact this has become something of a scandal and caused a lot of tension between Avalon Knights and those of the Inish and the Highlanders. (Also of note: Knights need not be traditional knights, and most are not. Modern Knights can come from any walk of life, even criminals.)

The Knights are not reincarnations of the old Knights. Rather, they have inherited their mantles, serving as Embodiments of the spirit of the old knights. When you first take Sorcery (Knight of Avalon), you select one of 20 Knights to be the Embodiment of. Only you are that knight's Embodiment - no one else can be. (I just have to assume the GM can invent new Knights if the base 20 end up not being enough, but frankly in practice 20 people is probably fine for any game.) Each Knight offers access to one Major Trait and one Minor Trait, which you can then learn Glamours for. The first time, you get one Major Glamour and two Minor Glamours tied to the appropriate traits, all of which start at Rank 1. Every time you take Sorcery after that, you may choose either to take a new Major Glamour and two new Minor Glamours at rank 1, or you can increase the rank of one Major Glamour and two Minor Glamours you already have by one. Glamours are directly tied to the five Traits, except for Luck Glamours, which every Knight may take, regardless of which trait they have as Major and which as Minor.

The Knight's Gesa have seven rules, which may not be broken. However, they are open to interpretation. Each PC must, when they gain the Sorcery, define how they interpret the rules to the GM, so the GM can decide what breaks them. These interpretations can't be formed on the fly - you have to know before you start going, basically. When you break a tenet of the Gesa for the first time, your mantle is put in jeopardy. It functions as normal, but you can feel it slipping. To reforge the bond, you must atone by finding a confessor - another Knight who is not in jeopardy or Queen Elaine. You confess your actions that broke the Gesa and why you thought it was justified. They then spend an hour in communion with the Graal and assign you the task the Graal gives. If they agree you were justified, they often will help you in the task. Tasks are often things like aiding a fellow countryman at some task, helping someone learn the value of one of the Gesa tenets even if they aren't a Knight, or getting something of value to someone else and giving it to them freely, no strings attached. If your mantle is not in jeopardy, you can be a confessor, for other PCs or NPC Knights. You work with the GM to determine what an appropriate task is, with the GM being the final word on what the Graal thinks. You can, of course, lie about it - but doing so is certainly breaking the Gesa.

The Seven Tenets posted:

Never raise your sword against a countryman.
Never abandon the fight before it is through.
Never break your word or help someone else break theirs.
Never be idle when there is work to be done.
Never let your passions rule you.
Never take something for yourself that belongs to another.
Always serve the Graal.

The Sidge granted Glamour to the twenty most loyal soldiers of Elilodd, who were with him when he gained the Graal. They were the first generation of Glamour Knights, and while the Sidge have always claimed that they weren't the first to have this power, they are easily the most famous. So who are the Glamour Knights?
Aesc, of the Forests: A man who preferred the forested lands to the king's palace, who would often commune with the natural and supernatural creatures of Avalon and bring their troubles to Elilodd's court. His Major Trait is Resolve, his Minor Trait is Panache.
Beorhtsige, Siegebreaker: The man who broke the line when Elilodd's castle was besieged by enemies. When he himself was besieged, he assaulted an entire army head on with but a handful of soldiers, and won. His Major Trait is Panache, his Minor Trait is Brawn.
Cenhelm, the Keen: A man who earned his name both for a sharp blade and a sharp mind. It is said that no one was faster of wit or blade than Cenhelm, and his tales often begin with his wit getting him into trouble and his blade getting him out of it. His Major Trait is Finesse and his Minor Trait is Wits.
Ceolmund, Knight Protector: Ceolmund made sacrifices. His most famous tale was his death - he stood his ground and took every blow for his friends, yelling at them to stay back. At last, he struck a mortal blow upon the enemy, and then died on the spot. His Major Trait is Resolve, his Minor Trait is Finesse.
Dudda, the Round: The comic relief, though no less a knight. He was a huge, fat man who enjoyed life more than most, and his stories are mostly about celebrations or feasts than combat. His Major Trait is Brawn, his Minor Trait is Resolve.
Dunstan, Outsider: Dunstan is often called on by Inish and Highlander Knights to prove that not all Knights must be Avalon. He came from a land where the sun never sets and the ground is of fire, and he had dark skin and hair, but was ne ver treated as less than a brother. His Major Trait was Brawn, his Minor Trait was Wits.
Eadburg, the Wealthy: It is said that on swearing to Elilodd, Eadburg gave up all worldly goods. He'd been a wealthy merchant, but took a vow of poverty and refused all payment he did not need to survive. His name is said to have reflected his spiritual wealth. His Major Trait is Panache, his Minor Trait is Wits.
Ealdraed, the Oldest Knight: Ealdread had been the sword tutor to Elilodd and first of his father's knights. He is not often in the stories, but when he is, he reminds Elilodd of his roots, encouraging him to find wisdom in the past. His Major Trait is Wits, his Minor Trait is Finesse.
Frideswide, the Knight of Peace: She was a knight who served for years before returning to the castle and throwing her sword at Elilodd's feet, swearing never to draw blood again. Elilodd instead gave her a task unheard of: only she could tally the knights to war. Her Major Trait is Wits, her Minor Trait is Resolve.
Godric, the Pious: Godric was the only voice that cautioned when the Graal was taken, saying that the Sidge were blasphemous and must be renounced. Elilodd was about to cast him out when the Sidge stopped him and told him that Godric was wiseest, for he asked why, and should protect Elilodd from darker deals. Godric's Major Trait is Panache and his Minor Trait is Resolve.
Hereward, Knight Advisor, and Hildraed, Knight Commander: That is two knights, but they need to be told of together. See, they never agreed on anything. When Hereward said to be patient, Hildraed demanded action. When Hildraed was cautious, Hereward would act. Thus, Elilodd was always informed of the best options for either strategy. They were also somehow related - depending on the story, they were bickering siblings, husband and wife, or star-crossed lovers. Hereward's Major Trait is Wits and Minor Trait is Panache, while Hildraed's Major Trait is Finesse and Minor Trait is Brawn.
Leofric, the Beloved: Leofric made the greatest sacrifice for the people. When the Sidhe Courts were overrun by the Unseelie, Leofric stood vigil and protected the people within from the Sidge rampage. His sacrifice turned the tide of the war and allowed the Seelie to regain their throne, saving all of Avalon from the Unseelie destruction.
Mildgyd, the Gentle: He was a giant - eight feet tall, or ten, or twelve, or twenty, depending on the story. However, Mildgyd was always gentle despite his giant blood, and almost all of his tales involve dealing with Sidhe misunderstandings of his nature, usually for comedic results. His Major Trait is Brawn, his Minor Trait is Panache.
Osgar, the Spear Knight: Osgar carried a spear when all others used swords. He was often teased for it, but when the knights had to face a giant boar, it was Osgar and his spear that slew it, and he was never teased again. His Major Trait is Finesse, and his Minor Trait is Resolve.
Paega, Forgotten: There are no tales of Paega or their heroics. No one even knows their gender. The only reason Paega's name is known is that it was carved on a place on table of Elilodd. Some say Paega betrayed Elilodd and was cast out, others that Paega was Elilodd's great spy and chose to be forgotten. Paega's Major Trait is Finesse and their Minor Trait is Panache.
Saewine, the Sailor: She was rarely seen in court, as commander of Elilodd's navy. Her tales are all of strange and foreign lands, of meeting allies and fighting enemy ships. She was the first female Knight, though not the last, and was said to be the match of any man on land or sea. Her Major Trait is Panache and her Minor Trait is Finesse.
Sunngifu, the Generous: When an old man came to town raving one day, the guards turned him away, but Sunngifu aided him. He asked her sword and shield to protect his farm, so she gave them. He asked her armor to protect his daughter. She gave it. When the guards mocked her, the man smiled, and revealed himself: the Wizard, who had come to see if the rumors were true, and so Sunngifu secured the most potent ally of King Elilodd. Her Major Trait is Wits and her Minor Trait is Brawn.
Wilfrith, the Knight of Will: She was captured and imprisoned by enemies for 15 years, but no torture or bribe could turn her. When her enemies grew tired of this, they tried to feed her to a monster, but somehow, she survived and returned to Elilodd, half dead and mad. Still, it took less than a month for her to heal and regain her senses. Her Major Trait is Resolve, her Minor Trait is Brawn.
Wulfnod, the Bold: Wulfnod was the first to fight and the last to retreat, and he was so good at it that the others forgave his rash nature. Stories of Wulfnod always have him breaking formation and pursuing a foe across the field. His daring often caught his foes off guard, allowing victory even in dire circumstances. His Major Trait is Brawn and his Minor Trait is Finesse.

Glamours can have rank from 1 to 5, and activating one costs a Hero Point. A given Major Glamour can only be used once per session, while a given Minor Glamour can only be used once per scene.
Luck Glamours can be taken for any trait, but Minor Glamours always apply to your Knight's Minor Trait and Major Glamours always apply to your knight's Major Trait.
Petty Luck (Minor): When you activate this, for the rest of the scene, after making a Risk using your Minor Trait, yopu can replace any single die with a die whose value is equal to (1+Rank).
Greater Luck (Minor): You may activate this to add your Rank to the value of any single rolled die. If this brings the die's value to 10 or more, that die explodes.
Heroic (Minor): You may activate this after a Risk using your Minor Trait. You may reroll (Rank) dice, keeping the new values even if they are lower.
Mythic (Major): As Heroic, but for your Major Trait, and you may choose which value to keep - the old or the new.
Mad Luck (Major): You may activate this to roll (Rank) dice. You may give these dice to other PCs, who may keep its result for all rolls for the rest of the scene, on top of the normal dice they'd roll.
Legend (Major): You may activate this to add (Rank) to your Major Trait for the rest of the scene.

Brawn Glamours (Note: You can only take Minor Brawn Glamours if your Minor Trait is Brawn, and the same for Major Glamours and the Major Trait. This applies for all further Glamours.)
Reduce the Brute (Minor): You may activate this to instantly eliminate any Brute Squad in the scene with Strength less than or equal to (Rank).
Stronger Than You (Minor): You may activate this to add (Rank+1) dice to any Brawn Risk.
Reduce the Villain (Major): You may activate this to temporarily reduce a Villain's Strength by (Rank) for the rest of the session.
Strongest There Is (Major): You may activate this to add (Rank) Raises to any roll using Brawn.

Finesse Glamours
Flash (Minor): You may activate this to take actions as if you had (Rank) additional Raises. These Raises are used only to determine when you take actions, and cannot be spent.
Vanish (Minor): You may activate this to become impossible to locate or track by any means for (Rank) hours. This will stop supernatural tracking or even learning your location from others. However, you remain visible, and this has no effect on anyone that can physically see you.
First (Major): You may activate this at the start of a round, before anyone rolls dice, to immediately gain (Rank) Raises. If more than one Knight wants to use this, the one with the most Rank in it goes first.
Sure Strike (Major): You may activate this after determining Raises for a Weaponry Risk. All of your attacks for the round deal (Rank) extra Wounds.

Panache Glamours
Sense Sorcery (Minor): You may activate this to tell if someone or something has Sorcery of any kind within (Rank*10) feet for the rest of the scene.
Mend Ship (Minor): You may touch a ship and activate this to instantly repair (Rank*5) Hits, but cannot repair any Critical Hits this way.
Resist Sorcery (Major): You may activate this when someone targets you directly with Sorcery. They still pay any costs, but the magic automatically fails. You may use this (Rank) times per session.
Subsume Ship (Major): When you are at the helm of a ship, you may activate this. You and the ship are considered one entity. When making any Risk of any kind while aboard, you get (Rank) Bonus Dice. This ends the moment you release the ship's wheel, and whenever you take a Dramatic Wound, the ship takes a Critical Hit, and vice versa.

Resolve Glamours
Pain Is Temporary (Minor): You may activate this to heal (5*Rank) Wounds, though you cannot heal Dramatic Wounds this way.
No Fear (Minor): You may activate this to reduce the effects of a Fear effect by (Rank) for the rest of the scene, for yourself only.
Endless Vigil (Major): You may choose a patch of ground when you activate this, no more than ten feet in diameter. Until (Rank) sunrises and sunsets pass, as long as you stay on your chosen ground, you cannot die, be crippled or become Helpless. You can still suffer Dramatic Wounds, but they have no effect on you until this ends. Leaving the chosen area ends this immediately, and when the effect ends, if you have taken more Dramatic Wounds than you would normally be able to, you die on the spot.
Reborn (Major): You may activate this when you are killed. At dawn the next morning, you return to life with all wounds healed and all harmful substances purgedf from your body. You then lose (5-Ranks) Resolve from the stress. If this would drop your Resolve below 0, instead this Glamour is permanently lost and the next time you die, you're dead for good.

Wits Glamours
Arrow Catch (Minor): You may activate this to automatically catch anything thrown or shot at you except for bullets from a gun. You must have a free hand to do so, and doing so causes you to take (Rank) fewer Wounds from the attack.
Summon Sidhe (Minor): You may activate this to call to the Sidhe for aid. The higher your Rank, the more powerful it can be. Unless the GM spends a Danger Point, a Seelie will answer your call and aid you as best it can...for a price. However, if the GM does spend a Danger Point, an Unseelie answers. The price for its aid is much harsher, assuming it doesn't just try to kill you. However, if you spend a second Hero Point, you can cancel this effect and force a Seelie to appear anyway.
Bullet Catch (Major): You may activate this to automatically catch anything thrown or shot at you, even a bullet. You must have a free hand to do so, but you don't take the automatic Dramatic Wound from being shot by a gun if you do. You may use this (Rank) tumes per session. (I would assume it also works as per Arrow Catch, but it doesn't say.)
Sidhe Circle (Major): Yu may activate this to create a ten-foot-diameter circle centered on yourself. No Sidghe can enter the circle. They are hurled away from you if they are already inside it when you activate this, and they may not use their magic on you or anyone in the circle while it lasts. You may maintain this for up to (Rank) sunsets. If you move from the circle, however, the effect ends, and anyone else that leaves the circle becomes vulnerable when they leave it.

This is much different than the original form of Glamour, which didn't have any ethics requirement in 1e and which mostly gave you a set of effects based on which hero you emulated, with there being several heroes per Trait. You could only have one hero per Trait, however. Overall, I'm pretty fine with the changes, though the ranks thing means that this is a fairly expensive sorcery if you want to be, like, good at stuff.

Next time: Dar Matushki, the Mother's Touch

Grandmother's Gifts

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Grandmother's Gifts

Dar Matushki, the Mother's Touch is a power all in Ussura know of. They come from the old woman of the woods, Matushka. Some seek her out to trick her, others ask for her aid. Always, the stories say, she offers them a bit of her power, touching them and demanding they pay a terrible price. These stories are not just faerie tales, though many think so. There is a truth there: Matushka will give you what you need, will teach you a lesson, but there will always be a price. You can only get Dar Matushki by meeting Matushka, generally because she's sought you out to teach you a Lesson. Maybe you had to learn to be kind to old women, or to be humble, but she taught you - and it came with a gift.

Every purchase of Sorcery (Dar Matushki) is a Lesson, which has two parts. It has your Gifts, two of them, and your Restriction - what you must do to not lose your power. As long as you maintain your Restriction, you can use the Gifts freely. Gifts cost 1 Hero Point to activate. If you break a Lesson's Restriction, you lose access to that Lesson's Gifts until you complete its Penance. The listed Gifts are examples, but the GM can come up with more in the same general theme.

Gifts
Command: Pick an Ussuran animal when you learn this, like a raven or fox or wolf or turtle. You may activate this to summon one of those creatures and give it any instruction you choose. If there are no animals of that type in travel distance, or if the creature cannot fulfill your command, you get your Hero Point refunded. If the creature would have to make a Risk as part of your command, it rolls 5 dice and you choose how it uses its Raises. It gets +2 dice if the command is particularly well suited to it, such as tracking for a wolf.
Illuminate: You can activate this to make the area around you perfectly illuminated, neither too dark nor too bright, with a magical ambient light. If you use this outdoors, it is centered on you and spreads out dozens of feet. All Undead creatures in the area take 5 Wounds immediately and roll -2 dice for all Risks while this is active.
Purify: You cleanse a room of all toxins, poisons, diseases and dirt. This renders the room perfectly and completely sterile, and affects all surfaces, even inside closed and locked drawers, as well as any food or drink in the room. However, all alcohol in the room loses its potency entirely.
See: Pick an Ussuran animal when you learn this. You may activate this to see through the senses of the nearest animal of that kind. While you use the animal's senses, you use your own stats for any Risks you make related to the perception, though if the animal's senses would be especially helpful, you get +2 dice, such as a cat's eyes at night.
Sew: You can touch an item and activate this to instantly and perfectly restore it to its original form. Any cracks are mended, jams unjammed, faded colors restored. It cannot, however, make an item better than it was originally or fix any defects present at its creation.
Storm: You can activate this to intensify or lessen whatever weather you're currently experiencing. You can make rain into a thunderstorm or a ray of sunlight into a clear sky.
Regeneration: You can activate this to heal from injury very quickly. Any missing or crippled limbs are entirely restored, any cataracts are cured, and broken bones reform. You also heal one Dramatic Wound.
Transformation: Pick an Ussuran animal when you learn this. You may activate this to take on the form of that creature for the rest of the scene. You retain all of your normal stats and knowledge, though some may be harder to use than others in your new form. If the form would be particularly helpful to a Risk you're making, you get +2 dice.

Restrictions are what you have to abide by. If you don't, you lose your Gifts for that Lesson until you do Penance.
Efficacy: You must never change your course of action due to fear. If you do, your Penance is that you must seek out whatever is the most terrifying for you and confront it.
Forgiveness: You must always show mercy to your enemies and may never hold a grudge against those that act against you. If you do, your Penance is that you must seek out the one you wronged and do whatever it takes to make amends.
Honesty: You must never tell a lie or mistruth, or obscure the truth. If you do, your Penance is that you must spend an entire month without lying.
Kindness: You must always offer aid to those in need - friends or strangers - no matter how desperate the situation is. If you don't, your Penance is that you must aid someone who wronged you.
Moderation: You must do all things in moderation and never overindulge yourself. If you do, your Penance is that you must submit to an act of fasting, never indulging in your most favorite activity, for an entire month.

e: In 1e, Ussura just had transformation magic, they could become various animals and partially transform and all that stuff. That is obviously no longer the case.

Next time: Porte

Thinking With Portails

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Thinking With Portails

Porte, practiced by the sorciers of Montaigne, is one of the most striking and spectacular magics you might witness. It involves bending reality, allowing you to travel great distances or pull objects to you across those distances. It is, in full, La Magic des Portails, the magic of doorways. It involves cutting bloody holes into the universe, which scream with terrible voices, bleed and chill the room they're in. And, of course, opening them also requires you bleed yourself. This is a magic that is quite literally in the blood. Scholars name the dimension that exists inside the doors 'the walkway' and it is a place as strange and potentially deadly as the Seventh Sea itself. No one is entirely sure what actually lives there, but it is never wise to linger long - you probably won't return if you do.

The magic follows bloodlines - anyone who has Porte got it from an ancestor who had it. The Montaigne strictly track lineage to try and keep it from ever going too far from noble blood, and while there have been non-noble sorciers, they either keep it secret or never learn to use it properly, because...well, because stories of black carriages showing up to drag off powerful peasant children into the night aren't just folklore. The first thing that a young sorcier learns is the Blood Mark, the power to mark an object's presence with your blood. A sorcier can feel the object's presence when near it and always knows what direction it lies in.

After learning to Mark, a sorcier learns to Pull the item, dragging it through walkway to himself. This requires bloodying your hands, opening a portal and reaching through it toward the Marked object. When you've gotten hold of it, you pull it through the portal to your location. However, an object to be Pulled must be something that can easily fit in your hand. If you can't lift it one-handed, there's no way you can get it through the portal. Having learning to do that, you next learn to Walk. This lets you open a portal and walk to a location or object you've Marked, but that can be very dangerous, as it exposes you to the walkway. However, it is alsp powerful enough to move across entire continents in moments. You just have to keep your eyes closed and not listen to the voices.

There is no physical connection with these portals - if you Mark something and drop it in the ocean, your portals will not shoot water out, though the pin will be wet whe you pull it back through. Similarly, if you try to Walk to an object that is somewhere you can't go, your passage will be blocked. You're going to have to find another Mark to exit at...which is not going to be pleasant. If that pin gets put in a jewelery box, well, you can't fit inside the box. You could definitely pull the pin to you, though. So, if you enter a portal and find you can't exit the other side and have no other objects to walk to? You're trapped. You're stuck until someone finds you and pulls you out, which could be a very long time indeed. This is why most sorciers create and hard Marked objects that can serve them as emergency exits, which they never reveal even to their friends or family.

To make a Mark, you must prick your finger and place a drop of your blood onto whatever or whoever you want to mark, spending a Hero Point. This Marks the thing. Smaller objects, which can be held in one hand, usually receive only a Minor Mark. Minor Marks can only be pulled to you, not used as exits. Major Marks are the only kind usable on anything too large to hold in your hand, like a boat, a chest or a person. You can Walk to a Major Mark and use it as an exit. You could also place a Major Mark on a small object, but that's less common than placing them on stable objects you can trust won't move, like buildings. Direct, single-step blood relations - that is, parents, full siblings or your direct children - always count as having a Major Mark on you at no cost. You may actively maintain only a few Marks at a time, besides the blood relative Marks. For each purchase of Sorcery (Porte), you can have 1 Major Mark and 2 Minor Marks. A Mark remains in place until something explicitly removes it, such as the Mark being discovered and purposefully washed off, or the object is destroyed. Incidental washing will not erase a Mark - it must be done deliberately. If you currently have your maximum Marks made, you may choose to sever the connection to one that already exists. This costs nothing but concentration - and a Raise, during an Action Sequence.

A moment's concentration will tell you the general direction and distance to any of your Marks, though again, this costs a Raise during an Action Sequence. You just pick your Mark, and the GM tells you the rough distance and direction. If you are within 100 feet of one of your Marks, you immediately know it, but cannot pinpoint it any closer than that. To Pull or Walk to a Mark, you must spill your own blood to open the portal. This takes rather more blood than Marking does - you pretty much open a vein, taking a Dramatic Wound. If this would cause you to become Helpless, you do so after you complete the Sorcery. If you want to open a portal during an Action Sequence, you must also spend a Raise. You can then Pull a Minor Mark to you, taking hold of it, or Walk to a Major Mark, exiting via a similar portal that opens within 5 feet of your Mark. If there's not enough space, well, it fails, and you must immediately choose to Walk to another Major Mark or become lost in the Place Between Worlds. At least you don't have to take another Dramatic Wound to pick a new Mark.

You can bring other people with you when you Walk. This costs 1 Hero Point per passenger, and the bigger the group is, the more attention it'll draw from the things in the Place Between worlds. But hey, you ask, what's that whole blessure business? Well, that's a thing Villains can do, not Heroes. Heroes take the pain of opening portals onto themselves, cutting and bleeding for it. They are surgeons, using a scalpel on the universe. Villains tend not to be. They wield the power like an axe, tearing open the world and letting it bleed to pay for it. These are blessures - wounds on the world. These are screaming, bleeding fissures in reality, and some Heroic sorciers see it as a responsibility to close them and to stop those who make them. It's not an easy task - to close a blessure, you have to enter it, and the things that live in the Place Between Worlds don't take kindly to trespassers, even benevolent ones. Opening a blessure is identical to opening a portal, but costs no Wound. Instead, it is an Evil Act, as the world itself pays the cost. No exceptions. It is never justifiable to open a blessure.

E: the main change here is reducing the number of portal tricks and making it costlier to use.

Next time: Sanderis

Bad Bargain

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Bad Bargain

Sanderis, literally 'bargain', is the art and magic of Sarmatia, practiced by the losejai. A losejas is someone who has forged a potent and binding contract with an otherworldly dievas. This is not for power, quite. A losejas forms the bargain in order to learn the dievas' full and true name, so that it can be destroyed. The dievas, on the other hand, forms the bargain so it can turn the losejas into a Villain. It's a path of mutual destruction. Because of the dangers involved, the losejai are strictly and rigidly structured, governed over by the Ratas, the Circle. All losejai are members, whether they want to be or not, and so are governed by its rules. Failure to abide by these rules results in being hunted down by the Valytuvas, the Purifiers, who are agents of the Circle whose only job is to eliminate rogue losejai.

Every losejas has their own personal dievas, who hears and sees everything the losejas does - and, in fact, much they don't. The dievas has perfect awareness of the losejas' surroundings, though it has no power to read their thoughts or feel their emotions. Every dievas has the same goal - get the losejas to void the contract and free them, and thus be able to make a new contract with someone dumber, someone they can manupulate and use. Every deal the dievas makes is in pursuit of this goal of either manipulation or freedom, and every price they ask is to further that agenda. For the losejas, the contract is a burden. You aren't partner to a dievas - you are a jailer, and both of you know it. But you don't exist in a vacuum, and you both have other goals. Yes, you want to keep your dievas in check and ensure it doesn't cause suffering and chaos. But they have power, and sometimes...well, sometimes you have to make a deal with the devil. Better the one you know.

Losejai tend to be very direct and clear in their language, aoviding poetics - this muddies things at hand. What matters is exactly what is written. This is known as Tiksli Tiesa, the Exact Truth. It is the letter of the law - not the spirit, the letter. It is not inferred - it is precisely what it says. The losejai are like this because they learned it from the dievai. A dievas is clever, very clever. It is, however, honest - in a way. It will abide by the exact terms of its contracts and agreements. It is also wicked, cruel and greedy. Its power is great, but that power is its only bargaining chip, too. Thus, a dievas always fulfills its promises, but only in the strictest and most literal sense. If it can, it will twist what you ask for. And thus, while the entire rest of the book tells the GM to be generous, here, explicitly, it tells both player and GM that in dealing with dievai - and only in dealing with dievai - the GM is encouraged to twist your words, as long as the agreement remains technically valid. These words cannot be redefined - but any inexactness in meaning can be used. Be clear and explicit when dealing with the dievai so they can't do that.

Every purchase of Sorcery (Sanderis) gives access to one Deal, and two Minor Favors chosen from any Deal you currently have access to. Any Minor Favors you have this way can be invoked with a Hero Point. You need not do anything more than ask for it. These are part of your bargain, included in the base contract. If you wish to invoke a Favor during an Action Sequence, it also costs a Raise. The Dievas cannot refuse these favors, and the price they can ask for it can't be much - stuff like toasting the dievas' name, or thanking them and meaning it, or giving them a friendly handshake with eye contact and a smile. Annoying but harmless. If you want to use a Minor Favor that you don't have purchased through Sorcery, you can still spend a Hero Point (and Raise, if needed) ot ask for it. In most cases, the Dievas will demand a minor thing return, usually to repay a debt to another dievas. Dievas spend a lot of time trading favors and plotting against each other, after all. These are things like 'next time you go to a specific city, find a specific person and give him something specific', or 'go to a specific city, access a specific place, and take what you find there to a specific person.' It isn't obviously dangerous to do, though it may in theory have consequences. And any time you ask for a Major Favor, well...the dievas can deliver. You spend your Hero Point and ask...but it knows you're desperate, to ask for such a thing, and the price will be high. Things like 'go to a specific place, find a specific good person, do something that ruins their lives or kills them' or 'find two specific brothers, convince one brother to betray another for power'. Even if a Major Favor seems like it's not evil, even if you find a way to do it without any Evil Acts, you always gain a point of Corruption from it, due to the power of wielding such long-reaching occult influence. This is on top of any Evil Acts that may be caused by the favor you ask for, or which you have to do to pay the price. If you don't hold up your end of a deal here, however, you cannot invoke any Favors of any kind, until you do. If the cost becomes impossible to achieve, the dievas will offer a new one - almost always one more difficult and more morally compromising.

So what, exactly, is a Deal? It is part of a dievas. When you get it, both you and the dievas become more powerful. Those who are not losejai do not realize why: the Deal is a piece of the dievas' true name. Each Deal is one part of the name, and when you get all of them and put them together correctly, you get the whole. Sanderis works by invoking the name of the dievas and channeling it. No one is entirely certain what happens when you get the seventh Deal and thus the entire name. Some believe that both you and the dievas are destroyed, others that only one of you is. A small number believe that you and the dievas merge, but the Ratas insists this is not the case. One legend says the dievas will finally fully enter the world as a physical entity when the Seventh Deal is made, and that you and they will be able to sense each other when you get close...and, most importantly, while the dievas may now act however it wishes, unbound by any contract, it can now also be destroyed, like any physical entity.

Darkness is the deal that manipulates shadows and dark. A dievas with it can see and hear through shadows, teleport through them, even give them physical form. Note that the Major Favors, for this and all other Deals, are just examples - Major Favors are very freeform. Minor Favors aren't.
Major Favors
Cause an eclipse, plunging an entire city or similar area into utter darkness.
Summon a beast of pure shadow to stalk and kill one creature of your choice.
Minor Favors
Make a room as dark as night.
Observe an area or other character via shadows, hearing and seeing everything as if you were standing in the shadow, with all your senses working normally.
Open a shadowy portal to instantly teleport to another shadow in sight.
Cause a creature to be attacked by its own shadow, suffering 1 Wound each time they take an action this round.
Wrap shadows around yourself and become impossible to detect, with any attempt to locate you by mundane means failing automatically.

Fire is the deal granted by dievas of living flame, whose bodies could melt stone and set wood ablaze. They create and manupulate fire, restored burned objects and summon rains of flame.
Major Favors
Create a firestorm that utterly destroys everything in a 100 foot radius around a central point.
Summon an unstoppable Monster of living flame that will attack and enemy or enemies in accord with a single command, though it will ignore qualifiers like 'without killing anyone' or 'but don't set anything on fire.'
Minor Favors
Create a controlled, contained fire the size of a bonfire or smaller.
Snuff out all open flame in a room.
Set another creature's clothes aflame, doing 2 Wounds each time they take an action this round. They may take an action to put the flames out, ending the effect.
Reconstruct a handheld object that was destroyed be fire, restoring it to the condition it was in before it was exposed to fire.
Wreath a weapon in flame, causing it to deal 1 additional Wound each time it is used to attack for the rest of the scene. The weapon melts or burns to ash at the end of the scene.

Cold is the deal granted by dievas of frost and mist. They can freeze water easily, freeze even an entire man and shatter him, or cut down armies with claws of ice.
Major Favors
Plunge a region into sudden, violent winter, killing all plant life, freezing lakes and streams, and causing torrential snowfall in an area of a half-mile radius around a center point.
Cause an avalanche, with all the destruction that would entail, large enough to completely destroy a moderate-size village.
Minor Favors
Cause a person or object you touch to be frozen solid in a thin layer of ice. While encased, the object or person cannot be harmed or destroyed directly.
Reform or reshape existing ice to a shape of your choice, as precise and detailed as you require. (For example, the key to a door, even if you've never seen the key to that specific door before.)
Cause still or slowly moving water to freeze solid enough to walk on in an area of approximately a hundred square feet.
Create a handheld object of solid ice, like a sword, which functions normally for one scene and then melts harmlessly.
Shatter a block of ice with a touch. You may choose to free anything within it harmlessly or have that shatter too.

Storm is the power of wind and air, granted by floating, unpredictable dievai. They can make tornados with their breath and lightning from their fingers.
Major Favors
Cause a storm, hurricane or tornado from calm weather, ravaging an area around one mile in radius from its center point.
Call down a lightning bolt during a storm to instantly strike and kill a creature of your choice.
Minor Favors
Create a steady wind that blows in a direction of your choosing for a scene.
Calm an existing storm, reducing it to a gentle rain, or empower an existing storm, turning a gentle rain into a torrential downpour.
Cause lightning or thunder for a scene as a distracting. You may cause a lightning strike or roll of thunder by spending a Raise during any Risk.
Summon a powerful updraft, allowing you to leap distances or heights normally impossible or to cushion otherwise deadly falls.
Throw a bolt of lightning to knock back a creature or squad up to ten feet directly away from you. If they hit something solid, they take 3 Wounds. Either way, they fall to the ground, stunned, and must spend their next Action getting back up.

Sea is the power of water and wave, goberned by dievai that look like water or sea creatures or other such things. They can drown you anywhere, call down tidal waves or command beasts of the deep.
Major Favors
Create a tidal wave capable of wiping out an entire coastal city.
Summon a Monster from the deeps to drag down an entire ship. It will not obey you, but will not directly attack you or the ship you are on unless provoked.
Minor Favors
Know the exact location of any ship within 10 nautical miles of you.
Calm raging waters to make them swimmable or navigable, or cause calm waters to rage and froth.
Become able to breathe water and see through it like air for a scene.
Cause the level of an existing body of water to rise or fall up to five feet, taking one minut per foot of change.
Remove any toxins, poisons or other harmful substances from a container of water up to five gallons, which becomes perfectly pure, clean and clear. This does not, however, desalinate seawater.

Knowledge is the power of dievai that resemble humans, but often hiding their faces. They can tap into the knowledge of all creatures, or even sever the mind and the body from each other, turning the body into a prison.
Major Favors
Sever a creature's mind from its body, rendering it alive but unable to move or speak.
Alter a specific memory in a large number of people, such as making everyone who saw you in the past 24 hours to forget your presence entirely.
Minor Favors
Answer a single factual question about past events with a yes or no. (Dievai cannot, whatever they may claim, predict the future.)
Find the precise location of any object you wish, with complete accuracy about the location and the description of the object itself.
Discover a single scrap of knowledge, even if it's otherwise lost, such as an ancient alchemical formula or a map to a hidden treasure.
Remove a specific memory from a single person's mind, such as making someone forget your face entirely. This can have grave effects on the victim's psyche, especially if they have reason to scrutinize the removed memory.
Temporarily restore an addled mind to full function for a single scene.

Love is power of the heart, and its dievai tend to be enticing and desirable, though also clearly inhuman.
Major Favors
Cause a person to fall madly, obsessively, completely in love with someone, to the exclusion of all else.
Cause every creature within 500 feet of you to go into a berserk fury, attacking anyone and anything around. They cannot be calmed, and must be knocked out or killed.
Minor Favors
Know the answer to a single question regarding the emotional connection between any two people, just by looking. The GM must answer the question honestly, but usually in five or less words.
Manipulate the passions of another creature, heightening them into a state of fight-or-flight or forcing them into a calm, docile state.
Know someone's single greatest fear, or the thing they love or desire more than anything else.
Discover if someone is lying to you, though this only applies to what they believe is true, rather than actual objective truth.
Push another person to give in to their base instincts, even if they otherwise would not.

Next time: Sorte

Pulling Strings

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Pulling Strings

Sorte, the fate magic of Vodacce, is exceptionally rare. It is found only in Vodacce, only among the properly sorcerous bloodlines, and only in women. Those who have it can see the connections of the web of fate, and with enough skill, even manipulate those strands. Vodacce men are famously lucky - for good and for ill. Vodacce women are even more famous for their curses and blessings, forcing the hand of fate. The cost is high, of course. But Vodacce women, on their deathbeds, often call for one last blessing for their children, and new mothers frequently bless their newborns. Likewise, enemies of the Vodacce try not to meet the eyes of their women, just in case. The wrath of the strega should never be underestimated, and many of Theah's greatest tragedies began with a Vodacce curse. Vodacce women that want to pass on a blessing or curse risk their own fates, of course, but the ritual is simple - look into the eyes of the target, speak their name three times, then kiss them. If someone interrupts that, well, there goes the blessing or curse.

Sorte contains a number of effects, each called a Tessere - a Weave. Each Tessere has both Minor and Major versions, and to get the Major, you need to know the Minor first. The first purchase of Sorcery (Sorte) gives access to Read, then two Minor Weaves and one Major Weave. Each purchase after that gives 1 Minor Weave and 1 Major Weave...except the fourth, final purchase, which gives only a Major Weave, there being only four Tesse. Whenever a strega uses Sorte, she spends a Hero Point to activate the Tessere she wants and gains at least one Lash, sometimes more. The more Lashes you have, the stronger your magic, but the higher the price you will need to pay. Fate takes its toll on meddlers. Having more Lashes will empower the effects of your magic, but it also has negative effects.

Whenever a strega with Lashes makes a Risk, the GM may spend a Danger Point. Any dice with value less than her total Lashes is unusable. By spending two Danger Points, the GM can instead have this affect a Hero other than the strega - Fate will have its due. So if you have 4 Lashes, any 1s, 2s or 3s rolled would be unable to be used to make Raises at all. There are two ways to get rid of a Lash. First, you can pay in blood. You take Wounds equal to your total number of Lashes, then reduce that number by 1. Second, you can choose to pay in luck. You add Danger Points to the pool equal to your total number of Lashes, then reduce that number by 1.

Using a Tessere in an Action Sequence costs a Raise, on top of any other costs in Hero Points or Lashes, and you can never target yourself with any Tessere. The Tessere are:
Read: This costs no Hero Points or Lashes, and has no Major version. You must use it before using any other Tessere in a scene. If you are unable to see for any reason, you cannot use it. Once you have used it, you can perceive all strands of fate present, as well as the Arcana of any Hero or Villain present, for the rest of the scene.
Arcana (Minor): You may spend a Hero Point and take a Lash to activate your target's Hubris or Virtue. If you choose Virtue, they immediately get their Virtue's benefits. If you choose Hubris, your target gets double the benefit of their Hubris if they activate it on their next action. You may use this even if the target has already activated their Virtue or Hubris this session, and they can activate it normally even after you use this. You cannot affect any character with this more than once per session.
Arcana (Major): You may spend a Hero Point and take a Lash to select a card from your Sorte deck and replace your target's Virtue or Hubris with the selected card for the rest of the scene. All other rules for Virtue and Hubris still apply - if they've used either, they can't activate the new one again. You may only use this once per session.
Blessing (Minor): You may kiss someone (chaste or otherwise) and take one or more Lashes to give them Bonus Dice equal to your Lashes. These Bonus Dice are kept until the end of the scene, when they go away if they haven't been used. All of them must be used on the same Risk.
Blessing (Major): You may kiss someone (chaste or otherwise), spend a Hero Point and take one or more Lashes to give them Bonus Dice equal to your Lashes. Unlike the Minor Blessing, these dice can be used one for one on any Risk at all until you run out, rather than all on the same Risk. Otherwise, they function identically.
Curse (Minor): You may kiss someone (chaste or otherwise) and take one or more Lashes to place a Minor Curse on them, rank equal to your current Lashes. The Curse remains inactive until you choose to activate it, which must be when they gather dice for a Risk but before they roll. When you activate the Curse, they lose (Curse Rank) dice from their pool.
Curse (Major): You may kiss someone (chaste or otherwise), spend a Hero Point and take one or more Lashes to place a Major Curse on them, rank equal to your current Lashes. The Curse remains inactive until you choose to activate it, which must be after they have rolled for a Risk. When you activate the Curse, they lose (Curse Rank) Raises from their roll.
Pull (Minor): You may take a Lash to grab one of the strands of fate attached to a target you can see and pull them toward you. Non-stationary objects, such as tables or chairs, will move out of their way. The target loses a Raise due to stumbling headlong at you, and those on balconies or bannisters may fall. If the target is on the other side of a movable obstruction, such as a table, or a breakable one, such as a window, they take 1 Wound.
Pull (Major): You may spend a Hero Point and take one or more Lashes to pull multiple targets. The targets each take 1 Wound due to the force of the pull, regardless of any obstructions, which do not cause a second Wound. You may target a number of Brutes equal to the Lashes you have, and if you target at least half the Brutes in a Brute Squad, the Squad loses its ability to act at the end of the round as they struggle back to their feet. Otherwise, this functions identically to the Minor version save that you can target two Heroes or Villains at once, and must take at least one Lash per Hero or Villain targeted this way. If they are on the other side of an immovable obstruction, such as a jail cell or a door, they slam into it and take 2 Wounds. On each of your actions, you may spend a Raise and take a Lash to hold such a target pinned in place, but only as long as you can do so by pulling them directly towards you.

The Arcana, as a note, are visualized as the Greater Cards of the Sorte deck. Unlike Tarot, these have no numbers. The Lesser Cards - the coins, cups, staves and swords - are used to visualize the relationships between people along the fate strands, with each suit corresponding to a type of relationship. The Greater Cards are used to identify Arcana, and each strega's deck is different, as tradition mandates that you may only use 20 Greater Cards in your deck, though far more than 20 exist. The colors of the Greater Cards appear as auras around people to show their Arcana - upright for Virtue, reversed for Hubris, usually.

The main changes here are that the Lesser Cards are not mechanically relevant any more, but strega can now physically pull people. Also, the mechanics behind longer-term blessings and curses are not present, but fluffwise they can still happen. I would just assume the lack of mechanics is because mechanically it's not very relevant to know that someone has story events turned against them because of fate witches.

Next time: Dueling

SWORDS

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: SWORDS

The Duelist's Guild consists of Duelists. Theah defines a Duelist as someone that has attended a Duelist Academy or otherwise studied under a swordmaster to learn the secrets of a dueling style. (Not that all of them use swords, mind you, it's just a title.) On graduating, the student is inducted into the Duelist's Guild and given a small steel pin with the image of a triskelion on it as proof of membership. Only a Duelist is permitted to initiate duels - and that's key wording. Only a Duelist can start a duel, but anyone can defend themselves. Duelists are expected to wear their pin at all times, but they need not do so openly. Many prefer to keep it on the underside of their lapel, so it can easily be flashed to an opponent but avoids attention.

When you take the Duelist Academy advantage, you get access to all Duelist Maneuvers and a Dueling Style. Thus, picking it up in play usually means finding a swordmaster to teach you and convincing them. You can repurchase the advantage multiple times to get access to new styles...in this book. In later books they realized this was actually, like, completely awful and not worth it, so a cheaper advantage was brought in for 'you have an extra Style'. This is because the main benefit of being a Duelist is the Maneuvers, not the Style. All Duelists have access to every basic Maneuver, and while the names are based around swords, they aren't literal - you can use Slash with a club just as easily, it's your main damage maneuver. To perform a Maneuver, you need to spend a Raise, just like any other action. You can perform only one Maneuver per action - you can't spend two Raises to both Slash and Parry. However, you can spend multiple Raises over different actions to perform different Maneuvers in the same sequence. However, you may not perform the same Maneuver twice in a row. You can't Slash, Slash, Slash - you have to Slash, then do a different thing, like Parry or Bash or an unrelated action, before you can Slash again.

Duelist Maneuvers
Slash - Deal (Weaponry) Wounds.
Parry - Prevent (Weaponry) Wounds. This can only be used on your action, and only immediately after whatever action dealt you Wounds.
Feint - Deal 1 Wound. The next time your target is injured this round, they take an additional Wound.
Lunge - Spend all your Raises. You deal (Weaponry+Raises spent) Wounds, which cannot be prevented or avoided in any way.
Bash - Deal 1 Wound. The next time your target would cause Wounds this round, they deal (Weaponry) fewer Wounds.
Riposte - Prevent (Weaponry) Wounds, then deal (Weaponry) Wounds. This can only be used on your action, and only immediately after whatever action dealt you Wounds. You may only do this once per round.

You may have noticed that all of these are much more powerful than the generic combat maneuvers, which are 'spend X Raises to deal X damage' and 'spend X Raises to prevent X damage, immediately, off-turn'. Duelists are much better fighters than normal people! So much so, in fact, that they had to patch the game with the Student of Combat advantage. What Student of Combat does is it costs 3 points, it gives you Slash, Parry and one Maneuver of your choice, and it lets you buy the full Duelist Academy advantage for 3 points instead of 5. It's a decent patch, IMO, but your mileage may vary.

On top of the Maneuvers, a full Duelist also gets a Style. At the start of each Round, a Duelist selects which of their Styles, if they have multiple, to be in and get the bonus from. As long as the weapon requirements are fulfilled, they get that bonus all round. You can change Styles at the start of any round but can only be in one Style at a time. Anyone that knows a Style can immediately identify an opponent using that Style the moment they take any action.

Aldana is the favorite fighting style of most Castillian Duelists, and it is one of the few in all of Theah that entirely forgoes the off-hand. Rather, it tucks the off-hand behind the back and narrows the fighting profile. It is meant for use with fencing weapons. It combined dancing and combat to produce unpredictable movements, as the Duelist moves to the rhythm of a song in their head, counting time in a way the opponent cannot know. The bonus is the Aldana Ruse. When an Aldana fencer wields a fencing weapon in one hand and nothing in the other, they can perform the Aldana Ruse Maneuver, causing the target to take (Panche) extra Wounds the next time they take damage this round. This can only be done once per round.

Ambrogia is a very popular Vodacce style that wields a sword in the left hand and a main-gauche in the right. It was invented by famous courtesan Veronica Ambrogia, and its focus on the left hand makes it hard for many to deal with. It emphasizes practical combat over high style - use whatever you need to win. It's the winner that tells the tale. Its special bonus is Veronica's Guile. While you have a dagger in your right hand and a fencing sword in your left, you may use either Finesse or Wits as the Trait for any Weaponry Risk, no matter what - and if you spend a Hero Point, you can use both at once.

Boucher is a Montaigne street fencing style, and it isn't seen as a style for gentlemen. However, it gets results. It wields paired long knives, mixing them in a series of confusing attacks to disorient the foe. It's one of the fastest styles in the Guild, and once it can get past a sword's superior reach, it becomes nearly impossible to stop. The bonus is the Boucher Step. While wielding a dagger or knife in each hand, once per round, you can perform two Maneuvers at the same time. You must still spend Raises as normal for both, you can't do the same Maneuver twice, but you do both Maneuvers before anyone else can act.

Donovan was invented by the most famous bodyguard in the world, Donovan Durant, and it was designed for protection. Durant only ever took jobs from those he believed needed his aid, and before his retirement, it was said that only one of his wards had ever died under his guard - the first. He swore never to lose another, and he never did. On retirement, he founded a dueling academy in Avalon, and the requirements to get in are very rigid. Every student must be personally approved by Durant himself after a rigorous interview, and he takes only those who he feels share his commitment to protection. The bonus is Donovan's Bulwark. When you wield a heavy weapon (such as a longsword or axe) in one hand and nothing in the other, your Parry is replaced with the Donovan's Bulwark Maneuver, which functions as Parry except that it can also prevent Wounds dealt to an ally within your reach. Also, when you use Donovan's Bulwark, you can spend a Hero Point to lock weapons with the attacker, causing you both to lose all remaining Raises for the round. (In 1e, this style also used a shield. It doesn't any more! I have no idea why.)

Drexel is an Eisen style developed by mercenary Kristoff Drexel, leader of the Blood Spirits. It is meant to adapt to unpredictable conditions and be flexible. It utilizes the Eisen zweihander (or similar weapons) and is very popular with mercenaries, as it has three different stances that each have different methods of attack and defense. The Drexel Stances are the style bonus. When you wield a heavy weapon in two hands, you may choose a stance each round. If you want to swap stances mid-round, you must spend a Raise to do it. The three stances are Bittner (Forward), Metzger (Back) and Gerbeck (High). While in Bittner, any Maneuvers that prevent Wounds prevent (Resolve) additional Wounds, but you can't use Slash. While in Metzger, you take all actions as if you had (Wits) extra Raises for the sole purpose of calculating when you act - you can't spend them. However, you can't use Parry. While in Gerbeck, all Maneuvers that would deal Wounds deal 1 additional Wound, but you take all actions as if you had 1 fewer Raise than you actually do for the purpose of calculating when you act, to a minimum of 1.

Eisenfaust is another Eisen style, wielding a broadsword in the main hand with an iron glove called a panzerhand on the off-hand. You deflect or grab incoming attacks, exploiting the openings you create that way to counter. It is primarily a defensive style, waiting for the foe to make a mistake before it goes in. Typically, enemies facing it grow impatient or angry as the defense is maintained. The style bonus is Iron Reply. While you wield a heavy weapon in one hand and a panzerhand in the other, your Riposte is replaced with the Iron Reply Maneuver, which functions identically, but prevents (Resolve+Weaponry) Wounds and deals (Brawn+Weaponry) Wounds. You still can only use it once per round.

Leegstra is a Vestenmennavenjar style, practiced for centuries before the Duelist's Guild was founded. It is an extremely aggressive style that wields two weapons at once, encouraging reckless offense. While the style is very old, it was only formalized around 20 years ago by Leegstra Eldsdottir, a woman who claimed never to have lost in single combat, and who has founded her own academy in Thorshofn. The style bonus is Leegstra's Crash. When you wield a heavy weapon in each hand - usually but not always axes or hammers - you may perform the Leegstra's Crash Maneuver. Leegstra's Crash is identical to Slash, but is not Slash. You may only use it once per round.

Mantovani is a Vodacce style popularized by a number of serial novels. It doesn't use a sword - it uses a whip, based on the tales of Vito Montovani. It favors misdirection and adaptability, manipulating the foe with whip movements and environmental trickery over direct attacks. Its bonus is the Mantovani Flay. While you wield a whip, you can use the Mantovani Flay Maneuver. When you do, you choose a Maneuver you know your opponent can use (such as Slash, Parry or a style Maneuver you know they have). They cannot perform that Maneuver on their next action due to you binding their weapon, stinging their wrist or otherwise controlling how they can act. You may use this only once per round.

Mireli is an Ussuran style invented by the dancer Katya Mireli, who traveled with various circuses. Her most famous skill was a captivating sword dance using a curved blade in each hand, and it became so famous that nobles and merchants would travel a hundred miles to see the famed Mireli Sword Dance. Her 'academy' is unique - it has no campus. Instead, you must find Mireli or one of her various students as they travel the world, generally with performers or circuses. They've maintained this tradition for 30 years so far. The style bonus is Mireli's Revision. When you use a heavy weapon in each hand - usually a saber, cutlass or hatchet - you may perform the Mireli's Revision Maneuver. This functions identically to either Bash or Parry, chosen when you use it.

Sabat is style developed by Mirek Sabat, a chessmaster who found the idea of transferring chess strategy to combat fascinating - along with just about every other part of his life. By 20, he was a grandmaster fencer and chess player, though his experimentation with unorthodox strategies means he doesn't win all the time even against inferior foes. His fencing style is defensive, allowing foes to exhaust themselves before ending things with a decisive stroke. The style bonus is the Sabat Gambit. When you wield a heavy weapon in one hand - typically a heavy saber - your Lunge is replaced with the Sabat Gambit Maneuver. It is identical to Lunge, but deals (Weaponry+Finesse+Raises Spent) Wounds instead.

Torres is a Castillian style originally developed for bullfights, using a rapier in one hand and a cloak in the other. It draws the foe in, then blindsides them. It's an extremely good defensive style, using cloak and sword as a wall against the foe, and its masters are some of the fastest and quickest-witted fighters in the world. The bonus is Matador's Flourish. While you wield a fencing sword in one hand and nothing in the other, and you're wearing a long cloak, you may perform the Matador's Flourish Maneuver. This prevents (Athletics) Wounds. You may use it only once per round.

Valroux is the favored style of many Montaigne, wielding a fencing sword and a main-gauche. It is technically a defensive style, in that the dagger is used only for parrying. However, its real focus is on calling attention to openings the fencer could've exploited, humiliating the foe and weakening them over time. It is meant to demoralize enemies, dizzying and dancing around them while hurling insults. The style bonus is the Valroux Press. While you wield a fencing sword in your right hand and a dagger in your left, you may perform the Valroux Cross Maneuver. It functions like Parry, but you may also choose a Maneuver you know your enemy can perform. If they attempt any other Maneuver as their next action, they must spend
an additional Raise. You may use this Maneuver only once per round.

Next time: Sailing

BOTES

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: BOTES

So this entire chapter is basically John Wick going 'actually, ships are extremely important, high seas piracy matters, the entire ocean matters.' Shipping is almost entirely by sea, and that means there's a whole lot of wealth on the seas for pirates to grab, and that means there's basically open war on the ocean between pirates and the naval forces of most nations. Sailing is now one of the most profitable and most dangerous professions in the world. You need to be strong, healthy and brave to be a good sailor, able to tie dozens of knots, repair canvas, have good balance and work even during cannonfire and storms. Any skills there that you lack when you sign on, you better pick up quick. Many apprentice sailors begin their voyages with essentially no knowledge of anything outside their village, and after months at sea, they are entirely changed. Most sailors become literate, for lack of anything else to do when the winds are dead, see wildlife they never dreamed of, like whales or sea monsters, visit foreign lands, learn new languages, suffer disease or starvation, learn math, become strong, and lose all their money to jennys. (That's Thean for prostitutes.)

Unfortunately, all the romantic life of sailors but has some issues. No ship's crew returns home whole. Some are lost to disease, to thirst, to accidents. All sailors' lives are divided into three watches of 8 hours each. On the sailor's first watch, they're on active duty, doing their job. On their second watch, they're eating meals, repairing sailcloth or clothes, doing carpentry or smithwork, or otherwise doing light work around the ship, perhaps learning a new position under the master's mates, such as learning to bandage wounds or peel potatoes. If there's time left over after all that, you can read or study or whatever. On the third watch, you sleep. A sailor's work is hard. They must handle rigging 50 feet in the air during 40-mile winds, to say nothing of the waves and rain. The food is usually rotten, the water filthy and the officers unforgiving. You want to avoid fights with the other sailors so you don't get knifed or shoved overboard, too. And if your ship has a fight? Well, your odds of survival drop significantly, depending on who the enemy is. If the surgeon aboard hasn't the tools to deal with your wounds, either, then you're likely to bleed to death. So why do it? Because at the end of the voyage, you're going to see more money than you've ever dreamed of. The pay from a single voyage is enough to set up a sailor with a comfortable retirement if they choose. Most don't - they tend to spend the lot on drink and whores, and have to sign on again to replace the fortune they just lost.

There are four broad kinds of sailor. Merchants are those who use their ships for trade and commercial activity. They're businessmen, fishermen, whalers and explorers...and also smugglers and bootleggers. There's more of them than any other kind. Naval recruits are those that belong to a national navy, serving as seamen or officers aboard a ship. They patrol waters, protect convoys, hunt pirates and fight other navies. Naval vessels are notoriously nasty to be aboard, though under a competent captain, there are notable exceptions. Privateers are essentially oceanic mercenaries. They hunt the foes of their employers, steal from rival nations and do the work that formal navies can't acknowledge. They also can be hired for missions or escort services. The most notorious privateers these days are the Sea Dogs of Avalon. Pirates, well. They're the wolves, the outlaws. They answer to no one but themselves, and are obligated to none but the profits they steal. Their lives are extremely dangerous, but freer than any other people in Theah. Because they're usually after cargo, they rarely sink ships, preferring instead to close with them and board them. They have few friends - pretty much all military vessels have orders to sink pirate ships on sight, and captured pirates are often hanged without trial. Despite this, not all pirates are evil. Famously, Captain "Gentleman" Gosse was renowned for his kind and gentle behavior, and the Brotherhood of the Coast has brought a kind of rough code of honor to pirates, as well as a sense of democracy.

Your ship's crew is led by a Captain, whose role differs depending on the kind of ship. On a naval vessel, the captain has total authority. On most pirate vessels, though, the captain's power is limited by the ship's charter, with some allowing them to act only as a general in battle, while others grant fuller authority. Often, the captain isn't the most experienced hand aboard, but usually is the best commander. He may have any number of lieutenants depending on a ship's size, often called mates, under his command. They assist the captain and carry out various duties on the ship. Under them is the Ship's Master, who answers only to the captain and lieutenants. The captain tells the master what he wants, and the master sees it gets done. The real duty of the master, though, is to navigate, and the ship's master is usually the most experienced and respected sailor aboard. Under the master, you have the Master's Mate (a sailor training to be a master), the Quartermaster (who organizes the steering of the ship), the Helmsmen (who are in charge of the ship's watches), the Purser (who manages ship finances, cargo and supplies and has command over anyone who handles supplies, even the cook), the Steward (assistant to the purser) and the Cook (who cooks).

Under the master is the Boatswain ('bosun'), the sergeant aboard ships. When the captain decides, he orders the master, who tells the boatswain, who organizes a mess of men to fulfill the order. The boatswain is the highest rank aboard that deals with non-officers, and is commonly in charge of discipline. When the men get out of line, the boatswain typically whips them with a cat-of-nine-tails. Under the boatswain are the Boatswain's Mate (who helps call out orders and gain attention via whistles), the Sailmaker (who repairs and makes new sails with canvas from the purser), the Master of the Tops (who is in charge of setting sails and working rigging and leads the topsmen who work in the rigging), the Master of the Forecastle (who is in charge of the front of the ship, the mooring and handling the anchor), the Master-at-Arms (who controls all small arms aboard the ship and has the key to the arms locker), the Gunsmith (who repairs the small arms) and the Carpenter (who is responsible for care and maintenance of all wooden parts of the ship, and usually has command over a carpenter's mate and a cooper to handle the barrels).

Then you have the Master Gunner, often just the gunner, who maintains and fires the cannons and commands the key to the powder room. The gunner must be a skilled mathematician to handle the aiming, and typically only commands the gunner's mate (a master gunner in training who is learning algebra and how to mix gunpowder) and the powder monkeys (untrained boys who ferry the powder about while learning other jobs aboard ships). Then there's the Surgeon, who handles general health and welfare. He commands the Surgeon's Mate (a surgeon in training) and the Loblolly Boy (a nurse and errand-runner who watches over the injured or sick). Then you've got the Midshipmen, who are officers-in-training and spend their time learning various positions on the ship. Then you have the Master Mariners, sailors who are widely experienced but not yet officers. They're the most valuable non-specialists aboard, and usually advise the boatswain. Below them are the Able Seamen, those with a handful of voyages done, and the Seamen, who can tie knots and not fall overboard.

Pirate ships, of coruse, have far smaller crews than most others. This list is a full complement, and few pirate ships can fill that out. They make do with what they've got. However, they also tend to have more master mariners than, say, any given naval ship, and the crew are generally more experienced and ready for combat.

Next time: Superstitions and Ship Rules

BORTS

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: BORTS

Sailors have plenty of superstitions. Some are bullshit, others are useful mnemonics, and others are true as hell. Your mnemonics are easy.
Ring around the moon, rain or snow soon. - Because a halo around the sun or moon indicates high altitude ice cryswtals, and typically means harsh weather within three days or so.
Rainbow in the morning gives you fair warning. - Because in the middle latitudes, weather travels west to east most times, and a rainbow appearing when your back is to the sun means you're looking at a rainstorm. So a sun in the east and a rainbow in the west means a storm is coming in the middle latitudes.
Clear moon, frost soon. If the sky is clear and the moon is visible, then the atmosphere is clear and Terra is cooling. If there's no wind and the temperature gets low enough, you're going to get frost on the yards and masts.
Red sky in morning, sailor take warning. A red sun means that there's dust and moisture in the air - which means rain.

Then there's the dead. Almost no ship will carry a corpse across the water - that's bad luck. When a man dies at sea, you wash him, dress him cleanly, wrap him in cloth and tie irons to his legs, then throw him overboard with a prayer. If a sailor's lost at sea, you should never dig a grave, erect a headstone or even speak of him as dead until seven years pass - digging a grave for the living asks for trouble. Sailors almost never speak of the dead, and when they do, the word 'poor' usually gets put in front of the name. Sailors respect the dead deeply - there's too many tales of ghosts and ghost ships not to.

The water is Mother Ocean, always. It's like Ussurans using the word 'Matushka'. The ocean is a jealous but protective mother, and she doesn't like her children to spend their time with those of low virtue...which is why taverns are never in sight of the sea. Sailors also know never to tell their families how long they'll be gone, where they go or when they'll return. A sailor's life is at Mother Ocean's whim, and none of those questions are his to answer. Likewise, everyone knows that those who fall overboard are claimed by the ocean, and those who try to save them probably will be as well. Thus, many sailors believe reaching over the side of a ship to save someone is bad luck. Of course, others don't and will do all they can to save a fallen sailor - but the risk of saving one is not worth saving two, is the point.

Now, let's talk ships. Your ship comes in one of several classes. Ship class does not affect mechanics, it's just about how your ship looks and feels.
Brigs are quite popular - two-mastered, square-rigged ships that are smaller than most but also faster. They tend to be good in a fight still, with anywhere from 10 to 20 cannons.
Brigantines are favored by pirates for their speed and maneuverability, and most are fitted with oars for when the wind dies.
Carracks are large, square-rigged ships originating with the Vodacce. They're cargo haulers - four masters, huge hull, long voyages. They have very few cannons, though, so they need protection.
Fluyts are similar to carracks, but of Vesten design. They have no cannons whatsoever, in favor of more cargo space and less need for crew. They're specially designed for a shallow draft so they can go up rivers or dock at ports rather than needing to anchor and send rowboats - a great advantage when loading and unloading cargo.
Frigates are small, well-armed hsips meant to take on larger vessels with their maneuverability and speed. They have ittle cargo space or room for crew, though, and the men are packed in like sardines.
Galleons are a Castillian mainstay, and the largest ships out there. They're three-decked, square-rigged triple-masters meant for long sea voyages, often relying on the protection of smaller vessels.
Man-of-Wars are battleship, heavily armed, not cargo haulers. A heavy frigate could be considered a light man-of-war, but most man-of-wars are much larger than that. While most ships are given feminine names, the man-of-war is traditionally given a masculine one.
Schooners are very small but very fast, able to travel in more shallow water than most ships and well able to run from a fight.

Your ship also has an Origin - the nation, region or area that it hailed from on its maiden voyage. This gives it various bonuses, which tend to be somewhat vague about when they apply. The GM has final say, but should be generous. When a bonus applies, however, it can only be used by a single Hero at any given time.
Avalon: Your ship is smaller and faster. It gets 2 Bonus Dice for any Risks involving speed and maneuverability, and is probably a brig, brigantine or schooner.
Castille: Your ship is slow but very tough. It can take an additional Hit at each tier before it takes a Critical Hit. It's probably a galleon or man-of-war.
Eisen: Your ship isn't notable - its crew is. The best marines in the world. You have 5 additional Crew, and your Crew can divide into up to 3 Squads rather than 2.
Montaigne: Your ship is beautifully made, and probably well-armed. When making a social Risk, such as negotiating with another ship, you get two Bonus Dice. Your ship is probably a frigate or schooner.
The Sarmatian Commonwealth: Your ship was "acquired" from some other nation, rather than made in Sarmatia, which has a small fleet indeed. You gain a bonus Background for the ship.
Ussura: Your ship was made for cold, icy water, and is quite tough. You get two Bonus Dice in extremely choppy waters, storms, dangerous waters such as reef-infested or icy seas, or when otherwise under environmental threat.
Vodacce: Your ship is meant for the long haul - lots of masts, big hull. You can carry 3 Cargo, rather than 2.
Vestenmennavenjar: Your ship is almost certainly a fluyt. When you raid another vessel for Wealth, you gain all the Wealth, not half.
Exotic: Your ship was made somewhere outside Theah - perhaps the Crescent Empire, Khitai or Ifri. You earn 1 more Wealth than normal when you sell foreign goods in Theah or Thean goods in a foreign port.

Backgrounds are like Advantages for a ship, but all have equal point value. They give your ship a history, aqs well, a reputation that makes more than just some boat. You may only have a given Background once. Every Hero with the Married to the Sea advantage grants one Background to the ship.
Beyond the Horizon: Your ship has been to the New World, Ifri or Cathay. You can spend a Raise or Hero Point when speaking about the cultures, customs or people of far-away land to be automatically believed, no matter what.
Broke the Mirror: Your ship has sailed the frozen waters of the Mirror, a feat matched only by the bravest Vesten, and so is known as isabrot, Icebreaker. You may spend a Raise or Hero Point when meeting a Vesten NPC to automatically have you, your ship and your crew be respected.
Captured by Pirates: Your ship was taken by pirates and sold. It has smuggling compartments to hold things of value. When you hide something in the smuggling compartments during a scene, what you hide cannot be found unless the person knows exactly where to look - such as being former crew. Just knowing you have smuggling compartments isn't enough. You can hide up to 1 Cargo this way; this doesn't mean additional Cargo space, just that you can protect it from detection.
Friend of Iskandar: Your ship has docked in Iskandar and is known in the city as a friend - a Sadiq Iskandar. You can spend a Raise or Hero Point when encountering a Crescent Empire NPC. They will be friendly until given a reason not to be.
Heroic Captain: One of the captains of your ship was known across Theah - and loved. Their reputation lingers. You can spend a Raise or Hero Point when you encounter an NPC sailor, old salt, retired naval captain or similar. They had a favorable run-in with your ship's captain and look favorably upon your ship and its crew.
Pirate Hunter: Your ship was used to hunt pirates. When your crew rolls dice against pirates, their 10s explode.
Prominent Battle: Your ship survived a horrific fight and has a rep for not going down. It can take 5 Critical Hits instead of 4.
Round the Horn: Your ship has a small, strange mascot from IFri - a monkey, parrot, runic totem, customized wheel or some other good luck charm. Once per game, one Hero on the ship can spend a Hero Point to reroll any number of dice in a Risk they just made, so long as they're aboard the ship.
Swallowed by the Triangle: Your ship has traveled the Triangle and landed at the strange shores of Kammerra. It may have been thought lost. You may spend a Raise when you encounter a strange magic, artifact or creature, such as a sea monster, giant bird or Kammerran shaman. You may ask the GM a yes/no question about the thing, and they must answer honestly.

Ships do not gain new Backgrounds, and neither do they advance like Heroes do. Rather, they gain Adventures, which are kind of like Achievements. The first time you and your crew accomplish the criteria for an Adventure in play during a session, the ship gains the ability associated with that Adventure. You only get it the first time - so if you get raided by pirates once, you get Your Gold Or Your Life!, but nothing if you get raided a second time. These bonuses, as a note, are on top of whatever is gained or lost just by the course of story events, and the GM can invent and design their own Adventures - this is hardly an exhaustive list. The general rule is that an Adventure should either be difficult, interesting and unusual, or evocative and fun.
A Jenny In Every Port: Make port in every Nation in Theah. When you make port in a Thean city, any Hero may spend a Raise or Hero Point. Whatever authority exists in the point knows of your ship and crew, and will treat you relatively well until given reason not to. They won't let you break the law, but may let you bend it slightly.
A Short and Merry Life: Convince a hostile ship's crew to join you, through negiation, coercion or intimidation. Your crew gains 5 Strength.
Adventurer: Accomplish 5 Adventures. Every Hero gains their choice of one of of the Able Drinker, Cast-Iron Stomach or Sea Legs advantages.
Drag Them to Their Doom!: Perform a successful boarding action. The first time each round that any of your Crew Squads would inflict Wounds on an enemy while at sea, that enemy takes an additional Wound.
Feed the Sea with Ghosts: Defeat 5 ships in naval combat. The first time each round your ship fires her cannons at an enemy, the enemy ship takes an additional Hit.
Gold Drives a Man to Dream: Earn 10 Wealth from selling Cargo in a single Voyage. You may carry 1 additional Cargo.
Hot Pursuit: Escape a city with the authorities at your heels. Your ship's crew may return to full complement after only 12 hours in port rather than 24.
"How Long Can You Hold Your Breath?": Dive a shipwreck, reef or underwater cave and bring back something valuable. You gain 1 Bonus Die for any Risks involving swimming, underwater navigation or holding your breath.
Off the Map: Make port in a city outside Theah. You get one Bonus Die in any social Risk against an NPC whose native tongue is from outside Theah.
Saved from the Deep: Rescue a marooned NPC. Your Ship's total Crew gets +1 Strength.
Shore Leave: Lead your crew in the singing of a sea shanty during shore leave at a seedy port tavern. Any Hero may spend a Hero Point to return one of your Crew Squads back to full Strength immediately. nly one Hero may activate this per session, and only once per session.
Tempting Fate: Transport an NPC Fate Witch from one port to another. At the start of each session, each Hero rolls one die. The highest roll gets an extra Hero Point. If the highest roll is tied, no one gets any extra Hero Point. Fate is fickle.
Thanks for the Backup: Save the crew of a sinking ship, when things look their bleakest. The captain and crew of that ship are now allies and can be relied on when needed for help. All Heroes gain the Connection advantage with that ship and her crew.
The Only Good Pirate...: Render a pirate ship Crippled. The first time each round you spend a Raise to reduce the Strength of a Pirate Brute Squad, you reduce their Strength by 1 more than you normally would.
Well Excuse Me, Princess: Transport a Thean royal from one port to another. You get one Bonus Die for any social Risks involving nobles.
X Marks the Spot: Find a buried treasure. Add 10 additional Wealth to your ship's treasury.
Your Gold or Your Life!: Surrender to, be Crippled by, or be succesfully robbed by pirates. The first time any Hero rolls a Risk against a pirate in a session, all Heroes gain one Hero Point.

Now, stats. Ships have a Death Spiral like anyone else. However, by default, a ship can take 5 Hits before it takes a Critical Hit. AFter 4 Critical Hits, it is Crippled. A Crippled ship cannot fire cannons or avoid attacks - it's a sitting duck, and may be freely plundered, have its Cargo stolen and its Treasury looted. The Crew must usually either row or swim ashore and hope for the best, take a place aboard the attacker's crew, or be executed. A Crippled ship that takes another Hit has been sunk. It can only be abandoned. If your ship is sunk, however, and you retrieve a meaningful memento from it, such as a distinct figurehead or custom wheel, you may put this on a new ship and transfer over its old Backgrounds and Adventures. This can only be done on a newly built ship, with no Backgrounds or Adventures of its own.

A ship has 10 Crew, which can divide up freely into 2 Squads, however you like. Two Squads of 5 Strength, one of 8 and one of 2, one squad of Strength 10. Whatever. Any Hero can direct the crew to act, but a Squad can only take a single action each Round, devoting all its Raises to that task. If the action is a Risk, they roll dice equal to their Squad Strength. Every Wound taken by a Squad reduces its Strength by 1 due to crew injury, death or otherwise inability to act. Whenever you make port for at least 24 hours, you can restore any lost Crew to full complement and reorganize your Squads.

A ship may carry 2 Cargo. Each Cargo transported from one port to another earns 1 Wealth. If the Cargo is taken an especially long distance, such as from Theah to the Crescent Empire, it earns an additional Wealth per Cargo. If the Cargo is particularly valuable to the people you're bringing it to, such as Khitai spices in Vodacce, each Cargo earns an additional Wealth. These do stack. Whenever you make port for at least 24 hours, you may sell off or acquire new Cargo.

When a crew earns Wealth, it is placed in the ship Treasury. The Captain typically decides how it will be divided, but a wise captain avoids mutiny by ensuring the crew gets paid. At the end of each session, the Wealth in the Treasury is halved, rounding down, to represent upkeep, repairs and pay. If the captain chooses not to pay the crew at the end of the session, whether because they don't want to halve the Treasury or because it's empty, the crew becomes Mutinous. A ship with a Mutinous crew causes a -2 dice penalty to all Risks taken aboard, and loses any die bonuses from Origins, Backgrounds or Adventures. The available Crew is reduced by half due to desertion and poor morale. A Mutinous crew paid at the end of a session returns to normal at the start of the next. A Mutinous crew that is not paid causes a Mutiny. The entire crew abandons the ship - so she can't sail and has no Squads. They also steal any Cargo and may even abduct people or other drastic action. Extreme circumstances may, rarely, delay or prevent a crew from becoming Mutinous, at the GM's discretion, but this should never reward greed or neglect. A ship that is successfully raided by pirates, whether by being Crippled, having its crew defeated, or surrendering, loses all Cargo and half its Wealth. A captain may sometimes negotiate a surrender or tribute, in which case, the amount lost in Wealth and Cargo is a matter of negotiation instead. Your Crew matters - the game is very clear on this. Being aboard ship means you're all in close quarters, on the same boat, for a long-ass time. You're kin, and sailors will make incredible sacrifices for their crew. A ship is more than wood and sails and cannon - its heart and soul is the crew, and all of them have a name.

Ship Battles function exactly as any other Action Sequence - the players choose Approaches, there are Consequences, Opportunities happen. The game gives some suggested things Heroes can choose as Approaches if they don't know much about naval combat, such as firing the cannons (usually a Brawn or Wits job, but sometimes Panache or Resolve to command crew or keep cool under fire, or even Finesse to reload quickly), manning the sailts to keep the shp out of range of cannon and grapple (usually Finesse or Resolve), manning the bilge crew to ensure the ship doesn't sink (usually Resolve, as it involves going into dangerous parts of the ship), running a boarding party (usually Brawn to pull a ship in or Finesse to leap across, sometimes Panache to command a Crew Squad) or assisting the ship's doctor (usually Wits). Consequences will usually be either Wounds to a Hero or Hits to the ship, and are avoided as normal. The enemy ship may also try to target key parts of yours as a Consequence, which could reduce maneuverability, speed or Crew Strength. Opportunities will exist to do similar to the enemy ship. Rolls are done as normal, Raises spent.

Sometimes, you'll face down a sea Monster. These things tend to be large enough to take on a entire ship if it matters enough for ship combat to happen, and this is treated as any Action Sequence. The monster may have any combination of Monsstrous Qualities and traits of being a ship - such as Crew Squads in the form of smaller spawn that cling to its skin. Like ships, sea Monsters tend to ignore normal-scale Wounds in favor of Hits and Critical Hits.

Next time: Secret Societies

The Chicken Illuminati

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: The Chicken Illuminati

Secret societies exist all over the dang place. Joining them can often be beneficial, but also comes with responsibility. They seek to make the world a better place, by their lights, and they often disagree on what exactly that means, but for the heroic ones? It's usually something good. Something better. What a member is expected to do is to work towards that. In return, the society grants favors, information and aid when needed. A Hero may join any secret society they've made contact with, either in game or in backstory, at no cost. However, you can only belong to one society at a time. If you want to swap or leave, you lose all influence in your original secret society and are likely to be treated with suspicion, though probably not violence as long as you left on decent terms rather than treachery.

The currency of secret societies is Favor, a representation of faith, trust and resources. You get Favor by helping the society and spend it on benefits. All societies have certain shared interests that will earn Favor. Selling information relevant to a society's interests to them is worth 2 Favor if it's not commonly known but isn't a huge secret - the history of failed businesses of a relevant merchant, say, or the name of a relevant privateer's wife. Aiding an agent of the society in their mission or saving them from danger gains 4 Favor. Selling a secret of extreme interest to a society is worth 6 Favor. This kind of information is closely guarded - the secret bastard son of an enemy count, the identity of an Inquisition assassin.

All societies also have certain things you can always spend Favor on. Buying information that is not commonly known but isn't a closely guarded secret costs 1 Favor. Requesting the aid of a society agent to save you or help your mission costs 3 Favor. Agents dispatched this way have Strength 6; more skilled agents cost more Favor at the GM's discretion. Buying a secret that is closely guarded costs 5 Favor. You will note that selling gives more than buying costs in each case. That's intentional - secret societies try to build good relationships with their members and have a network of contacts going. The best way to do that is to treat them well, and it means that dealing with them on equal terms will pretty much always be in your favor. They are good faith information providers - they won't hand out small, useless chunks of info to you to jack up the price by repeated buys, and likewise they expect you to do the same for them. Obviously, the things above are also not an exhausting list of what gains Favor or what you can use Favor on. These, and the ones for specific societies, are examples - things the GM can use to gauge how much things should cost.

The Brotherhood of the Coast is a society of ships, each with their own captain. The Pirate Queen Captain Bonaventura's own La Dama Roja is but one among the fleet that preys on ships sailing near Montaigne, Castille, Vodacce and the New World. Their organization is a bit of a paradox - they love freedom, but they are bound by a charter than none dare to break. The charter was written by the First Captains, and it is signed by every member of the Brotherhood, giving a very strict code of conduct. Sailors that see the Brotherhood flag flying know that if they surrender they won't be harmed, and often take the offer. Those who don't, after all, face some of the best sailors on the seas.

The Charter posted:

I. Every hand to have a vote in the affairs; equal title to the provisions and liquors, and may use them at pleasure, unless scarcity makes it necessary to vote to a rationing.
II. Every hand to be called fairly in turn, by list, on board for duty.
III. If any defraud the Brotherhood to the value of a Guilder in plunder, marooning shall be his punishment.
IV. No person to game at cards or dice for money.
V. All souls aboard a captured ship shall be set free and determine among themselves, by vote, the course they set once their hull is plundered.
VI. No member of a crew is to be harmed if she surrendered without violence.
VII. Every hand is to keep his piece, pistols and cutlass clean and fit for service.
VIII. To desert the ship or their quarters in battle is punished with death or marooning.
IX. No striking one another on board, but every hand's quarrels to be ended ashore with sword and pistol.
X. If in service to the Brotherhood any hand should lose a limb, or become cripple, he should have 600 Guilders, or 500 Guilders for limb, or 100 Guilders for an eye or finger.

The Brotherhood's primary interest is gold. They don't care for politics most of the time, except in the sense of wanting to know when large amounts of money are moving so they can steal it. Favor can be gained by the Brotherhood the normal ways. Selling information that leads to a ship they can plunder is worth an extra Favor, and they'll also pay 1 Wealth of the spoils to you. Aiding in the capture of a prize ship earns two shares of the prize, plus whatever Favor gains - generally, 2 or more Wealth. The Brotherhood can be called on to smuggle items into or out of a blockaded area for 4 Favor - though once the goods leave their ship, the Brotherhood declares it someone else's problem. They will drop anything or anyone smuggled out at the next reasonable safe port. For 7 Favor, they will blockade an area. That's not an absolute guarantee that nothing will get through, but it definitely makes things a lot harder and more dangerous. They'll spend about a week doing this by default, but may stay longer if there's good plunder.

Die Kreuzritter formed over five centuries ago, a small band of brave men and women at the age of the Walder. The forest was known to birth terrible monsters and dark powers, and the small fort eventually grew into a village. The Vaticine and the Knightly Order of Rose & Cross worked together to establish a guild there to protect Eisen from the forest monsters. The guild had no name at that point, but it would become die Kreuzritter, the Crusaders. At this point, they were known only by their symbol - a white star on a field of black. The locals came to know their village as Stern, the Star. The guild grew and expanded, and eventually its ties to the Vaticine became strained. In 1128, the Imperator of the guild, a devout Vaticine, convinced the group to march south, saying that the Church claimed the demons came to the Walder from the Crescent Empire. They found no demons - just people. The Imperator said that clearly, the demons lay further south, in Ifri. Again, they found only people. The Imperator said to turn east, towards Cathay, and this time, they rebelled.

The monster hunters turned on their leader and went home with new, foreign allies...only to find that Stern have been overrun in their absence, and what was left was taken over by the Inquisition. These crusaders had been banded traitors by the Inquisitors for marching on an unsanctioned Crusade and abandoning Eisen. The Imperator had never intended any of them to return, and had betrayed them all to the Inquisition. Knowing that they couldn't survive open war with the Church, die Kreuzritter vanished into the shadows, armed with their new experiences and knowledge. They decided to live in the dark and hunt monsters that lived there with them. They may be called traitors and heretics, they may be reviled, but they know the truth: there are real monsters out there, creatures that must be stopped. They have sworn to never again be used as a tool of politics or religion, but only to protect the innocent from what lies in darkness.

Die Kreuzritter are primarily concerned with inhuman monsters and evil magic. They want information on monstrous weaknesses, secret necromancers or weapons that can destroy the walking dead, among other things. Information on monsters, dark sorcerers or cursed/evil artifacts is worth 2 additional Favor after the creature or sorcerer is defeated or the artifact is claimed or destroyed. Getting ahold of dracheneisen is worth 10 Favor - it is easily the greatest weapon against monsters. Getting temporary access to a relic, magical artifact or dracheneisen weapon for a single mission (no longer than a session) costs 4 Favor. Refusal to return it is cause for being branded a traitor. Being given the location of a dracheneisen weapon you can keep costs 9 Favor...and you're still going to have to seek it out as part of a special Dracheneisen Seeker story, which must have at least ten Steps and be quite dangerous. As long as you are a member of the order, the weapon is yours to keep.

So what exactly is dracheneisen good for? Well, it is one of the rarest materials in all of existence. The means to make more of it has largely been lost in the War of the Cross, and almost all of it is either in private collections or the hands of die Kreuzritter. The material is, after all, the best there is for fighting monsters. Dracheneisen is usually made into melee weapons - mostly swords, but not always - and never into guns or ammunition. Jewelry, usually rings or pendants, also exist. Armor does not - there simply was never a time when that much dracheneisen was more useful as one piece of armor over multiple weapons. All dracheneisen items function as normal for an item of their type, but are almost indestructible, short of a volcano or other level of extreme destruction. A dracheneisen weapon can cut stone with the same time and effort that steel weapons can cut wood. Dracheneisen glows white if a monster gets within thirty feet of it. If a dracheneisen item is presented strongly in a Monster's presence, the Monster must spend two Danger Points to get the benefits of spending one until the item somehow leaves the scene. Weapons made from dracheneisen also deal 1 additional Wound with each strike if they hit something with a Monstrous Quality or the Sorcery advantage. (In 1e, dracheneisen armor was actually very huge and important and honestly kind of OP and annoying, given it let you ignore the swashbuckling themes. So it's gone now.)

Next time: Explorers, Collegians and Knights

An Explorer's Life For Me

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: An Explorer's Life For Me

The Explorer's Society was founded in 1598 by Leandra Souza, a Castillian scholar. They've been leading archaeological research for nearly nine years now, having unearthed Syrne city ruins as well as nearly 500 artifacts, and they have some of the most extensive maps in Theah. Members openly display themselves with silver pins and rings bearing the image of the magnetic compass. They have captured public imagination, and their fame rivals even that of the Rose and Cross, with many plays and stories written about them. Souza intended for them to discourage 'diggers' - essentially, ruin raiders who hunted for wealth rather than knowledge. The long coats worn by Explorers are often known as digger-coats, much to their chagrin. However, it has reached the point that the worst foes of the Explorers are Vaticine. See, the Third Prophet denounced the Syrne ruins as dangers to the soul, and while some Cardinals defend their activities, the Church has largely remained firm in believing that Syrneth ruin excavation is heretical and will get you killed - by them, if necessary, for the Inquisition. Since this proclamation, the Explorers have had to go underground. Their current headquarters is the Castillian city of Lisso, but they have regional HQs in Montaigne, Vendel and the Eisen city Freiburg. Members are required to grant hospitality to any member that needs it, including sanctuary from the Church if needed. There are Explorer way-stations across the globe, even as far as Ifri, the Crescent Empire and the New World.

The Explorers mostly care about ancient Numanari and Syrneth ruins, plus any texts or artifacts related to them. They want knowledge of the past. On top of the normal Favor gains, acquiring a relic or lost knowledge is worth 4 Favor if you turn it over to the Society or at least share it with them for study. Finding a new Syrneth or Numanari ruin and informing the Explorers of it is worth 5 Favor. They value knowledge more than they do relics. Getting temporary access to a relic (with effects chosen by the GM but otherwise functioning per Signature Item) for a mission costs 3 Favor, and refusal to return it when you're done is grounds for being declared a traitor. Access to an Explorer dig site costs 2 Favor - and only needs to be spent if you weren't actually supposed to be there, though they probably still won't let you remove any artifacts or relics outside extreme circumstances.

The Invisible College are a new society. For nearly a millenium, the Vaticine Church was a beacon of research and knowledge, developing incredible scientific discoveries. However, the recent rise of the Inquisition pushed that to the wayside, and funding for many universities dried up. None believed they'd go further - but they did. High Inquisitor Esteban Verdugo began hunting down scientists, declaring that all research and experimentation must cease in preparation for the Fourth Prophet, who he believes is coming soon. He doesn't want to tempt Theus by prying into the Creator's secrets further, and he's willing to hang or burn people over it. Church leaders are rather too preoccupied with Montaigne and the loss of the Hierophant to be able to get in his way. However, research must continue.

That's where the College comes in. They are hidden scholars that work to continue science while dodging the Inquisition. Without Church funding, though, they can only go so far. Thus, they also use their own assets and investments to continue their work, and have created an underground system of communication to pass on their data and evidence to other members of the Invisible College. So far, Verdugo has not discovered the true identities of any members, and the only papers he's been able to get are ciphered in a way he has not yet been able to crack. Members know each other only by pseudonymsm, and each knows only two others. Verdugo believes there may be as many as 24 members, but no one can really say - not even the College themselves.

The Invisible College cares primarily about gathering and transmitting information about scientific discoveries, and about restoring the Church to its old ways. Selling them information or secrets related to the Inquisition or its activities and agents is always worth 1 more Favor than normal, and saving important scientific knowledge from destruction is worth 6 Favor if you share that knowledge with the College. It costs 1 Favor to pass a message or small package through the College, which will reliably get it just about anywhere in Theah. Buying an dangerous secret costs 5 Favor - and by dangerous, we mean stuff like 'advanced formulas for gunpowder' or 'recipes for potent poisons and their antidotes' or the location a secret Church library containing controversial and extremely rare texts. The College neither knows nor cares that much about noble politics.

The Knightly Order of the Rose and Cross are a weird secret society, primarily because they aren't secret. In fact, so many stories are told about them that it's hard to know what's real and what's not. They are a gentle's society, devoted to seeking justice, righting wrongs and protecting the weak. Many of them are fourth or fifth children of nobles with few prospects, joining to gain a reputation or attract a lover. The Order has chapterhouses across Theah, open to any who hold membership. Some nobles buy nominal membership to support the cause and just to be part of the most famous knightly order. The Order is headquartered in Creux, Montaigne, and its leader is Aristide Baveaux, sometimes called the most beloved man in Montaigne. His fame has proven quite powerful for the Order's influence and prestige, and at the moment, l'Empereur counts five Knights among his bodyguards.

Joining isn't easy. Nominal membership just costs a lot of money, but these people cannot claim the title Knight. Instead, they are Benefactors, though they are treated with respect. Actual Knights must serve the Order for three years without question, often going on very dangerous quests. If they prove worthy, they are permitted to wear the Seal of the Rose and Cross and call themselves a Knight. The Order is very structured, with Knights gaining position and favor via acts of valor, courage, selflessness and generosity.

The main concern of the Knights of the Rose and Cross is being daring, protecting the weak and acting as a moral example. Recruiting a Benefactor is worth 4 Favor, though they must be more than just rich - they also must have a reputation for responsibility and caring. Performing a heroic Quest for the Rose and Cross is a Story in which you do what the Order asks you, and you gain Favor equal to the Steps in the Story. You may request funding from the Order at 1 Favor per 1 Wealth required, though asking for more than 5 Wealth will likely draw attention and require some additional service for whichever Benefactor is funding it.

Los Vagabundos began as a covert revolutionary sect in Castille, but they now cover the entire continent and beyond. A masked figure called El Vagabundo, the Vagabond, appeared in Castille's darkest hour to save the boy-king from danger, and his legend has spread ever since. El Vagabundo has saved Queen Elaine of Avalon from assassins and defeated the treacherous bodyguards of Jarl Auley Baldersen. Outside Castille, some use the name 'El Vago' which is incorrect but accepted. The organization supporting the vigilante began as Castillian patriots, and now works to protect the "good crowns" of Theah. Their goal is simple: monarchs have a lot of power, and if a hero has the crown, the people thrive. If a villain has it, the people suffer. Los Vagabundos work to protect good rulers and overthrow corrupt ones. They work in secrecy and hiding, as they have many enemies. Their numbers are small but often quite highly placed, with sympathizers all over the halls of power. Not all agents wear a mask, either - most are spies, informants or anonymous agents. Some outside the group put on masks and pretend to be El Vagabundo, but no agent would ever wear a counterfeit mask - it would dishonor the true Vagabundo.

The secret of El Vago is the same as it was in 1e: there isn't just one. El Vagabundo is whoever wears the mask. However, there are only five true masks. No more than that. Thus, there are only five of El Vagabundo. The masks are magical, as well - they give power and take identity. They demand much - sometimes too much. And so, only the most trusted are permitted to wear a mask, and when they do, they are strong...but they are not themselves. When they remove the mask, their memories of what they did while wearing it often dim, like dreams.

Los Vagabundos are vigilantes, and they care about stopping injustice. Any injustice. Injustice is not the same as crime, either - theft may be acceptable in some circumstances, if the victim is themselves corrupt or otherwise deserving, for example. Saving a Heroic noble from a Villain will gain 4 Favor - a good king is worth protecting. Defeating a Villainous noble is worth 8 Favor - the nobles, more than anything, have a responsibility to serve their people, and to betray that is to betray all. For 10 Favor, you may request a Mask of El Vagabundo. While wearing it, you get +1 to all Traits and all Skills. However, your Quirks and Hubris cannot be used to gain Hero Points, because you are not yourself any more - you are El Vagabundo. You may, however, still gain Hero Points from other sources. Requesting aid from an agent of Los Vagabundos costs 3 Favor, but because they are primarily lone operatives they are usually more skilled than others. An agent of Los Vagabundos is always +2 Strength more than an agent of comparable cost from another society.

Next time: Mociutes Skara, the Rilasciare and Sophia's Daughters

The Book Actually Has All Those Diacritic Marks But I'm Lazy

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: The Book Actually Has All Those Diacritic Marks But I'm Lazy

Mociutes Skara is a Curonian phrase meaning 'grandmother's shawl' and the group was born in Curonia during the War of the Cross. Originally, they were a group of women that headed into Ussura to provide aid to the war widows and orphans - aid of all kinds, anything they could carry, in fact. The small group grew over the course of the war, until it was a movement. The war is over now. The Shawl is not. They have no formal structure, no hierarchy, no membership dues. All you must do is care for and help others. When disaster hits, they are there. They run towards the fire and screams, to rescue. They are bakers, cooks, wives, widows, clergy - anyone that wants to protect. They've even protected accused monsters in Eisen sometimes. Their purpose is simple: first, provide aid for anyone that needs it. Second, stop wars. That's a newer goal, as more active heroes have joined the group. They want to use covert means to delay, stall and prevent warfare. They aren't pacifists, mind. They will use violence if it'll stop a war. They just prefer peaceful means - sabotage or blackmail are fine, for instance. Anything to prevent another War of the Cross from making another generation of orphans.

Mociutes Skara are primarily interested in disaster relief and war. They are there where people go hungry and want for shelter and medicine. Providing food, water or medical relief to a community in need is worth 5 Favor, regardless of where or who they are. Preventing an army from going to battle is worth 10 Favor - regardless of how it's done. All that matters is that you young soldiers are not forced to murder each other. Mociutes Skara has no unique things you can buy with Favor, but they have access to everything other societies offer that is not restricted and special information and materials. Everyone likes them, see. They can't get a relic or dracheneisen blade, no, but you want assistance or information from another society, they can get that.

The Rilasciare are extremely secretive. They have no true hierarchy or leader, and are very disorganized and chaotic, but they like it that way. Their creator is the legendary figure called Uppman, and he founded them...some time ago. Maybe centuries, maybe a decade. Some say he was part of the Numan Republic, others that he was the mentor of El Vagabundo or the founder of the Rose and Cross. It doesn't really matter what the truth is. His Code is what matters. The Rilasciare want to lead humanity to a better future - a place of total freedom and self-determination. No gods, no kings. Religion and monarchy, they say, are the Two Great Tyrannies, both made for the sole purpose of controlling others. And they must fight these with ideas. Their symbol is the stone and the drop of water, for that is how they fight. It takes generations, but water can wear down any stone. Killing a king or hierophant changes nothing. The crown remains. The idea must be killed, and only then will men be free.

The Rilasciare refer to this as mimeme warfare, from a Numanari word meaning 'imitation' - the same root as the word mime. They name their enemy 'slavery of the mind' or 'tyranny of tradition.' Doing things as they have always been done, because they have always been done that way, is what enslaves us. They question tradition as their sacred duty, and the gadfly is one of their symbols. They call back to old Numanari philosophers, who questioned the motives of the Empire and were killed for it. That is their tradition: questioning, attacking traditions, to replace poisonous mimemes with better ones. They recognize each other with symbols sewn into their coats, but because anyone can wear a coat, they also use a hand sign - the left hand, palm forward and fingers wide. If this is met with the same, they squeeze hands, and the first asks the second about his coat. The second says Uppman gave it to him, and the first replies that it looks like it would fit him. The second answers that it will fit all of his family, and the first finishes by saying he is lucky to be brother to the second. Then, they hug.

Uppman's Code posted:

Murder is the theft of the greatest gift and the villain's tool to maintain order.
Question everything, including yourself.
No man, woman or child should ever want.
Undo Dominion with its own words, deeds and fear.
Gather in no more than five.

There is no leader to the Rilasciare, and many even question if Uppman ever existed. That barely matters, though. They gather in cells of up to five members - never more. This is known as a hand. The hand votes on actions, meeting regularly to share information. There are no official ties to other hands, and thus there is no structure their foes can attack. Of course, it also makes the Freethinkers extremely hard to organize effectively, and while there is some communication between hands, each group is essentially on their own. Despite this, they have accomplish much if you believe all their claims. They have brought down powerful men and women, plastered propaganda across nations, had corrupt officials taken down and humiliated. They've replaced church hymnals with satires, sabotaged financial negotiations, waylaid diplomats. They've destroyed debtors' prisons and erased their records, redistributed taxes to the poor and even impersonated and discredited public figures. Each hand has their own goals, agenda and methods, but all agree: the Two Tyrannies must fall.

The Rilasciare are concerned with the destruction of authority and tyranny. No one should be king, they say, for no king is just. The world should be free of nobility, the church, politicians and governors. Every man a king, every woman a queen in themselves. Overthrowing a noble ruler is worth 6 Favor - any noble ruler. There can be no good king, for a king is a wicked idea. Thwarting a Villainous Church official is worth 4 Favor. While they'd like to bring down the Church entire, they recognize that you can be a good priest. You may spend 3 Favor to gather a Strength 10 Brute Squad of craftsmen and peasants with improvised weapons. For every 3 Favor, you can increase their Strength by 10. They will follow a single rough instruction, such as 'storm the castle' or 'dump all the tea in the bay' but after that you have no control over them or their actions, and the larger ones usually break up into chaos quickly, so the Rilasciare try to limit the mob's size most of the time. You may spend 2 Favor to name someone Uppman's Friend, given protection and aid by the Rilasciare. They will not be targeted for punitive action and will probably be helped if endangered. If they are a noble or church official, this costs 6 Favor instead. If an Uppman's Friend betrays the ideals or interests of the Rilasciare, they lose all protection and their sponsor loses all Favor.

Sophia's Daughters began as a subgroup within the Rilasciare, the primary subgroup within Vodacce. The wife and the lover of the Merchant Prince Villanova - Valentina Villanova and the courtesan Juliette, respectively - conspired to bring down their man. It began as just the two of them, trying to tear down the most powerful of the Princes, but the conspiracy has grown beyond both those two women and their original aims. While the Daughters have yet to truly undermine the power of the Princes, they have had small victories. They sponsor illicit reading circles to spread literacy among women, run strega-smuggling rings to get Fate Witches out of the country safely and provide sympathetic and highly trained bodyguards. They have at least a dozen agents in Vodacce providing secret protection to women - sometimes not even with the awareness of their clients. All members of Sophia's Daughters are women. A small selection of men have been brought in as advisors, but they are not considered full members.

The Daughters are mainly concerned with protecting and smuggling Fate Witches out of Vodacce, and otherwise supporting female authority figures in other nations. Smuggling a Sorte Strega out of Vodacce is worth 10 Favor, as long as you get her past the borders and to a safe haven. Undermining the plot of a Merchant Prince is worth 6 Favor, and they especially like if two Princes can be turned on each other. Requesting aid from a Fate Witch costs 3 Favor. These Witches are generally Strength 6, have Sorcery (Sorte) and roll 2 Bonus Dice on any social Risks to do with Vodacce court politics. Naming someone as Sophia's Friend has the same Favor cost and effects as naming someone Uppman's Friend.

Next time: The NWO and the GM Advice Section

NOM NOM NOM

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: NOM NOM NOM

The final secret society is Novus Ordo Mundi and they are not one a Hero can join. Ever. They are a society of secretive and ambitious Villains, bent on controlling the world. In 1e, they were hinted at and linked to the big-name villains...and a few randos...but never got detailed until nearly the final book of the line. Here, we get some info up front. The New Order's symbol is an eye with a seven-point star for a pupil. The seven points represent its seven members - never more, never less. There are always exactly seven members of NOM. The only way to earn your way into the society is to kill one of them and take their seat. If someone is strong enough to do that, the seat is theirs by right. This is why there are no Heroes in the Order - even those who might want to infiltrate it and take it down from within would not remain Heroes long. The sheer villainy needed to maintain the position is too much. Most of the Order are not public figures, preferring to remain in the shadows, unseen. They also tend to enjoy using Heroes to push their plots forward, referring to these efforts with food metaphors such as 'I have a stew brewing' or 'I have bread in the oven.'

Novus Ordo Mundi began in the days of the Old Republic of Numa, when seven senators decided to take over, installing a puppet Emperor. They killed him and replaced him with a puppet Empress when he became too hard to control, and did the same to her, and to the next, and the next. Eventually, the Empire fell. Some say that NOM was behind that, too. They almost never directly act in affairs, however. They use their extensive wealth to hire mercenaries, and put as many middlemen and as much distance between themselves and their plots as they can. This means they rarely have any direct control over their schemes, but also insulates them from danger. Most of them claim this is to maintain secrecy, but the truth is that most of NOM's membership is far too cowardly to do much of anything.

There are exceptions. They are the dangerous ones. These members are particular about their plans, and know the best way to get them done is to do them personally. However, to ensure secrecy, they alway eliminate every witness. Every witness. Occasionally, this results in mass murder, houses full of the dead...but that's the level of secrecy NOM demands of its members. The Order funds schemes voted on by its chairs, with majority devote dictating which schemes get Order time, labor and money to back them up. The spoils are then divided among the chairs. If a chair acts on their own, they must refund the Order for any resources used, with a ten percent interest added on top.

Very few know of NOM - they kill people that get too close, after all. They are not above using murder and blackmail to hide themselves, far from it. They've gotten quite good at it over the past thousand years. Each member takes a vow to never, ever speak of the Order with anyone except the other chairs. Breaking this vow means any other chair may kill you without repercussions. Otherwise, chairs are forbidden to interfere with each others' business. Only breaking the vow lifts this, and is cause for utter annihilation. However, despite their best efforts, rumors of NOM are everywhere. So far, no one has ever been able to prove their existence...but perhaps one day.

The GM advice chapter is surprisingly good, especially given, well, Wick. It's certainly arrogant in tone and rather pretensious, but that can be forgiven. It is very clear that having fun is the key thing, and that if someone's not having fun, that needs to be fixed. It treats this as the GM's job, primarily, but hey, traditional gaming. The GM's job, it says, is to entertain the players and to make sure everyone gets their time to shine. It talks about how to make stories that are fun and engaging, and how to improvise. Actually, I feel the improvisation advice is the best in the book - stuff like, say, if a player gives you a mystery of who killed their father, have five answers and go with the one that gets the best engagement out of the PCs when they meet them. Don't figure everything out in advance. Have multiple answers, and be ready to abandon any plan. Let the players tell you the answers.

Also it tells you to watch pro wrestling to get good at how to make a story pop quickly, and honestly I love that advice. It is also clear that communication with players is required, that you are adults and everyone has to talk to each other. It even talks about how killing characters is lame and boring because of how much power the GM has, and the real trick is hurting them in ways that make them want to act - rather than ways that just beat them down and irritate them. ...it still does cite the fucking 'player in prison for 20 years' thing, as part of the nasty things to do to players rant, because it's still fuckin' John Wick and his head occasionally slips back up his ass. Then it goes back to telling you to be on the players' side, to support them and not try to fuck them over or force them to worry about the 'best' choice over the most fun choice. Like, I have no idea, the advice is kind of schizophrenic at times.

It even has a thing about how the best thing to do with problem players is to...talk to them like adults, ask them to stop being dicks and, if that fails, ask them to leave the group because we're all entitled to respect and fun. I have no idea why the Play Dirty shit still comes up every so often. Also, it reminds us that Heroes never murder. They kill, but murder is the deliberate killing of a helpless person and that is always evil.

The End.

So - what do you guys want next from the line? We have, in rough publication order:
Heroes and Villains: 40 pregen Heroes and 40 premade Villains, ready for use as NPCs or PCs or whatever. Surprisingly well-written.
Pirate Nations: An exploration of the Not Caribbean, the Not Dutch East India Company's villainy, and the Devil Jonah.
Nations of Theah, Vol. 1: An exploration of Avalon, Castille, Montaigne and Vesten.
Nations of Theah, Vol. 2: An exploration of Eisen, the Sarmatian Commonwealth, Ussura and Vodacce.
Crescent Empire: The Not Middle East.
The New World: Not South America.
Lands of Gold and Fire: Not Africa.

Pirate Nations: Crossing The Seas

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

The ATC argument is persuasive, so...



7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Crossing The Seas

This book is all about the pirate lands and the Not Caribbean. It is all about freedom-loving sailors and villainous money-grubbers. Pirates are free, as no others are, bound only by the charters they freely agree to enter. Each ship a state, in fact, in a nation of pirates. For them, nation isn't land - it's people coming together for mutual benefit. This view is not one shared by most continental Theans, and it makes them dangerous. This book introduces six new factions. It's got Numa, which is Not Greece and was one of the earliest Thean civilizations, who now fight for their independence from the Crescents and Vodacce alike. It's got La Bucca, a Castillian island prison-turned-free nation of neutrality. You have the Rahuri of the Atabean Sea, who once lived in Aztlan, the mainland of the New World, but are now expert sailors that travel from island to island. It has Aragosta, the Republic of Pirates, which is the Not Libertalia created by the Brotherhood of the Coast. It's got Jaragua, a failing Montaigne colony taken over by the Atabean Trading Company with slave labor, who then revolted and became Not Haiti. And then there's the Atabean Trade Company themselves, the Not Dutch East India Company who run a massive, illegal slave trade between Ifri and the Atabean Sea to fund their empire of trade. And of course we get plenty of new magic, too - the blood sorcery of Charter Magic, the gifts of the Devil Jonah, Jaraguan Kap Sevi, the mystic Mohwoo tattoos of Aragosta, the Mystirios of Numa and Soryana, the ancestral power of the Rahuri dead.

We begin at the cradle of Thean civilization: Numa. Numa is a series of archipelagos that lies between the Sarmatian Commonwealth's ports and the Crescent Empire, near the continent of Ifri, sometimes called Alkebulan. It was the home of the ancient Numanari Republic of heroic myth, the birthplace of science and reason, and an ancient powerhouse. Key word: ancient. That was a very, very long time ago. The Numa you hear about in universities is not today's Numa. In more recent history, Numa has been the staging ground for countless wars for control of the straits. It is a strategic waypoint between Ifri, the Crescent Empire and Theah, and each wants to control it. Numa itself has been fighting for its own identity to resist these invaders for centuries, and not always winning. Still, no occupier stays forever. Sooner or later, the Numanari or some other nation drive them off. And still, the Numanari stand alone, remembering the old dream.

Every occupying nation has forced their culture on Numa, and you can see architecture from across the world in its buildings, fashions from many lands on its people, and skin tones of even more varying color than anywhere else in the world. All are Numanari now, bound by common spirit. After the most recent revolts against occupiers, a number of different strong leaders have risen in Numa, hoping to unite it as royals...but they've had a problem. They can't fight each other, or the other nations will come in and use the chaos to take over. However, conquest and struggle are the only real measure of a Numanarai ruler. To be free, you must fight for it. That is the Numanari way - all have the right to fight for their freedom, to pursue kleos - the incorruptible glory. Courage means nothing if no one is there to witness it, after all. Unlike most nations, the Numanari do not view their identity in terms of birth. Anyone can have kleos, and to have kleos is to be Numanari. That is the Light of Numa.

It was only five years ago that the Crescents and Vodacce had contested control of the islands, and the Sarmatians were trying to take control as well. They exploited the land, but the people of the islands came together for a common goal: free Numa. They saw an opportunity, with two nations fighting and a third preparing to fight. The revolution was led by Kucik Metaxas, a former naval captain who lost an arm at sea and became a silk farmer, who spoke of pride, honor and courage, of a united Numa. The Vodacce treated the revolt as a problem for the Crescents...and when the Crescent commanders chose to abandon Numa instead, the Vodacce were entirely unprepared for the united Numanari revolutionaries. Within six months, all occupying forces had been driven out, and for the first time in centuries, Numa was one nation. The Sarmatians immediately decided to seek peace rather than fight them, hoping to establish trade routes, and became the first to officially recognize Numa and support them. For many Sarmatians, Numa is the eleventh modern nation and an inspiration to those seeking democracy.

While both the Crescent Empire and Vodacce have both tried invading Numa to take the islands back, every attempt has failed spectacularly. The Numanari solidarity seems unbreakable. However, Numa itself remains in a terrible state, as the various factions try to take control without allowing foreigners to take over. It's not quite open warfare, but it's a cold war of lies and secrets that has each ruler trying to undermine the others. Subtle moves, stolen shipments, burned crops. Some still believe virtue will win out, but it's hard to win a war when both sides can't agree on the rules. The only common factor that binds them all is the three words that started the revolution: We are Numa.

Indeed, it's really all that most Numanari have in common. Numa's people are extremely diverse. You can find temples of all kinds in Numa - Vaticine, Objectionist, even polytheist temples to ancient gods and pagan rites in the woods. Sometimes people attend more than one of these at once. Numanari solidarity means you accept everyone, regardless of their faith or looks. Even foreigners inspired by recent events, though they took a bit longer to fit in until they helped to rebuild. Those who give of themselves for Numa are Numanari.

Numanari society is divided into two castes: warrior (haimon) and non-warrior (ergein). You choose your caste, and each strives for kleos in its own way. Children between ages 7 and 9 are brought to a Numanari Oracle, who speaks to the child privately. After that, the child decides their caste based on their self-knowledge and the Oracle's words. The haimon train to be the best warriors possible, and all they know is fighting from the time they enter the caste. Spears, shields, swords, hands - any kind of fighting. The ergein, on the other hand, work. They maintain the land, make the wine, manage the books and otherwise make the place work. They aren't peasants as other nations understand it - they are Numanari, after all. They take great pride in their labor, striving to be the best at whatever job they pursue. The Numanari see a great honor in toil - it is kleos, just as fighting is kleos for the haimon. Without haimon, the land is defenseless. Without ergein, there is no land to defend.

Numanari fashion is a mix of pretty much every nation out there. Senators, however, wear traditional Numanari garb at their official duties - white himations to show purity of spirit. Others sometimes also wear these togas at official events for the same reason. While the Crescent Empire had enacted sumptuary laws limiting what could be worn and by who, these have been revoked. However, most Numanari still prefer simple and practical clothes to extravagant ones. Numanari food is full of olives, zucchini and vinegar, as well as many spices which are grown on the islands and often sold elsewhere, such as pepper, thyme and cilantro. Souvla and souvlaki are two exceptionally popular local dishes - spit-roasted and spiced meat mixes. So far, no sailor has ever convinced them to part with their recipes for it. The Numanari also have sole control, as far as anyone knows, over mint, which only grows on the island Nuama and is the secret ingredient of Numanari cooking. No one has yet found a way to make it grow north of Numa, but they're trying.

Kleos is the most important Numanari concept. It derives from a word meaning 'to hear' and is a mix of reputation and accomplishments together - everything there is to know about a person. Kleos is all for most Numanari, and a single stain on their reputation can ruin it entirely and must be erased. The idea is that if your kleos is pure, all can tell - and if it is stained, like a white toga, they can tell just as easily. A stained reputation must be cleaned immediately with an act of courage. Many foreigners find the Numanari to be boastful and arrogant - because this is the public face, worn outside the home. Among friends and family, a Numanari uses the private face, a more introspective demeanor. The public face must be boastful and proud, as you must make sure all know of your deeds, of your ancestors' greatness and the foes you have beaten. You must identify problems and say how you'd solve them. It's part of kleos. Among friends, you serve kleos with introspection. Many Numanari have pet names only their friends and family know, and while you may briefly reveal your private face in public to show sincerity, this is rare. It is seen as boorish and patronizing if overused. Numanari never cry in public - that is for the private face. A senator might shed a single tear or even hide her face at a friend's funeral and be seen as sincerely breaking the public face with emotion too great to contain, but one who wept at a public speech would be seen as manipulative and insincere.

Agoge is another important concept. It was a method of training warriors in the polis of Lakedaimon, but it's become quite popular throughout Numa now, in various degrees. The best academies are still on Lakedaimon, of course, but there are others. Kings and queens have been known to recruit skilled instructors for the purpose of warrior academies. Agoge is brutal, violent and demanding. Both boys and girls are sent to learn it from the age of five to eight, to master warfare, stealth, weapons combat and pain tolerance. Those who can't take it are sent home, though not in dishonor - to even last one day is proof of courage. Agoge students also study song, dance, public speaking, courtship and history. Agoge is not just for warriors - it produces complete humans. The training, if withstood, produces some of the most disciplined fighters in Theah. During the occupation, the Crescents outlawed the academies, but the training continued in secret, and the agoge warriors rose up to help drive them out. The training's rigor varies by island, with none matching the Lakedaimon academies. Students at Lakedaimon are kept underfed deliberately, and shown where food is stored at night. Anything they steal is theirs - but getting caught means getting punished. Thus, they learn stealth in real conditions. They are also taught to hunt, and allowed to keep anything they kill, to prepare them to hunt their own food. They also quickly learn that if you hunt, you had better bring back some for your friends, which builds camaraderie.

Next time: Religion


Pirate Nations: GYROS

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - PiratE Nations: GYROS

Numanari music is an eclectic mix of cultural styles. The most popular instrument is the Numanari lute, the baglamas, which has become a symbol of the aoidoi, the professional bards of Numa. Aoidoi are masters of memorization, who may recite epic poetry at will for hours. However, the Numanari musical tradition is more than just aoidoi telling stories of their past. They adapt stories from all cultures and myths, and so are some of the most eclectic in the world. It is said that no story is truly told until told by an aoidos.

The Numan native faith is the Pantheon, and it's incredibly popular in the isles. The gods, they say, are always watching and even manipulating events. However, the Numanari do not actually see the Pantheon as entities, even if they treat them as it. They are symbols of truth, and a Numanari respects truth over all things. Just because the gods don't actually exist doesn't mean they aren't real. The Numanari see their gods as elements of the human condition. The Goddess of War and the Goddess of Wisdom are real in the sense that they live within the heart and mind of a human. They symbolize deep concepts that cannot adequately be described in language. Calling on the gods means calling on your own mental and physical abilities. The gods are you, and that is why they are real.

In ancient Numa, the citizens were told how to do the proper rites to the Pantheon by the hiereia. The hiereia still perform rituals today, but the focus has shifted. Instead of communing with the gods literally, a hiereus uses the rites to bring forth the gods within each person. Numanari temples are more like a private club than an open church. They are known as mysterion, mysteries - you experience the mysterion of a god. To attend, you must be initiated by the hiereia, which teaches you the symbolism of the god and the sacred truths they communicate. Once you are initiated, you are a mystai, one who has experienced the mystery. Mystai typically take vows of secrecy, as the secrets of the gods lose all power and meaning when communicated outside the bounds of ritual. Typically, a Numanari will have only one god as their patron, but seem seek the mysteries of several. The more mysterion you can master, the greater your glory, but you must maintain balance in all things - even gods.

Zendio, Father of the Gods, has few temples. He is a distant figure, isolated atop a great mountain. All of the other gods are his children by various mothers. The oldest tales say he is also father of humans, but not directly. He seduced the goddess Terra, and when he found her pregnant, she fled to Earth, and humanity rose from the soil as a result. The Numanari rarely call on Zendio, for he has a great temper and does not care for humans much, being more likely to curse than bless. Stories of his hatred and curses are legendary, wiping out entire towns or sending horrible plagues. However, he does have some priests, who know him as the Far-Off Father, and they speak of a time he was less hateful. They say he once loved unborn humanity and the goddess Terra, believing they could bring peace to his family's squabbles. However, he then had a dream of those children being restless, noisy and causing suffering. He cried out, and Terra awoke him before he could see the rest of the dream. He talked about caging or killing her children, and so she fled - and by touching soil, she doomed all men to be forever mortal. She has never returned to Zendio, preferring to watch over humanity. Thus, Zendio was driven to his current rage and despair, and while he might be able to return to kindness if he were to meet Terra again and convinced her to love him once more, he is not kind now. He is called on only when his righteous fury against tyrants and human destruction are needed.

Dithyrambos, God of Plenty is a beautiful young man in his prime, a lord of harvest and food and drink. For the crime of teaching humanity to make wine and cook, Zendio chained him to a stone that must ever be pushed uphill, killing him any time he tires. Every spring, he is reborn and begins again. His initiates learn that the stone represents the milling of wheat or the grinding of barley, and his yearly quest makes him the field itself, harvested and then planted. And the field is also the human soul, which must be cut down and replenished or rot in the field, unharvested. We must always strive to better ourselves and begin our lives anew, or we will just grow old and tired and dead of purpose. Celebrate, rejoice and cast off the old. All in nature does this.

Supati, Deity of Language and Magic, is sometimes male, sometimes female, sometimes both, sometimes neither. They are a trickster that has told humans many secrets, giving wisdom in the form of a falcon or a snake or a beggar. Zendio does not approve, but cannot catch Supati. Their initiates undergo a ritual retelling of the punishments they received for their gifting humanity with three secrets: Song, the lever and language. Each gift requires a yet more severe penance, but Supati always finds a way to avoid the punishment or trickily rephrase it so that it is no punishment at all.

Potnia Agrotera, Goddess of the Hunt and War, is twin to Theonoa Dianoia. Where her sister is cold, Potnia lives for bloodshed. She is the warrior in the midst of battle, not the general or strategist. Her hair is the color of twilight, her body tattooed. She fights with a sword and has no shield. She takes only women as her lovers and her sacred bird is the raven given to her by her sister. Sometimes they love each other; other times they fight. Once, there was a great war between Tyrian and Lakedaimon, caused by their rivalry over a hero, Hypatia, who was raised by wolves and a mighty warrior. Theonoa wanted her as a general, while Potnia wanted her as a lover. Hypatia saw she was doomed no matter which she picked, so she chose Theonoa, leading Potnia to send her warriors to fight Tyrian in a ten year siege that Potnia eventually lost. In her fury, she personally slew Hypatia and dragged her corpse to Lakedaimon, her sister weeping all the while. Those initiated to Potnia are often made to play the role of Hypatia and forced to choose, taking part in a passion play until they are 'slain' and hurled into a coffin. There, they learn that Potnia made a deal with the God of Death, a secret bargain that is not spoken of in the public tales. Potnia gives up her own immortality that Hypatia may live again, giving up that which was most sacred for her love. The blood of Potnia runs in her initiates' veins, as does Hypatia's - the blood of a hero and the soul of a goddess.

Salacio is the God of the Underworld and the Sea. Every sailor that leaves Numanari ports makes two offerings before reaching the sea - fish or reed from a river, to remind that the journey is for the good of all, even those that remain, and ashes, bones or even a sacrificed animal, to honor the lord of death. Even the most daring sailor would never forget this, for fear of Salacio's wrath. His temples always bear his motto: To telos perimenei parakato. The end waits below. It is a warning and a prayer. Once, Salacio was not god of both underworld and sea - there was a goddess of the Underworld, with shadows for hair and fire for eyes. She walked freely, spreading pestilence and fire. Her name was Hecteba. She burnt down a village that was home to one of Zendio's lovers, and Zendio ordered the gods to destroy Hecteba. Each tried, but only Salacio's sea waters could drown her - along with large parts of Numa and thousands of mortal lives. The priests say she died, but rumor says Hecteba still exists, locked forever under the ocean's depths. None know if Salacio can release her, but Zendio does not often give gifts for partial effort - if Salacio defeated Hecteba, then he'd have also been the one to cage her. In recognition, he was given the Underworld, and now the rivers of Numa are passages for the dead. Funerals involve great barges piloted by Salacio's priests, the ferriers, who bring the dead to great tomb-shrines. Those who cannot afford or do not deserve such honor are burned on the water's edge, their ashes scattered on the sea. It is said that Salacio sometimes gives a boon to the pure of heart, and takes them to the Underworld himself, rather than leaving their soul to languish in the sea. Salacio is a mysterious god, however, his moods changing quickly. Once he is committed, however, nothing can turn his course. The spirits of the rivers serve him. His icons are the trident, dolphin and the long staff of the ferryman, carved with his motto. He is a wealthy god indeed, lord of all under land and sea, and he always demands tribute - a cautionary tale on the effect of wealth.

Theonoa Dianoia, Goddess of Craft and Wisdom, is twin to Potnia Agrotera. They were born after humanity, and Terra snuck back to heaven to see them and if they could restore Zendio's kindness. Potnia was formed fully of his rage, born in blood, and so Terra scooped up the second child and fled. The touch of mortality on her feet infected Theonoa, and she was born an infant, forced to grow slowly yet blessed from birth with a goddess' knowledge. Thus, she is a god of cycles as well as craft and wisdom. She was born, she aged, she died an old woman, and then she was reborn again, a child. Each cycle has made her wiser, kept her cool and calculating as a tactician and strategist. Her skills are plans and organizing, though she is no slouch in battle. Her statues show her three stages - infant, warrior and crone-general, always wearing a plumed helm. The death of Hypatia enraged her, and she no longer loves her sister and the suffering she causes. It has led Theonoa to withdraw, her sadness and fury calcifying. Her more militant followers are known to tear down the statues of Potnia, while more moderate ones merely belittle the warlike mentality of Potnia's followers. Theonoa's initiates carry spears and shields, dedicating themselves to both crafts and war. Her symbols are the eagle, owl and leopard, which are painted on her followers' shields.

Terra, Lost Goddess of Humanity, is the mother of Numa and all humankind. She fled Zendio to come to the earth, where humanity was born. She was once the goddess of light, but she gave that up for her children, who were born mortal once her feet touched the soil. She lay in a cave with her children, weeping in fear of the future, but she was visited by her sister Hede, and by Supati and Dithyrambos, who comforted her and promised their secret aid to humanity. Hede, the primordial queen of fire and hearth, swore that humans would never lose the gift of fire and protection against the dark, while Dithyrambos promised swore to teach them how to survive and Supati swore to teach them how to teach others. Only when these oaths were made did Terra emerge from her cave with humanity. She never returned to Zendio, and she still roams the world, it is said. Thus, she has no shrines or temples; her initiates wander from city to city, telling stories and sharing what they have. They are called the Perpetual Parents, the Wanderers and the Caretakers, and they are considered to be guests who must never be harmed, wherever they go. Anyone that harms a Caretaker is subject to the harshest possible punishment for defiling a pure and holy person. Their symbols are bags of earth, carried at the waist, and their homespun clothing. They carry no weapon - only a walking stick that can be used to defend themselves if they truly must.

Caledon, God of Medicine, the Home and Family, was born of the union of Zendio and the mute Hede after Terra fled heaven. He is the youngest of gods, a quiet patron and shepherd of men. He was beloved by all for his youth and curiosity as well as his empathy, and only he is able to bring Zendio some measure of peace in his rage. It is perhaps only this that has allowed Zendio to love him despite Caledon's closeness to humanity. Caledon convinced Zendio to spare mankind from total destruction by offering to teach them love, and Zendio relented, gifting his son the caduceus, a staff intertwined with two living serpents, who would serve to protect and advise him. Caledon took on mortal form and crossed Numa, spreading knowledge of medicine and domesticity, teaching that your family was a community, not just about your direct family. He taught the rules of hospitality favored by his mother, and of the bonds of family and fellowship that crossed all borders. It's no surprise he's one of the most popular gods. He is patron of medicine, the home, hospitality and family. He has temples in every city, which offer lodging to any who need it. Priests of Caledon can be from any background or gender, and they serve as physicians, counselors, teachers and mediators. They are battlefield medics and wedding officiants and all manner of things in between. Caledon himself is traditionally a handsome, tan youth with pale hair. His symbols are the ivy branch, the wedding band and the caduceus.

Hecteba, Goddess of Mysteries, Murder and Dark Magic, is not dead - whatever Salacio's priests may say. She once killed indiscriminately with fire and magma and shadow, and her battle with Salacio nearly destroyed Numa. The former goddess of the Underworld was defeated, cast into an undersea prison where she still sleeps now. Her dark dreams are not silent, though, for she retains her powers of mystery and magic. She sleeps, but her dreams sow the seeds of release, concealing her continued power. She recruits her initiates in nightmare, shaking their souls with fear and claiming their faith. Her followers are everywhere, despite the fact that her worship is illegal. They find each other by the sign they bear - the dreams of the woman with red pits for eyes and long black hair, her mouth eternally screaming. They whisper of their dreams and the secrets they learn in them from the voice that isn't a voice. These people exist largely on the fringes of Numanari society, the unlucky or outcast, and often those who sell murder...but sometimes, they are normal people, staring out to sea, touched by madness. All of Hecteba's followers know the joys of murder, eventually. Many are soldiers, mercenaries or assassins, and she often inspires them to leave her image on their victims, to remind Numa that her influence is not gone. Many dismiss them, but some know the truth - Hecteba is waiting.

Next time: Governments, plural.

Pirate Nations: Too Many Kings

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Too Many Kings

The Numanari government is a patchwork mess of different systems held together out of tradition rather than anything else. In practice, there's four different governments, all running simultaneously. You have the original democratic republics, the Crescent bureaucracy from the various occupations, the warlord dynasties and the new monarchies. None were meant to work together, but Numa's been managing. For now, at least. The Monarchies each claim a single island city-state, a polis. Each is separated by water and mountains, and the Numanari poleis grew to be quite different as a result, each with their own character. However, they do share some elements. Each has a ruler and a senate, though the powers of each are different by polis. There are dozens of poleis with their own divine patrons, but five are currently most prominent. These five tend to be at the heart of any polis conflict, usually using the honor of their patrons as an excuse to take out old hostilities and grudges.

Lakedaimon is the Sword of Numa, the polis of warriors. It is ruled by Queen Soteira, and often gets seen as a city-state of warmongers, though its people are no mere brutes. They believe the world is one of strife and conflict that must be overcome. Every citizen, adult or child, can wield a weapon - all of them, even the ergein. Their patron is Potnia Agrotera. The smallest influential polis is distant Ephyra, closest to the Crescents. Its ruler is the decadent yet influential woman Anfisa, and its patron is Dithyrambos, the Pre-Born. Its people are often seen as drinkers and revelers over all else, and Queen Anfisa is known to three week-long festivals at any excuse, keeping diplomats waiting months for actual business. Then there is Hylicia, sometimes claimed to be more Crescent than Numanari - though its people dispute the claim, though there's more mosques on the island than any other and they speak a creole of Crescent and Numanari tongues. Their King, Lysandros, wears a mask for reasons unknown. Some say it's due to a birth defect, others that it has magical reasons. Supati is the patron of Hylicia, and is a relative newcomer among the Pantheon.

Fourth is Kousai, wealthy now due its thriving ports. It is ruled by Queen Syntyche, whose pride in her people and their wealth is well-known and loud. Salacio is the city's patron - both as the lord of the sea and Underworld, and as the lord of wealth, which Syntyche never lets anyone forget. Some of her people claim Kousai was the seat of the Old Republic that ruled the world, and Syntyche encourages such claims, which she is building a library in the hopes of housing evidence for. Tyrian is the final major polis, ruled by King Polyaretos. Once, it was the most populous island, and it was here that the production of purple dye was begun, via an involved process using snails. The king takes his name from a famous Numanari hero - a trickster, not a fighter. The island's patron is Theonoa Dianoia, and Tyrian is renowned for its intellectuals and its prominent place in the history of philosophy and science.

The Warlord Dynasties rule over the smaller poleis for the most part. They've had little luck with stable royalty, and are mostly kept together by warlords or those determined to prevent anarchy in their homes. They range from benevolent dictators to cruel tyrants, and they're unable to agree on much of anything at all. They are often in conflict. Then you have the union of Magna Numera, a league of three city-states seeking to maintain their independence after the polis of Adamaradon declared its intent to annex the entire island chain under a its king, Milyptos. The city-states Akragosus, Libanuma and Bothrauton were closest, and they united to protect their people from Adamaradon, driving his forces back and routing them. They then formalized the alliance as a league of mutual defense and growth. While each city maintains its own government, they continue to work together. Akragosus is a representative democracy led by a senate and a popularly elected proconsul. Libanuma is a primarily Ifri-descended city ruled by a king chosen by its nobles and chiefs. Bothrauton has a dynastic queen, Calysto, who is daughter of a Vesten warlord who seized the place from the Vodacce. She remains in power for as long as she can keep the throne, having fought off six assassination attempts so far. While the trio of cities may squabble, they are united against other cities, and feel that their model is the best for the entirety of Numa going forward.

Nikiamara is another notable city, one of the oldest and on the southern tip of the chain. It was once a thriving city of scholars and warriors, famous before the many invasions as a gathering place for philosophers and thinkers of all kinds. It was home to three massive temples to Theonoa, Supati and Caledon, too. It was the most peaceful city of Numa, and that made it a huge target for Crescent raiding. The Crescent invasions destroyed the city, and it is said it was burned to the ground by a rogue general, Islandur, who defied his orders in order to prove to the Numanari that they'd all be destroyed. Its history was lost, and the Crescents rebuilt it as a victory monument. Since they've been driven, it has grown to be a monument to the fleeting nature of any conquest of Numa, and of the price of war. It is a city of ancient ruins under a thriving port, and historians and explorers cross the globe to petition its warlord, the ruthless pirate Galarus, for access to its labyrinthine ruins in search of treasure and lost wisdom.

Then you have the Kodjabashes, bureaucrat-oligarchs that ruled the isles for 300 years based on a Crescent system of inherited bureaucracy. The Crescents put governors on the isles to maintain order and collect tax, selecting these rulers - the kodjabashes - from local nobles to prevent violent revolt. The post was inherited, parent to child, though the Crescents could and did remove people from the post sometimes if a kodjabashis seemed too incompetent. The Vodacce generally left the kodjabashes in control when they took a region, as well. During the revolution, some of the kodjabashes helped to organize the revolutionaries, while others did not and were overthrown. While the royals of the poleis see themselves as the true rulers, the kodjabashes that survived have been left to maintain the infrastructure and bureaucracy of Numa. The kings and queens make decisions, but the kodjabashes are the ones that carry them out. They collect taxes, organize and count votes on local positions and maintain the postal service, which is easily one of the best in Theah.

While a kodjabashis inherits their job, most local governmental offices, like mayors, are elected democratically. Each city and village holds votes for open positions, with what positions and their terms varying by village. For some, there is only the dimarchos (mayor), while others have more. Typically terms are for one year, and some areas enforce term limits while others don't. Elected officials work closely with the kodjabashes to keep things running, though they also often have jurisdictional clashes, which usually have no clear solution. The winner is generally whoever has the most influence with the local king or warlord.

Numanari economics are essentially trade-reliant, though there are plenty of farmers, fishermen and craftsmen. Most Theans have a somewhat idealized view of a Numanari life, but the reality is that it's pretty normal, if wealthier than some other nations. Its central location makes it a popular hub for pirates to move goods, get repairs and find crew. Individual city-states treat pirates based on local custom, but everyone knows that without them, Numanari wealth would be much less than anyone likes to admit. While the nation is in a key trade position between Ifri, Theah and the Crescents (and, to an extent, further east), their city-state structure keeps them from growing very fast. Many philosophers believe a unified government would help the nation greatly, but tradition has kept it from happening. Most Numanari neither want nor feel they need a high king.

The most common Numanari currency is the drachma, which each island mints with their ruler's face. There are two denominations - 20 silver drachmas to one gold. Numa's the only real place left that uses silver and gold coinage, and while the Guilder hasn't affected local currency due to its inherent value, it is growing as a presence due to ease of use and foreign acceptability. Some Numanari resent this and refuse to use Guilders, but others recognize the practicality. Most are just slowly adopting the Vesten currency because their own is losing favor outside the isles. There are also some old Crescent currency in circulation, but most Numanari refuse to accept it, calling it vromiko nomismatos - dirty coin, a reminder of worse times.

There are also some places that are noteworthy besides the poleis above. Paestum is a town built by the Vodacce general Carmelo Baldassari, who had heard about agoge and liked the idea. The town was built around a hybrid agoge meant to train skilled haimon - and it worked. It worked so well that it defeated him. He'd spent on getting the best possible teachers in the belief that they'd teach Vodacce children useful skills...but as a result, the children often came to feel less patriotism for Vodacce and more for the unity of Numa. Just before the first graduating class got out of school, they staged a revolt and drove out Baldassari and his men. The students stayed in Paestum, settling it - including Baldassari's own daughter, Carolina. The agoge is still maintained today, now educating young Numanari instead of Vodacce.

Naucripos is, uh, the designated crime city. It is the city of sellswords and cheats, first made as a stopping off point for Numanari soldiers moving around the Old Republic. It was built in haste and barely survived the constant warfare of the Numanari past. At last, now that peace has been achieved, a good if rickety port city has been left for the locals. They set up a provisional council, and all was fine until the Red Hand League came. They are professional mercenaries, set up to give veterans a chance to use their skills for the highest bidder. The League is led by five Numanari war heroes, and they've made Naucripos their home port - and the port of call for anyone needing a hired killer. You can find just about any kind of mercenary for the right price now, as long as they follow the Red Hand code: Always keep a contract, never turn your back on a fellow Hand in need, and seek no quarrel but always finish one.

Next time: Notables.

Mlypnos

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Mlypnos

Numa has no standing army. Each polis has their own armed force, of course, but they tend to the small size. On the other hand, pretty much every citizen has some military training. The hatred of outside invaders that once united them has fallen to squabbling, with only a few seeking common cause to unit the poleis. But hey, opinions!

quote:

Avalon: A land of "legends." More like a land that traded its freedom for magical slavery. Every collar is a noose.
Castille: Fanaticism moved them from reason to blind emotion. Weakness. They were once great. Now, they are mired in a poverty of imagination, courage and compassion.
Eisen: A Nation of warriors who faced the ultimate test and lost. That doesn't bring them dishonor. One the contrary, they fought until the last of them. Never retreated, never surrendered. The Eisen are a great people...they've just forgotten how great.
Montaigne: The monarchy is blind. We have seen the chaos awaiting them. It seethes at the edge, waiting to drag them all down. There will come a time when the only diplomacy will be made at the edge of a blade.
Pirate Nations: A thief is a thief is a thief. Even if it's a thief you hire.
Sarmatian Commonwealth: The Sarmatians have taken a step in the right direction. But not all are equal, despite what they claim. Some are Heroes with souls of gold. Others are Villains with souls of vile darkness. Judge a soul on its worth and do not assume all intend the best.
Ussura: A civil war over which corrupt monarch will rule. The people of Ussura are superstitious, afraid of reason, afraid of technology, afraid of everything. They are proud but fearful. Halfway to being Heroes.
Vestenmennavenjar: Their people live for battle, live for courage, live for glory! But they are distracted by shiny baubles and false accomplishments. Gold is a means to glory, nothing else. Glory and glory alone. All else is vanity.
Vodacce: They thought they could control us. They though they could rule us. They though they could manipulate our destiny. They only delayed it for a while. We are united. And they are expelled.

Now we get some notable NPCs. Lysinnus is the consort to the Amazon Queen Artemisia. He stands at a historic crossroads, for he met her in the early days of the battles against Vodacce, and they fell in love. This bond between mand and woman is frowned on by the Amazons, so they kept their affair secret, even as she bore him seven daughters. After the wars ended, he asked to be allowed to remain among the Amazons, to be near his daughters. She has been putting him off for years. Lysinnus knows he might be able to reunite the Amazons with the rest of Numa, but he has no interest in these proud people losing their power and individuality. He is a skilled horseman and spends his time following after the Cyrene horde, watching for threats to the Amazons and his queen from outside.

Queen Calysto is the half-Vesten ruler of Bothrauton, a bloodthirsty and formidable warrior. She was raised by her father, the warlord Kokistos, and his foreigner bride. She has embraced the idea of kleos entirely, to overcome what she sees as the stain of her foreign blood. When her father died in the war, she took up his sword and shield, seizing the Vodacce-controlled city of Bothrauton and taking on the title of queen. She cannot live a life without bloodshed now, and she keeps herself apart from the people, especially after the last few assassination attempts by her rivals. She knows she needs an heir, and many suitors have come to court her. Most, unless they are very polite, are sent home in pieces.

King Milyptos is the disgraced ruler of Adamaradon. After his failed attempt to conquer Akragosus, Libanuma and Bothrauton ruined his army and created the Magna Numara right on his front yard, he slipped into madness. Now, he spends his nights wandering, speaking to something no one else can here, writing secret letters sent out by envoy. His court is disturbed, but has not realized the depth of his betrayal - he has made contact with the Vodacce princes, trading them information on Numa's defenses to back an invasion. This would be bad enough, but he has also fallen to the worship of Hecteba as well. He is a wild-eyed madman, killing any that openly question him, and many wonder how much longer his city can last.

Carolina Baldassari is the leader of the Paestum agoge, the child of a strict military upbringing and a passion for truth and honor. Her father, General Baldassari, enrolled her in his hybrid Vodacce/Numanari agoge, and while she resisted at first, she thrived there, embracing the idea of kleos and rising to be one of the most decorated students. It did not take her long to also embrace the idea of a free Numa, and when her father refused to support her ideas of Numanari independence, she led the student revolt that pushed him out. Once Paestum was freed, the other students nominated her as the leader of their town. She is a fair and just woman, and a show of the power of one hero in changing an entire nation.

Places! The Lost City is nestled between two mountains on the northernmost Numa island, and is one of the greatest mysteries of Numa. It is an ancient city of wonders, known as the Lost City of Gods in full. Haimon often dream of going there to prove their bravery, and it is the origin of a thousand myths of the past. No one knows how old it is or who originally lived there. Legend claims it was the home the gods made for Terra and her children when she emerged from the caves. Others say it was a city of giants whom the ancient Numanari conquered. Its architecture is certainly far too large to have been designed for mortal humans. Its buildings are four times larger than most, with moascis of battles long past, crumbling roads and a city that still, somehow, stands. No one knows what happened to its people, but elary explorers spoke of discovering it abandoned, as if it were left in a hurry. What was left behind were treasures of many kinds - including potent weapons and strange, glowing artifacts. The ruins, they said, were also home to strange monsters waiting to attack the unwary...but even that cannot keep away the fearless or the fools. Those who seek to make a name for themselves can take the high road up to the city in the mountain pass. They often do not return.

Aigosthena is the cliffside fortress that serves as home to the elite warriros who swore that future Numanari would always be ready for the next wave of oppressors. These vigilant soldiers name themselves the Myrmidon. Aigosthena is itself a citadel on the bluffs of the coast of one of the eastern isles. It was originally built by King Achelanus, whose polis Theloniki was prosperous until it was torn apart by the Vodacce. He and his court fled to an old military camp on the cliffs, where the paranoid and bitter king set about working his servants nearly to death to build an invincible citadel. He named it Aigosthena for the daughter he lost when Theloniki fell. His cruelty was legend, and it eventually led to him being murdered by his own steward rather than the Vodacce. When the local Numanari came to the fortress, they found the survivors of the court starving within. The haimon claimed the citadel as a launchpoint for raids against the invaders, and when the war was over, it seemed unclear how to repurpose it, given its location. Kucuk Metaxas himself found the answer. He knew that many of the most dedicated fighters of the war didn't want to go back to being workers, believing a standing force would help prevent later conquest. He charged them to settle at Aigosthena as the Myrmidon, the defends of Numa's spirit. And now, they do, using at as their base whilke they travel the land to fight dangers to their beloved nation.

Cyrene is a unique city-state - it has no set location, but rather ranges across a set of wilds, considering its territory to be wherever its citizens rest. This traveling 'city' is less a city than a horde of matriarchal haimon, who call themselves the Amazons. They long ago gave up sedentary life, and they do not allow men among their number. They are feared for their ferocity and military skill. The Cyrene horde began in ancient times, predating the invasions. Once, they had their own city, Agrotera, patroned by Potnia Agrotera. Their queen, Cyrene, was wise and powerful, sought out for advice by many, and even serving as a symbiotic ally to Tyrins. The Amazons would seek out men of Tyrins as their mates to have children, keeping the girls to raise and giving the boys to Tyrins. It worked well, until the vain warrior Hercules attempted to trick Cyrene into marriage by hosting a party and then attacking when the women slept, to enslave them. The Amazons fought bravely, but in the process, the city burned to the ground. Most of the Amazons died, including Cyrene herself. The survivors fled to the mountains, swearing never again to rest where they might be caught unprepared. Now, the horde travels as a chariot caravan, with horse-riding warriors escorting the small retinue of worker families. When they choose to settle somewhere, they rarely ask permission - they just set up their tent city as they wish, trading and offering recompense with labor and defense. Their camp covers miles when settled, full of their family standards and beautiful tents. The center of the camp is a large tent complex owned by Queen Artemisia, lineal descendant of Cyrene, and her seven daughters. She is controversial among her people, as all of her daughters are children of one man - the horsemaster and poet Lysinnus. Many worry she has grown too soft and long for the days of battle against invaders. In the meantime, they travel as they like, carrying on their traditions.

As a note: Numa didn't exist as a nation in 1e. Numa was just the name of the Not Rome city.

Next time: La Bucca

Pirate Nations: Prison, Pork and Power

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Prison, Pork and Power

La Bucca, the Isle of Temptation, was once the most notorious prison in Thean history, full of violent criminals and political prisoners. Now, it is a free nation, run by a mix of direct democracy and stern leaders. In theory, everyone is equal there. In practice, it gets complicated. The island's original purpose dated back to its discovery by Cardinal Alfonso Ordunez, whose ship was blown off course in a storm and ended up in an island chain west of Castille and Ifri. The crew named it La Palabra de Dios, as it had saved their lives. They spent some time provisioning while the Cardinal and his fellow Church members scouted the isle. There, they discovered a Syrneth ruin, with a single artifact in it along with a number of pictographic tablets that all showed various scenes that included a strange, tentacled monster. Ordunez would not realize the power of the artifact until the crew tried to leave a few days later. A huge creature, monstrous and potent, circled the isle as they set sail - the creature from the tablets. The ship was forced back aggressively, and while the crew wanted to attack it, the Cardinal decided the solution lay in the tablets and the artifact.

Within a week, Ordunez had a basic understanding of the thing's function. It could, in a way, control the monster's movements, directing it to specific islands. He refused to share this secret with any, not even writing them down, for fear that someone else would learn of it. He sent the beast to the opposite side of the island, allowing his ship to escape. A few miles out, he destroyed most of the tablets to prevent anyone else from learning how to use the artifact, hurling the shards into the ocean. However, he also became obsessed with the island and the artifact, envisioning it as a magnificent fortress. He ended up building that fort to keep the artifact under lock and key, believing it to be the key to unlocking the opportunities the island represented. He was not wrong.

Prior to now, public execution was common in Theah, despite the Church's objections. Cardinal Ordunez saw the island as a chance to change that, using the Church to urge the nations to save these damned souls by sequestering them away rather than killing them. At first, only Castille sent its worst prisoners to the island, using them to build barracks and guard houses. Soon, other nations followed suit...but instead of the hardened criminals Castille sent, they shipped off their political prisoners, who were more dangerous as martyrs than as exiles. Ordunez became the warden of this prison and its moral leader, as the Church put him in total command of the island. He brought a group of loyal guards and priests with him, hoping that they could convert the prisoners to a, quote, "philosophically minded lifestyle." The Cardinal wanted order from chaos, redeeming the souls of the prisoners. He saw them as his children, in a way. He also spent a lot of time studying and mastering the beast that lived in the waters.

This all worked out for many years, until one winter morning, when the prisoners revolted under the direction of a masked woman named Allende. (In 1e and, indeed, the core book, Allende was a man. She isn't any more.) They pretended illness, bringing what appeared a pus-laden corpse to the Cardinal's office - White Plague, the ancient disease that once wiped out a third of the Thean population in the 12th and 13th centuries. Allende said the man had been a water carrier for the guardhouses, and they were unsure how long he'd been sick. The water supply was probably contaminated. Within an hour, the Cardinal got all his men onto ships and set sail, leaving the prisoners behind. He'd hoped the plague would run itself out within a few years and he could then return. He had no idea it was all staged.

Allende immediately set up a representative government, with the prisoners electing leaders and herself serving as de facto president until everything was sorted. The biggest issue was the Creature, as they referred to the monster of the waters. No one has any real idea what it is, other than something that can sink ships and occasionally ate prisoners the guards felt were problems and wouldn't be noticed by the Cardinal. The Cardinal had a way to tame it, clearly, because it never attacked supply or prison ships, but any stolen ship would be sunk. The best Allende and her crew could manage was putting the thing to sleep using a single text Ordunez had forgotten to pack. Word soon spread of the White Plague outbreak on the island, and the Cardinal claimed that Theus had judged the prisoners unfit, and that he had left so he could save the island. By the end of the year, none dared to go near the place.

Two years later, the Cardinal returned, though it was hard for him to get ships to join him despite his payments of gold, and he managed to only get one Castillian vessel. The Vendel sent a ship as well when they heard he was going, hoping to beat him there and claim the isle. The Vodacce prince Vincenzo Caligari sent a third, to investigate the rumors of Syrne ruins. On arrival, all three ships held back, as they had seen each other and none wished to be the first to land and put their backs to possible foes - and to avoid attracting the Creature, which the Cardinal feared had become wild. The prisoners, meanwhile, had rallied behind Allende, fearing that the ships would invade. She had still not found a way to command the Creature, and knew that it wouldn't be long before someone called her bluff aboard those ships, so she sent out prisoners to swim out and wave makeshift tentacles, to keep the ruse going. For days, she sent out her decoys and struck at the food and water supplies of the three ships, which would neither draw closer nor leave. After a month, she knew the ships had run out of supplies and could not return home on what they had. She had her men prepare smoked pork and fresh water, sending emissaries to each ship to offer it and safety from the Creature if they would surrender. All three did. She prepared a contract, and gave each crewmember a choice: restorck and leave, or stay on as a citizen. The Treaty of Three Fleets was signed, and Cardinal Ordunez was among the ones who stayed.

Today, despite La Bucca's reputation, it has become a popular port. They welcome visitors, and the island is called La Bucca now after a Montaigne poet decided to name it for the smoked pork on offer. The locals refer to themselves as Buccaneers as a way to reclaim the name, not realizing that it'd eventually become a term used generically to mean 'criminal.' The place is known for being a place where you can buy anything - for a price. Its tentative democracy has also given it a sense of political freedom, drawing in ambassadors from across Theah. Every ship that enters is given a gift of smoked pork and water - the only thing they'll be getting for free, and Allende refuses to end the custom. She says it distinguishes the isle as civilized and a nation, rather than a repository for criminals. The Buccaneers are a diverse lot, but all of them are hardworking and loyal to Allende. Despite this, they do fight each other fairly often, and to maintain order, they have established the Chapters. Each Chapter has charge of some part of island life. Most don't belong to one - just the free life of La Bucca is enough for them. For members of a Chapter, however, they have a chance to protect that freedom and be part of something more.

When Allende took over the place, she had a grand dream of how to run it, with a representative government of the people. Within days of the Cardinal leaving, she held elections for guard master, commissary master and overseer, with prisoners being elected - some more honest than others. At the time, Allende wore a velvet mask as part of her prison sentence, and she promised not to remove it until a general election for president could be held, to remind everyone that she, too, was a prisoner. There were all kinds of nasty rumors about her true identity, but those who worked with her spoke favorably of her. The election happened a month later...with her as the only person running, and all votes going to her. She removed her mask, telling her constituents that she wanted them to feel free to speak to her about anything, but that she would wear it still for visitors, to remind them of the island's roots.

A general election is now held every year for Chapter heads, watch captain and president. Anyone can run, anyone can vote...and every year, every person runs unopposed. For all the claims of democracy, it's pretty clear not everyone agrees with Allende's system. No one dares run against her - which she optimistically believes means her leadership is just too inspiring - and threats and bribes run rampant around election day each year to secure the rest. Allende is not totally unaware of this corruption, but she has no idea how to stop it. She's managed to keep order so far and while she's aware of plots against her, she believes that if she's no longer in charge, the island will devolve into anarchy and crime...so she lets the corruption continue in order to maintain the loyalties of those who benefit from it.

She is not without enemies, of course. Primarily, these are Uwe and Greta Lehmann, a pair of Eisen siblings that came seeking fortune but were stymied by the Chapters. They decided, in the Buccaneer spirit, that if they couldn't get what they wanted, they'd take it from someone else who already had it. Allende is vaguely aware they want her power, and she openly reminds them they can run for president any year, but they see this is a threat and work in secret. The Chapter heads tend, instead, to want to maintain the status quo. They undermine Allende's efforts to get rid of corruption and actively work to keep her in charge, seeing her as a useful puppet. No one seems to get how tentative the government actually is, or that if any of the major players lost an election, it could send the whole thing to ruin. Outside the island, the story of Allende is one of rumor and legend. Few realize La Bucca is a democracy until they get there, and most only know of her as the leader of the island. Honestly, they tend not to know much, thanks to the rumors - Allende is a man, Allende is a dread pirate returned to the isle, Allende is an illegitimate child of l'Empereur, who knows. Some even claim she died years ago and one of her followers took up the name. The truth is a lot more fragile: Allende has only partial control of what she's made, but she's the only one willing to take responsibility for ensuring the island doesn't fall back to chaos or go back to the hands of its former jailors.

Next time: Chapters

Pirate Nations: Chapter 2

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Chapter 2

La Bucca's government has five Chapters - the Eye, the Tentacle, the Fin, the Scale and the Pint. All but the Pint derive their names from the Creature under La Bucca. Originally, these names were given to the people who helped Allende perform the rites that sent the thing to sleep, but they spread from the individual to the office itself, and eventually the Chapters formed from the offices. The Eye handles all communication and security within the island proper. Members wear a scarf bearing a stylized eye to show membership, and their most prominent role is the City Watch, made mainly of older residents of La Bucca. The current head is a man named Alesio, who is said to speak only when there is trouble.

The Tentacle handles travel issues, including maintenance of the tidal rope bridges used when the tide comes in and covers the beach arches leading into the fortress. They are in a lot of ways the guides of La Bucca's guests, and Allende is their official head, though she leaves the day to day business to her subordinates. The Fin handle foreign communications. All members must speak at least three languages, and they take care of all trade records for La Bucca as well as serving as harbormasters, customs officials and the authorities on who can and can't dock. They consider secrets and information their most important commodity - the only one worth trading. Their current head is the infamous Baron Victor Maison.

The Scale is in charge of residential issues and land usage for commercial enterprise. Residents are required to raise at least two pigs a year to support the smoked pork supplies, and the Scale tracks that as well as all businesses on the island. They decide on and impose the tariffs and taxes on foreign and domestic goods, and also control the island treasury to fund public works. Their leader is the Mother. Yes, that's her name. The Mother of La Bucca. The Pint serves to represent the entertainment industry - the jennys, taverns and musicians. They have kept the Vendel League out of control of the island's economy so far. Their head is former prisoner Gwyn Sharps.

There is a rumor of a sixth Chapter, a secret one: the Sirens, who ensure that the privacy of business deals are respected. The name comes from the saying that if you break that privacy, the sirens will come from the sea to get you. Some claim to have encounterd Siren agents who murder transgressors, but the Watch officially denies their existence. The truth? There are Sirens...sort of. When a breach of privacy protocols happens or there's a danger to the island, the Chapter heads may call on trusted Buccaneers as their agents of justice, with each of the five selecting a single Buccaneer for the team, which is given the mission of dealing with the issue. That's what the Sirens are - teams set up for specific jobs, not a Chapter in their own right.

The City Watch work to keep some semblance of order in the streets, despite the very free atmosphere of La Bucca. Even criminals look down on some crimes - mostly public ones. The Watch have the right to enter any establishment at any time, in theory to keep the peace. They break up fights and trouble, punishing those who fight too openly. The Fin prohibits them from boarding ships, however, with the explicit permission of the ship's captain. The Pint also tries to keep them out of gambling houses and taverns - typically via bribes. While crime is thriving, no one questions Watch authority openly. Everyone knows to do their business behind closed doors or risk punishment, and each Chapter supports their work, though Alesio and the Eye are their true patrons, who provide them the power they use. The position of Watch Captain is elected, and currently held by Lucia, a Fate Witch who came to the island five years ago. She keeps a tight rein on the Watch, forbidding its members to drink on duty and requiring that any bribes or monetary exchanges be approved by her. She's pretty much all that keeps them from just being another street gang, and so she has been given leave by the Chapter heads to organize them as she likes.

There is no nation quite as diverse as La Bucca, thanks to the fact that its original inhabitants were undesirables from all over. Some parts of the island are melting pots, while others are favored by certain groups...for a while. It's not rare for a Vesten district to be taken over by Castillians or vice versa, for example. The island's not quite cosmopolitan, but it's very diverse. Buccaneers tend see each other as uneasy allies, bound by an unspoken oath to keep things broadly civilized. This only goes so far, of course...and visitors? They're open season. Said visitors tend to be shocked at how many children are on the island. Many are nativeborn, but many more are orphans. No one's entirely sure how they all keep arriving, as new ones seem to show up daily. The Mother maintains a residential building for the orphans and takes special care of them.

Residents have also developed a complex system of symbols to tell the Watch things while strangers are present. Any offer to buy a Watch member "a drink of your choice" is a way of telling them you're in trouble but can't openly ask for aid, for example, with subsequent offers being code to narrow down the issue - rum means trouble at port, gin is kidnapping, wine means a Chapter head is in danger. Hanging your underpants out a window is another clandestine communication - white means a call for help, while black is a request to help move contraband or a corpse - and no matter what, the call promises payment.

To gain residency, you must pay a small fee and submit an application to the Scale. The Mother looks over each application herself, deciding who to accept or not, typically by considering if you can contribute to the island. Her decision is final. No one's entirely sure what she thinks a good application looks like, however, though she seems to value unique skills. Plenty are coming to visit, at least, since it's the only neutral market in the Atabean Sea - a key place for spies and diplomats, as well as merchants hunting for rare or illicit goods. The market is truly free in every sense - anything and everything can be bought or sold, from artifacts to slaves to art. Food, water and crew are usually reasonably costed, as the more money spent overall is better for La Bucca, and the Tentacle and Fin work together to keep the harbors open constantly. Various merchant ships make generous bribes to the Scale in order to set up stalls, and you can just show up at the docks to find work any time. Nothing is too illicit to discuss except, perhaps, espionage and assassination, and many shops or stalls offer services - and even some homes do, for a more personal touch. They even sell nautical charts at high prices - mostly because every nation considers them a national secret. No one's sure where La Bucca gets them, but diplomats do love to buy them up. After charts, entertainment is probably most in demand. The Pint doesn't bother with monitors, and only gets involved when money or crime becomes an actual problem. As a result, the entertainment availably is extremely diverse and often debauched, with as few questions asked as necessary.

The best markets, though, are the marche noir - the black markets. Even if it's not actually illegal in La Bucca, you keep some stuff secretive, usually in hidden coves or private rooms. The Pint is happy to sell privacy for coin or a promised favor. The favor, on La Bucca, is worth more than gold. This is called the grip economy - that is, handshakes. A Buccaneer that's given their word is expected to keep it until called on or dead. Those who promise favors and don't pay up...well, they get dead. Fast. Your word is sacred on La Bucca, and there are no second chances.

Because Buccaneers need something to do between contracts, the island's become adept in finding side jobs, and has a thriving secondary market in letters of marque. These offer royal authority to collect a percentage of plunder in service to a nation, and the Buccaneers have formalized it heavily. While in other places, this might lead to national tensions, La Bucca offers a level of separation between the crown and its agents. The Buccaneers get legal documents that say they're allowed to do the thing, and the nation gets plausible deniability. Everyone gets what they want, except for the folks being looted.

Next time: Places.

Pirate Nations: Island S

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Island S

Technically, La Bucca is actually three extremely close islands rather than a single one, arranged in a letter S shape, with two arched beaches that connect the arms with the central tidal island. Both beache arches are walkable in low tide but submerged at high tide. In the prison years, the central island was Cardinal Ordunez's HQ, with the northern and southern isles being the prisoner islands. Today, La Bucca is separated into four districts - Northern Arc and Sunrise Haven in the north, and Southern Arc and Sunset Haven in the south, with the central island covering both haven harbors.

The Northern Arc presents a sheer cliff towards the ocean, with onyl the inner crescent forming safe harbor. Dense trees cover most of it, and few people live on the far north shore, leaving it for the pigs. The south side has a large harbor and much of the merchant district, however. The Crown lies at the north tip of the island. One side is a natural wall of rock, guarded by a coral reef that stops larger ships from reaching the hidden caverns along the cliff. For those that can find these caves, they make excellent private spots for secret meetings. A few anglers also fish off the Crown, claiming to 'keep the Creature at bay.' On the beach side, there are embankments placed to allow the Buccaneers to climb up to the ten cannons nestled along key positions to fire on unwelcome guests in the north. It's not perfect, and the gunners are pretty inexperienced, but the appearance is probably more useful than the guns themselves.

Port Sacred is a natural harbor east of the Crown, a set of caverns only enterable by low tide. The cave is large enough for three ships, and few know where the entrance is, though rumor has it that smugglers and pirates use it as a safe haven free even from La Bucca's authorities. Others claim that the place is dangerous, full of monsters and dark magic. It's not - it's a safe port for political exiles. Allende uses it to meet people in the wee hours, smuggling them past the other harbors and providing false papers claiming they've been residents for years. The Mother works with her to set these refugees up safely without the other Chapters realizing. It also houses a rather nastier secret that even fewer know: it's where Allende and the others that took part in her ritual imprisoned the Creature and sent it to sleep. Gibbet Lake is named for the gibbets hung on the shores to punish prisoners for fighting guards. The Cardinal preached forgiveness, but the guards preferred to make examples. Today, the cages sit empty, aside from old bones, as a reminder of the island's legacy. Allende has forbidden them to be removed, as she feels La Bucca must never forget its history.

Sunrise Haven and the Hook are the names for the sheltered inner crescent of the north isle, with the Hook specifically referring to the bit that's on the middle island. It's a large natural harbor with room for a good 20 ships, and its name is because the harbor is sheltered from the sun in the morning. Piers have extended past the natural end of the harbor, to make room for up to 20 larger vessels. The Tentacle tracks all arrivals, renting out harbor spots for various lengths and handing out travel permits. At that point, the Fin shows up to force captains to fill out forms detailing their planned length of stay and crew occupancy. It's honestly pretty fast, as the Chapter reps hang out at the docks. The water is dark with oil and waste, and small rowboats crewed by children serve as taxis between ships for a small fee. Shops and stalls clog the dock walkways and the warehouse streets, and just off the main drag you can easily find taverns and gambling halls as well as more permanent shops.

Le Gros Vert is the most prominent gambler's hall in Sunrise Haven, a mere five minutes from the dock. Its namesake is the stuffed 40-foot crocodile that hangs over the door. The building is two stories tall and bright green, so it's hard to miss. The lower floor is for dice and card games, while the upper floor is used to watch and bet on boat races in the harbor. Behind the building is a boxing ring, in which fighters can pay a small fee to fight and try to win big. Betting on fights is also popular, with many having a favorite regular contestant whom they will buy drinks or food for when they get a chance. The owner is a Montaigne woman, Madame Murmur, who forbids all weapons in her hall, enforced extremely harshly. She has a reputation for never, ever losing, and it's said she won the hall in a game of cards, bluffing until the former owner had nothing left to bet at all - even his own home. She has remained owner despite regular challenges to cards or dice with the hall on the line.

The Brown Hall is in the Hook, named for its dark stones and darkened wood. Once, it was the prison chapel, and it's one of the few prison structures left intact. It is an octagonal building with three entrances and enough space inside to hold all residents of the Northern Arc. The benches have been removed, but the high windows and thick wooden shutters have not. Allende uses the Hall for meetings with the Chapter heads and to run elections. During election time, it is open to anyone running for office to make speeches at or campaign. For the rest of the year, the Hall is used to host public meetings or stage votes by the five Chapter heads. The Chapter symbols have been painted on the floor, and traditionally anyone voicing an issue stands on the most related symbol. Typically no more than one of these meetings happens per year and most heads treat it as a farce. The rest of the time, it goes unused. Allende encourages meetings, but getting folks to attend is ever harder. The best she can usually manage is public meetings with the Thean diplomats on the island.

The Free Balconies is the largest inn on the central isle, facing Sunrise Harbor and next to the Brown Hall. It was once a barracks and visitor house, and it's made of really nice wood, with one balcony facing each cardinal direction to catch the wind and keep the rooms cool. It has rope bridges to the Northern and Southern Arcs and a great view. It is extremely expensive and well-guarded by the City Watch, who pass it four times a day on patrol and often stop in for a chat. The owner, a fat and balding Avalon named Roger Gould, pays them to stop by often and offers them free drinks when off duty. The Guard is unaware that Gould runs as much illegal business out of the Balconies as he can, with his friendly policies towards them being an effort to keep them out of his inn when they look for criminals. Some suspect he's up to no good, but no one has yet been able to prove his kindness isn't genuine.

Jacob's Ladder is the largest tidal rope bridge maintained by the Tentacle, made to go from the Hook to the southern island, where msot Buccaneers make their actual homes. It is also used for illegal boarding of ships during high tide, in blatant violation of Tentacle procedure, which has meant that no matter who runs the Tentacle, traffic in and out is actually nearly impossible to police. West of the Hook is Deadlight's Island, one of the main strongholds of the Watch. It is used to store weapons and hold meetings, to avoid exposing their secrets to normal civilians. Allende has granted the Watch total control of the island and its comings and goings, but recently residents have complained of strange lights and noises coming from it in the middle of the night. The Watch denies all such reports.

Next time: South Side

Pirate Nations: Southlands

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Southlands

The Southern Arc is a much greener place than the Northern, full of jungle and fields and beaches, with a shallow bay in its inner crescent. Most of the Buccaneers live here, with the level land and cool breezes. Jenny's Jungle is the largest feature of the island. It's not an official name, but has gotten onto maps by virtue of there being no official name. It is rumored to have artifacts and ruins, but has a tendency to complicate any search for them more than it's worth...hence the name, as it is a jungle of ill repute. Deep within the jungle are, in fact, Syrne ruins. The stones used to build them could not possibly have been quarried on the island, and the Vaticine was never able to figure out hwo they were put together. There is only one formal entrance, but a collapsed wall has created a second. It consists of three rooms that lead to a central chamber with a dried out well. Few know of the ruins, much less how to get to them. These were the key to Cardinal Ordunez' control of the Creature, but he removed all artifacts and tablets he found, leaving only the ruin itself. Every so often, someone finds them and attempts to enter the well to find what lies below. So far, no one has ever found the bottom of the well, and each returns with rumors of a ghost in the ruins. It isn't actually that hard to find a map leading to them, but no one expects much to come out of any expedition any more.

St. Renee's Chapel is named for one of the several Vaticine patron saints of orphans. It is the only church still standing in La Bucca, with the rest having been dismantled for materials. It's small and some distance from the southern harbor, off the main track, but the view from it is amazing. Its only priest is Sister Scarlett O'Donoghue, known to the locals as Sister Scotty. She is in fact the only Vaticine priest still on the island - all the others that came with Cardinal Ordunez when he returned were driven off. While she's rather laconic, she is dedicated to saving the souls of the island, doing her best for any who visit. She's no fool, and the last to try and steal from her got his arm broken and the rest of him beat to hell and back for his troubles. She avoids the Mother, though she leaves the door open to any children that want a lesson or a meal. The chapel is often visited by various ambassadors as a sort of reminder of home. The Montaigne ambassador, Anaelle Cabot, lives right nearby and while she's not very devout, she finds Sister Scotty an inspiration and shows up to help regularly.

Sunset Haven is the bay-side part of the Southern Arc, facing north. Its harbor has room for nearly 40 ships, but the waters are shallow by comparison, so larger vessels must dock at Sunrise Haven. Typically, Sunset is used for passenger vessels and small cargo ships, plus the personal fishing ships and pirate vessels that make their home at La Bucca. Sunset's docks are more industrial than Sunrise's, and only merchants that cater specifically to ships tend to set up shop there - though the main shipwrights and building contractors have. Sunset tends to feel less festive and more dangerous than its northern counterpart.

Shanty Town, aka the Maze, is a labyrinthine mess that spreads from Sunset Haven all the way to the jungles, and it's the real city of La Bucca. Most locals live there, in a mix of permanent and temporary housing that mesh into a dense maze full of homes, small businesses and civil offices. Buildings often shift overnight as temporary housing is relocated or converted to more permanent structures, and newcomers often get confused. The locals are happy about that - they can charge a fee to get you un-lost. This is no place for tourists, even if the best and most affordable goods are found there. Strangers aren't particularly welcome without a local guide...and not all of the guides are anything more than con artists.

The Betting Barnacle is just beyond the Sunset Haven docks, and it's the gambling hall for the locals. It's lively, but lacks Le Gros Vert's high stakes games. Instead, it is the preferred hangout of spies and gossips, especially if they want to hire a local for something illegal or unethical. It is also home to the Ambassador Wall. Whenever a new diplomat or ambassador arrives on the island, their name goes on the wall. The locals bet on them - typically over how long they'll last, but some have death pools, sex pools or...well, anything that a bettor will lay money on.

The local tavern of choice is the Yellow Fin, and it's where Allende holds court. She keeps toughs around her for protection and conducts all official business out of the back room. Anyone who seeks her audience can find her there, but the locals are extremely loyal, so rudeness is quite dangerous. Allende tries to avoid violence, but her allies have no such compunctions. Once, a man tried to threaten her with a pistol, and every other customer in the bar - all 47 of them - drew their own weapons on him. No one's entirely sure which shot killed the man, and some whisper that the soul of Billy Bilgewater, the idiot involved, now haunts the isle, cursed to remain. Allende refuses to listen to such rumors, but does put out milk on the doorstep to commemorate his death.

Now we're into NPCs! With Allende being our first one. The truth? She was born Comtesse Marguerite Duchateau of Montaigne, the fifth child of a major noble family...and so without many prospects. She joined the military in the War of the Cross, but grew tired of seeing people fight and die as the nobles discussed fashion, so she began riling up peasant revolts as her unit moved through towns. Eventually, l'Empereur heard about it and decided it'd be best to silence her, but didn't want to martyr her for the revolutionaries. Thus, he had her drugged, kidnapped and shipped off to prison with a hood on her head and strict orders for no one to look at her face. The sergeant called her Allende when he handed her over and that was it. The prison gave her a velvet hood and told her never to remove it. At first, she was a troublemaker, shouting until the guards beat her unconscious, but she soon began to not speak at all. She was held for a year before La Bucca opened up and she was put on the first ship from Montaigne to the island. She refused to speak to anyone until she arrived, where she began restarting her revolutionary ideas. Most of the prisoners, being political ones themselves, were happy to support 'Allende' - the name she'd accepted as her own now - and helped sway the more violent ones. She spoke of freedom and democracy, and it began to appeal, even if the execution's not been great. She's spent a long time hiding her real identity to avoid l'Empereur taking his wrath out on her family, and she refuses to perform official business without her mask to this day. She reveals her face only to those she trusts, and her name to no one if she can help it. The past 30 years have worked mainly on force of personality, but she has a number of detractors now who will happily cause her problems. Few know her true name or associate her with Montaigne at all, and she's gotten rid of her accent. So far, the only person she's sure knows her name is Baron Maisen, and he uses that against her whenever he can. Allenda often comes off as brash and in-your-face, believing she can learn the most from people under pressure. She keeps her distance personally and has no time for small talk, but all the time in the world for people with real concerns. She never meets in public without her mask, and sometimes has her personal assistant, Leanne, wear the mask in her stead and pretend to be her while she listens in secretly. Leanne is well-versed in La Bucca's needs and problems and can play Allende quite well.

The Mother of La Bucca is known only as the Mother. She is always surrounded by children, the orphans of La Bucca, and she loves to help them out. They are both her family now and her spies, the best on the island. She supports Allende presently, though she cares about her kids' safety far, far more than La Bucca and its government. She has been on the island for as long as anyone can remember, but no one is sure if she was a prisoner or where she came from. She never seems to age, and has run the Scale with an iron fist since day one. Her true name was once Sophie-Angelique de l'Ecuyer, an accomplished Porte sorcier...but an accident involving a mirror trapped her in the space between worlds for nearly a century and even she isn't sure how she survived it. One day, she just woke up on the island, inside the Syrneth ruins, with a voice in her head. She remembers making a deal - in exchange for her freedom, she would bring children to the island. That was the price. Since then, she has used Porte to cross Theah, though her Porte is much different than any other. She can go anywhere...but only where she is needed. She hears a child crying out in her blood, and she goes to them. She has taught her children a secret Porte trick, lost to modern sorciers: whispering through the blood. Mother doesn't really know how she got to La Bucca or who she spoke to when she arrived. She hasn't aged in 50 years, and thinks it may be related to her magic or the time she spent trapped. She works to protect the island, and particularly the children she brings there. No one hurts a child without her coming for them. She prefers not to think about why she's bringing them to La Bucca. She speaks rarely, and while Allende doesn't really enjoy her presence or her mothering treatment, she is Allende's biggest current supporter. Many fear her, but she is kind to all she speaks to, even when collecting taxes. She considers herself mother to everyone on the island and acts the part, with no compunction about putting a naughty child in their place. Occasionally, she has flashes of memory of her old life, becoming lost in them for minutes at a time. She may even suddenly begin speaking Montaigne unexpectedly or confuse someone for a person she knew years ago. Los Ninos, as the children she cares for are known, are extremely loyal. Mother helped them when they needed it, after all, and most will never willingly describe how she brought them to the island or why she intervened.

Next time: Baron Maison, the Lehmanns, Lucia and more.

Pirate Nations: And Then There's This Asshole

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

marshmallow creep posted:

What about Ordunez? He should know how to wake it, no? He signed on with Allende in the treaty, I'm surprised he hasn't done something. Or did I miss where he lost the artifact?

About that...

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: And Then There's This Asshole

Baron Victor Maison is the leader of the Fin and calls himself the most recognized face in La Bucca. He says he has connections in every nation in Theah, can get into any party and can bring as many people as he wants. He deals in information and loves food and wine. He thinks he's the suavest, most charming person on the planet, cultured and popular. Everyone else is pretty sure he's a crude, sleazy asshole whose reach exceeds his grasp. Of course, saying so in his presence causes him to go into a vengeful fury. Some wonder why he's tolerated at all, given he's such an oaf, but others realize he really does know things and people. He's an excellent information broker with lots of blackmail material, and for all his bragging, he's not lying when he says he has those connections and abilities. And so far? He's been using them to help La Bucca grow. Commerce relies on his goodwill, and at a word, he could end it and close the ports. He knows it, too. He knows everything - who Allende is, who the Mother is, all the little secrets. His spies are legion, and the grip market was his innovation. His favors are worth more than anyone else's. He actually scares Allende, and she keeps him close so she can at least try to steer him. He sees himself as the true power of the island...and he's not far wrong. His pride is enormous, despite his penchant for malapropism and mispronunciation. He was a Castillian political prisoner, charged with trespassing on noble lands as a spy. (In fact, he just wanted to mingle.) He is actually quite friendly if you can put up with his buffoonery and arrogance...and his vengeful nature and love of blackmail.

Uwe and Greta Lehmann showed up ten years ago as refugees from the War of the Cross. They dismissed the idea of the Creature as madness...until Uwe stumbled into Port Sacred and saw the shadow under the water. He became obsessed with it. Somehow, he learned that Allende could control it and was keeping it asleep. Greta felt her brother's obsession was unhealthy and suggested asking Allende if he could see the Creature, but he wanted to control it, use it as an unstoppable force. Greta was terrified of her brother's mad ambitions, but she agreed to help, for fear of what he'd do if she didn't. For three years, they've been hunting for ways to control the Creature. Greta has tried to focuse Uwe on just taking over the island from Allende, plotting to remove him and rule it herself once he does. Uwe, meanwhile, seeks information anywhere he can. He has no idea that Baron Maison is aware of his actions, and he's nowhere near as subtle as his sister, ending up often having to kill potential witnesses. His body count is growing almost daily. Greta is far more practical, and has been hiding weapons for an uprising. Her problem is that she has few places to privately meet with her coconspirators - she's considered setting up somewhere in Jenny's Jungle, but her last try led to near death from pneumonia. If she can't find one soon, the Watch is likely to find her cache and blow the whole scheme open, or her brother will ruin it for her. She knows she has to get things started soon or it's all going to go out of control. Both she and Uwe hang out at Le Gros Vert. Uwe thinks he's the brains of the pair, but his obsession has made him so lost he can't even see the consequences of his crimes, obsessively reading arcane texts and trying to invent blood rituals. He constantly dreams nightmares of the Creature and will go to any length to control it. He cares for nothing except Greta. Greta cares for Uwe, and is unable to escape from her brother's madness, but refuses to join it. She actually doesn't dislike Allende - she just thinks being in charge will let her get out of her brother's insanity and end his obsession. She has no real idea how far Uwe's gone or what his plans for the Creature might be.

Lucia, Captain of the Guard, is a Fate Witch who's been constantly going from one bad situation to another. She left Vodacce to work for a noble in Castille, until he begged her to marry him. (She's a lesbian and was into his sister, but when she told him that, he banished her from his estate.) So then she went to Eisen, but decided she was sick of working for all these assholes trying to take over, so she left. Eventually she reached Montaigne and worked as a governess for some nobles. She liked her charge, wild as the boy was, but his father managed to fuck up in Montaigne politics...and rather than take the rap, he sent his heir into political exile, sending the boy to La Bucca. When Lucia found out, she followed, afraid for her charge's safety. There was no sign of the boy when she arrived, however, nor any trace of him in the weave of Fate. Unsure of what to do, she conscripted the Watch into her search for the child. The next year, she ran for and won the captaincy - the first time anyone had challenged an incumbent. Allende fully supported it, and many say that's why Lucia won...but others blame sorcery. Lucia hides her magic, however, to avoid being used by those around her. She still hopes to one day find the boy she came to help, and occasionally still looks for him. Beyond that, she has placed her old life behind her. The Watch is deeply loyal to her, and she doesn't put up with trouble. She likes La Bucca but has learned she has to be heavy-handed to get anything done.

The Ghost is believed to be Billy Bilgewater, mentioned last time. He is said to haunt the jungle ruins mostly, but has been spotted across the island. Most think he's just a myth to scare visitors, but he is not. He's real, if not particularly scary. He appears as a translucent humanoid figure concealed by a hooded cloak. Some say he isn't Billy but the ghost of someone who tried to harm one of Mother's children. He is neither - the ghost is Cardinal Ordunez. After his return, the prisoners wanted him dead, but Allende wouldn't allow it. Instead, she forced him to live in isolation, visiting him to try and gain the knowledge to control the Creature. He refused to help her, assuring her it'd be far better to leave it asleep and out of anyone's control. Eventually, he died of illness, still having revealed nothing. Allende has been unable to find his relics that were used to control the Creature, but is certain he retained them. Ordunez began appearing shortly after Uwe began his research and rituals. He's doing his best to stop Uwe, but he has limited ability to do things, because he's a ghost. He remains devout and sees his undeath as a chance to make things right that he did wrong in life. He wants to regain control of the Creature so he can destroy it, but he has no idea how to do that as a ghost. Until he can find someone willing to destroy it for him, he works to stop anyone from discovering the artifacts and rituals he used to control the Creature. Sometimes he will test people by giving them dangerous jobs to do before he'll speak to them, promising them lore and power. (He can't give that except for teaching how to control the Creature; he wants to see how they'll act and how skilled they are.)

Wynne Lynch is the son of an Inish nobleman, sent to Carleon at a young age to study at the university there. He was ordained by the Vaticine early and joined the Invisible College shortly after, studying the link between Sidhe Glamour and science. Wynne believes the Sidhe are the source of all magic, that they are trying to guide humanity and improve the world. His ideas were beloved by certain philosophical circles, which led to the Inquisition catching him and sending him to La Bucca on false charges to get rid of him. He didn't even get to defend himself. Wynne was crucial in Allende's efforts to control the Creature, and is the central contact on the island for the College at this point. He's been working to pass information on the Syrneth ruins and the Creature back to Theah - and more importantly, he's got a network among the dock regulars to ship scientific research across the globe from his relative position of safety. He is a Glamour Knight who spends most of his time in his lab in the Maze. He has an interest in training young scientists and has a Montaigne girl named Josette as his apprentice. he has not yet realized Josette is a spy for the Inquisition and a possible assassin. He doesn't realize how precarious his position truly is. Allende protects him, but he's not at home around criminals and pirates, and is rather reckless and headstrong in his ideals, which can easily get him into trouble.

Ambassador Maximo Zorita represents Castillian interests on La Bucca. He's very friendly, smiles a lot, and trusts no one. He's a thin, tall man with unkempt black hair and a quickly-growing beard. He's done his best to get in good with the power players, giving out information and work freely to those he thinks he can invest in. No one's entirely sure who he works for in Castille, but he can hand out Letters of Marque to privateers. Even he's not really sure who pays his salary. His contact at court goes by La Miria, the Blackbird, and communicates entirely by sealed letter. She gives him the Letters of Marque and plenty of bribe money, but never tells him why, or who she really is. His free gifting of things is an act to develop a network of agents he can call on, and he's begun to suspect La Miria is herself just a pawn in a larger game - or perhaps a rook, some other chess metaphor - and that this is all part of a plot to help secure Allende's power. The instructions he gets are always well-planned, but he's noticed a pattern over time that has him acting against Allende's enemies and working with her friends when possible. Maximo is sick of all the secrecy, and would happily expend what influence he's got to find out who, exactly, he is working for. He is always in the know and good at avoiding trouble, and he's always fashionable and slick, even when dealing with pirates. His good nature makes many look past his obvious status as a royal spy. He does trust his handlers enough to stay and follow orders, but he fears he's being used as a fool and catspaw. He wants certainty.

Ambassador Annabelle de Vitry is the Montaigne ambassador, in theory as a punishment for an insult she made at court. However, she also has a secret mission entrusted to her by the Comte de la Fontaine. His daughter, Josette, was sent as a political prisoner years ago, and he wanted to know if she still lived. Annabelle took the job with a sense of patriotism and tries to represent Montaigne well, even though no one really cares. She is the longest-serving ambassador so far, and has been working closely with Sister Scotty for three years now. She considers herself the Baron Maison's ally, using him to gather information on the other ambassadors. She suspects that Mother is a sorcier but is too intimidated by her to ask. She is known to be gracious, forthright and cheerful...and she's accomplished her mission. She knows Josette is working with a branch of the Invisible College, and has even joined it herself and used her political power and ties to the Baron to help the group. She remains entirely unaware of Josette's true mission and loyalties. Annabelle is relentlessly positive, regardless of stress, and never insults anyone. She works hard to support the Invisible College and to push Montaigne culture on anyone who's willing to sit still long enough. She loves teaching art and dance, and she actually does care about the Buccaneers, but she knows how fragile her place is and that they still see her as an outsider, even after three years.

Next time: The Atabean Sea

Pirate Nations: MONSTERS MONSTERS MONSTERS

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: MONSTERS MONSTERS MONSTERS

The Atabean Sea is the gateway to Aztlan, known to Theans as the New World. It is surrounded by a large island chain, which is home to the native Rahuri people, who tend to all that lives above and below the waves. Their legends hold that they once lived on the Aztlan mainland, but fled in fear of the wrath of a great god, heading out to the open sea. There, they founded a nation along several islands and made peace with the god. In return for their safety, they swore to tend to the sea and its inhabitants, regardless of what they were. It proved a very dangerous oath, because the Atabean Sea has a second name - a name that is, translated, 'the Sea of Monsters.'

The Rahuri history stretches back as far as anything written, and it is recorded both in legend and in the memory of the ancestral spirits whom the Rahuri call on for guidance. Even spirits have faulty memories, however, and the tales change in the telling. There is no single truth about the Atabean Sea, not at this point. But as it goes, long before any Vaticine existed, the people that became the Rahuri lived on the mainland, deep in what is now called Aztlan. Legends say that they tried to live in peace, but their leaders angered the greatest of Aztlan's protectors, the feathered serpent Apocoatl. They tried to use magic to find more fertile ground, in violation of Apocoatl's desire to keep his people isolated and protected. Thus, they were in danger of eradication by the feathered serpent. Then, a great water spirit came to them, leading them to a river and out into the sea, protecting them from tis dangers. They sailed for days before finding the island chain in the dark sea. There, they made a pact with Apocoatl.

The Rahuri swore that in exchange for their safety, they would become the custodians and protectors of the islands and their waters. They settled the ocean, naming it Atabea in honor of the water spirit that guided them. Over generations, they spread over all the islands, breaking into smaller groups and establishing trade routes. As they traveled, the spirit Atabea stayed with them, taking on a new name and a new job: Mama Yaya, the sea mother. When other nations arrived, they found a large network of Rahuri villages and tribes, sailing the ocean and expertly harvesting the fish and seaweed for food and trade, but also tracking and killing the larger creatures of the sea. This hunt became the center of their trade and diet, as a sea monster could feed an entire village for an entire season. They would then send the parts to other islands, creating a strong trade network that united the many villages into the united Rahuri Nation. Because of that unity, they controlled the sea for centuries. Smaller nations came, challenged them and fought, but that just kept their settlements shifting and moving. The central network remained, including its main center, the Rahur settlement Naca'an on the northernmost island.

From Naca'an, the Rahur lieaders, called caciques, gathered from the many settlements and chose one cacique to maintain the sea itself, as promised to the feathered serpent. No one knows the date of the first Great Cacique, but records indicate that since the first, there were 20 of them before the first sighting of a Thean ship. The first Theans to arrive in the Sea of Monsters were entirely unprepared. Storms rose from nowhere, reefs seemed invisible, sea creatures attacked in what appeared to be peaceful lagoons, tearing apart even the strongest ship. Others entered the passage now called the Devil's Strait and were never seen again. There are no records on how many Theans reached the Atabean after crossing the Serpent's Sea before the first officially recognized encounter, but tales of ships heading west and finding monsters and danger abound. These stories eventually reached the courts of Castille, who organized a fleet to cross the Serpent's Sea and find, once and for all, what was on the other side. They decided not to sacrifice their own for this, however, and instead supplemented three Castillian naval vessels with three hired privateers. Of the six, only one ever made it back.

Thgree ships were lost to monsters and weather before the Castillians could set aside pride and ask the natives for help. Privateer-explroer Alejandro Dantes and his ship, the Sydonia, made port at Borequen in Primus of 1533, making the first official contact with the Rahuri. While this went without any incident, the early relations were, at best, strained. The Rahuri distrusted the outsiders, a concern inherited from their Aztlan ancestors. Once the Castillians offered fair trade, however, they began to interact more. Castille offered technology and production methods from Theah, which intrigued Borequen's cacique enough to get him to open further negotiations. A meeting was arranged between Captain Dantes and the Grand Cacique at Naca'an in Nonus, 1543, though the Rahuri did send word to neighboring isles in case of treachery.

It is unclear from reports as to whether Castille meant to threaten the Rahuri or to negotiate fairly. It doesn't matter - no one ever found out, because when the Castillians arrived, they found two Montaigne ships (Cyrielle and Le Alexandre) and one Vodacce (Egress) already there. Apparently, word had leaked and the other nations had raced to find their own course. the Vodacce arrived first, led by Enrico Fontana, who made port on the central island Kiskeya, right near Naca'an, while the Montaigne sailed into the heart of the Atabean. Both delegations had taken heavy damage and needed to justify their expenses.Each wanted to open trade immediately, though records show the Vodacce had intended to just take the place over until they met a large and well-armed Rahuri contingent and decided to adjust their approach. The three Thean nations prepared to fight at the heart of the Rahuri nation, overseen by the 21st Great Cacique, Manicato. He ordered them all to sit and negotiate peacefully for travel rights, but...well, they didn't.

No one can say who struck the first blow - one account claims the Vodacce tried to bribe the Grand Cacique, which so offended him that he shut down all negotiations. Another says the Montaignes tried to poison the other two delegtions. Whatever the case, Captain Dantes wrote of being forced from his bed at spearpoint and hurled into the water. The Rahuri had apparently been so offended that they expected the visitors to swim back to their ships in monster-infested water. Most of the explorers never made it. They did, however, begin a massive naval battle against each other. The Castillian ships were unprepared and damaged, and the Montaigne tore them apart. The Egress rammed the Cyrielle, sinking both, and this stirred up the monsters. The Rahuri believe what happened next was just nature. The Sydonia's crew agree that something unnaturally foul came from the depths. Captain Dantes had pulled out of the harbor to escape the Montaigne cannons and turned back to see an immense, tentacled beast erupt from the ocean and tear the other ships apart.

Only the Cyrielle managed to avoid destruction in the harbor as the Rahuri launched their fishing boats to attack the giant squid and rescue survivors. Captain Dantes turned the Sydonia back and helped kill the squid, winning the Grand Cacique's respect. When the waters were again calm, hundreds were dead. The surviving Montaigne ship fled, leaving Dantes to negotiate for Castille. In the night, he met with the survivors of the Montaigne and Vodacce crews, who told him of deceit and treachery. Then, one of his own crew came forward, showing him a letter from the Castillian royalty. It revealed that man as a spy, sent to watch Dantes and, if necessary, "deal with the Captain in any manner necessary to ensure Castille's interests." Dantes, of course, was outraged. Rather than negotiate for Castille, he chose to negotiate on behalf of pirates and privateers everywhere, establishing an outpost on Borequen to serve as a Thean trade and travel hub. The settlement would be Castillian only nominally, controlled by a governor that had to be approved of by the Rahuri and entirely independent of official Thean influences.

Naturally, the Castillian diplomats were furious, but Dantes' heroism had earned him the respect needed to seal trade deals, and so he took them back out to sea, handed them to the first Castillian ship he saw, and returned to the Atabean. He never left it again, and lived out his life as the first governor of the settlement San Sancha, and was known to the Rahuri people as their forever friend. Later accounts from the Rahuri revealed that Dantes' actions had confused them very much. They had no idea how one people could be at war with themselves so, or why there was all this mistrust if they all came from one place, or what they intended. And, of course, that wasn't where things ended. Dantes and his crew spent time at Naca'an, explaining the realities of Theah, the many cultures and politics there. He taught many Rahuri to read and write in Old Thean, Avalon and other common languages, in anticipation of the next wave of delegates and diplomats. When they did come, the Rahuri were prepared, with a much deeper understanding of their politics and the history of the Vaticine. Thus, the Grand Cacique gathered the delegates at a high mountain village for a grand summit on harmony between Theah and the Rahuri.

For a full day, the Grand Cacique listened to explanations on anything from trade to religion to economics, from trade delegates to pirates to diplomats - any who presented themselves. And then the sun went down and red moon rose, and the Great Cacique laid out the laws of trade that he'd accept. This became known as the Declaration of the Ris Moon. The Rahuri would allow trade outposts, but would favor organizations and privateers over governments. There would be no other rulers in their waters but the caciques and their gods. Any attmept to change this owuld result in devastation for all Theans in the Atabean Sea. Since then, it's been hard for Thean governments to establish any permanent settlements. Only three large cities have ben made, and each time only with grudging acceptance from the Rahuri. The first, San Sancha, was ruled by Dantes until he abdicated and returned to piracy after the arrival of Castillian authorities in 1574. The second, Fortunato, was founded by the Vodacce in 1561, but after a fight, they were cast out and the port is now controlled by the Rahuri. The last major settlement is Sylviette, a Montaigne colony meant to bring the height of culture to the Atabean.

Tensions grow between Thean and Rahuri with each new ship and each now piece of ground taken. In recent years, they've had to cede many smaller islands to their neighbors or to Thean settlers or private interests. However, whenever the Rahuri pull out of a place, those who remain note a significant rise in attacks by sea monsters. Rahuri fishers are often hired to stay in "foreign" waters in the hopes of keeping the monsters at bay. It's worth it, many felt, to get access to the valuable exports. Sugar is the most common, but they also produce rum, molasses, indigo, coffee, tobacco, hemp and bananas. Gold, silver and bauxite are also exported, along with "whale oil" (read: opils extracted from the blubber of larger ocean monsters) and ambergris.

Thean respect for the Rahuri seamen remained until the coming of the Atabean Trading Company, which marked the beginning of the end for Rahuri control of most of the Atabean Sea. Their fleet insinuated itself into many ports as a trade partner and economic power. It wasn't long until they drove out smaller merchant groups, forcing most fleets to work with them or with no one. They then, having secured their powerbase, began imprisoning and enslaving native populations - particularly the Rahuri. Thousands were put in chains by the Company, who then brought in Theans to the cleared-out land and sold the slaves to them to tend it. Many Rahuri soon found themselves slaves in what had once been their own homes. The Great Cacique demanded that Thean diplomats act, reminding them of his promised doom, but each nation disclaims any responsibility for the ATC's actions. They also consider it far out of their jurisdiction, as an entity that is not of any nation but is funded, supplied and maintained by private citizens that live half a world away.

The Rahuri now cling to their three central islands by means of their indubitably dangerous fleet, but the Atabean is more and more Thean thanks to the Company. This is also quite dangerous for any local independent pirates, who must now face the Company's fleet and their influential friends back home. However, with the political danger comes monstrous danger, as the Sea of Monsters grows rougher and more unpredictable. The Rahuri have a special role in maintaining the ecological balance of monsters, and the loss of so many of them threatens to destroy that balance forever. The Company doesn't care - they can afford to lsoe a few ships in the name of profit.

Next time: The Rahuri

Pirate Nations: We speak for the sea.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: We speak for the sea.

The Rahuri are the primary native population around the Atabean. They fled from the Aztlan mainland when their ancient leader, Locuo, angered the storm serpent Apocoatl by believing he could harness the power of the earth instead of relying on Apocoatl. He had, after all, been descended from a god himself, and legend says he created such terrible earthquakes that he ripped up enough land to piss off Apocoatl. The entire Rahuri nation would have been punished if the water spirit called Mama Yaya hadn't intervened to lead them into the Atabean Sea and make their deal with Apocoatl to become the sea's protectors and custodians for all of time. The Rahuri all claim descent from this single group of settlers, but their society is now spread out into villages over thousands of miles of water. The islands they live on consist of three large islands and many smaller ones.

Borequen is the island on the easternmost side of Rahuri territory and is the first stop for most Thean ships in the Atabean. The Borequen Rahuri are hearty and have integrated much from Thean visitors, particularly the Castillians. They now split their time betwen hunting the monsters of the Atabean and heading east, to the Serpent's Sea, to explore the lands that Theans come from. Borequen is densely populated and often raided by slavers, with fishers returning to find their villages razed and their families enslaved. The Borequen are thus the most vocal against the Atabean Trading Company their slaving. The term 'boriqua,' the common word for a Rahuri warrior, comes from the island's name, even if many boriquas aren't actually from there.

Kiskeya lies at the center of the Rahuri waters and is home to the Grand Cacique in Naca'an. It is a wild island, full of jungle as well as villages, and its central city faces out into a large bay on the shore. It is a monument to Rahuri culture, its main hall, the Great Bohio (or Roundhouse), is a huge structure made of carved wood said to be from the first Rahuri boats that made landfall. Here, Great Cacique Jibaro, lineal descendant of Manicato, rules as the maintainer of the bargain with Apocoatl and the keeper of the Rahuri peace. He is a strong, spiritual man with deep ties to his ancestors. The Kiskeya Rahuri are usually concerned with history, and have many storytellers and historian-elders. They view the ancient pact and their duty not as historic, but as very present.

Yamaka is the oldest Rahuri settlement, on the western edge of the Atabean Sea. It was here that they first landed after leaving Aztlan, and the mainland influences can still be found in the forests of Yamaka. The Yamaka Rahuri tend to be the most isolationist of the major groups, focused on maintaining their traditions and culture against outsiders. They are aggressive about borders, and their warriors often patrol the Sea to defend their people. They watch not only the Theans but the people of Aztlan, who often raid them. They also keep an eye out for signs of Apocoatl becoming angry at them once more, and prepare for the possibility of that day by training to be the greatest warriors.

The Rahuri believed that as long as they upheld their duty, they would rule over the Atabean. It kept their islands united for generations. However, the destruction of so many villages by slavers and the raids of their neighbors has destabilized their society, and now, they are arguing amongst themselves. The leaders, after all, still deal with the Theans and even the ATC despite their slaving. The caciques mainly negotiate with the ATC out of fear of open war, but the Rahuri are growing tired of waiting while their people are taken and their islands are stolen. A resistance, the Riroco, has come together to stop slavers and slave-owners, wherever they may be. So far, their activities are limited by numbers and equipment, so they can't just assault the Company. The negotiators try to stop the slave trade peacefully, but the Company has been ruthlessly hunting the Riroco and destroying any strongholds they can find. Without support and arms, they may be destroyed before they can really make a difference. However, the Rahuri have magic that may help them turn the tide - the power to bring their ancestors back to help.

Way back when the deal was made, Apocoatl created a home for the ancestral spirits of the Rahuri within the Sea of Monsters: Soryana. It is an island that exists mostly in the land of the dead, but a living sailor can find it if they look hard enough. The Rahuri had always revered their ancestors, and they believe that those who die merely go to "the other side of the island", waitig to be called on. If they need aid, they may ask their ancestors for advice, or even journey to Soryana and bring them back to help for whatever issue - monsters, slavers, sure. The process is always the same. First, you find a bohiti, a pathfinder, to take you to Soryana via a natural gate, usually found underground or in caves. From there, you and they must find and ask your ancestor spirit for help. If the spirit agrees, you then go before Locuo, King of Soryana, and convince him that the spirit is needed. If Locuo agrees, the spirit can leave Soryana for the length of time needed to do the task, or until the time Locuo says they must return by, whichever comes first. If the spirit tries to stay past that time, they go insane, becoming one of the Mabuya, the Lost, ravening ghosts that float across the ocean hunting for souls to drag into the depths.

Rahuri magic can be very startling for outsiders, who aren't used to glowing green ghosts being around. To the Rahuri, though, drawing forth a spirit is a simple and well-known task. The Rahuri as for ancestral advice or assistance for all kinds of important jobs, or even just to teach the young their future professions. Tiny frogs, called coqui, are the messengers of the dead. Jungles around Rahuri villages tend to be full of the things, which chirp in a sort of high whistle. If a spirit needs to send a message, a coqui will find the recipient and whisper the message to them. This is the only time coqui speak rather than chirping. They tend to hang around pockets of land that connect to Soryana and thus are good places to speak to the ancestors. Generations of Rahuri typically write the names of their dead ancestors on the walls and offer up sacrifices. Once you find the name of your ancestor, you put an offering of fresh water out and attempt contact. If the dead wants to talk, you then speak to them. Beyond the name caves, you find the entrances to Soryana, the other side of the island, where the dead live in villages that very much resemble living ones. They wait to be called on there, ready to help the Rahuri.

Among the peoples of the Atabean, the Rahuri are considered worm and friendly, as long as you respect their authority over the sea. Once a visitor proves trustworthy, the Rahuri share freely with them and include them in all aspects of village life, including monster hunts. Intermarriage is common, though if you remain in the community you are expected to raise any childred with strict adherence to Rahuri beliefs. Among Rahuri, you typically find multiple generations under one roof. Families are egalitarian and may be led by men or women, with the head of household being the wisest and most able to provide. Marriage is negotiated between families but requires consent from both parties. Same-sex couples are not unusual and are given full equality. Rahuri clothing and possessions are typically made from sea salvage. Their weapons and furniture are often bone, their candles made of whale fat, their clothes made of skins. Children are considered to become adult between the ages of 12 and 14, when they go on their first hunt. Traditionally, they are to bring back pieces of the kill to make into weapons and jewelry to gift to their relatives as thanks for their childhood.

After the first hunt, a Rahuri youth is considered a legal adult and may speak at gatherings and make their own decisions. Weddings, however, are not performed until they have settled down and learned a trade. The Rahuri language, Taiya, is the common tongue of the Atabean and has made inroads as a trade tongue for pirates and colonists around the Sea. The Rahuri also maintain a deep spiritual heritage tying back to their time on the mainland. They believe Mama Yaya led them safely to their new home, and it was her who forged the pact with Apocoatl and helped to create Soryana. They venerate her and numerous other spirits of water, air and other elements, which are her children, as are the giant, sentient monsters of the sea. Mama Yaya's symbol is the turtle, and her main children are the lobster, dolphin, shark and seagull. The Rahuri do not consider their belief in spirits to be faith, but rather common sense - after all, they see the dead walk and help the tribe, so why not other spirits? Priests and holy leaders are not masters of the unknown, but rather leaders that guide the people in service to the sea. They teach that the magic of the dead is a gift, not to be feared or venerated, but used as a tool to help the people. It serves the tribe, and must never be used selfishly, or else the spirits will be corrupted.

The Rahuri practical approach to magic and spirits has led to conflict with Vaticine missionaries. The Rahuri see the Vaticine focus on science and hatred of magic as a denial of a power that manifestly exists, and they question if the Church is more about control than belief. However, their societal politeness and desire to keep the peace have allowed the Vaticine priests ot build churches across the Atabean, and some Rahuri have grown curious. Converts tend to be seen as confused by other Rahuri, who laugh at them and wonder why they'd turn against their traditions.

Rahuri politics require an organized structure in order to maintain the Rahuri culture across so many islands. They are united not just by language and religion, but by the leadership zstructure of the caciques. Every settlement, even the smallest, has its own structure that answers to the central authority of the Rahuri Nation. They gather under a single cacique, whose job is to protect the community, listen to requests for aid, officiate ceremonies, mediate disputes and serve as judge. The cacique is a leader in both war and peace, and is in charge of initiations of the youth and approving those who wish to visit Soryana and bring back an ancestor. A cacique remains in office to death or until a challenger proves to be a better alternative before all adults in the tribe. When a cacique dies, a number of successors are chosen based on deeds, then selected by vote of all adults, who are advised by the ancestors that choose to get involved. These successors are often advisors or children to the last cacique, but that isn't guaranteed. The Rahuri require children of caciques prove themselves even more than others, as they are wary of dynasties.

An island may have multiple caciques - one for each settlement. Each answers to the Great Cacique in Naca'an, typically by sending an ambassador to live there and sit on the Council of Renown. These ambassadors negotiate on behalf of their settlements and resolve intertribal disputes. Diplomacy is a key virtue for the Rahuri, who wish to remain united, and they see war between villages a failure for all involved. Rahuri law is also fairly simple. A household must maintain order over its people, animals and property. A trespass must be negotiated based on what is best for the tribe. If two households cannot agree, the cacique steps in to negotiate. There aren't many formal penal codes. Theft or harm of property is usually repaid with money or debt service. A Rahuri that is violent to another is punished by having to serve the Great Cacique or the village, under careful watch by guards, with length of service based on severity of injury.

Murder's a bit more complex. A murderer must pay his victim's family, but also take a trip to Soryana and beg the victim's forgiveness. The victim then accompanies them on a task to serve the entire tribe - usually harrowing and often deadly to the murderer. If they are successful, they are made part of society again.If they fail, they are forever banished from the tribe. Mass murderers are executed by the cacique via drowning and being fed to the monsters, and then by having Locuo destroy their soul.

Next time: Important People and Monsters

Pirate Nations: Whaling On The Moon

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Whaling On The Moon

Great Cacique Jibaro is the grandson of Manicato, the cacique who made the first pacts with the Thean. He is nearly 70 and has been Great Cacique since the age of 14. Under his rule, the Rahuri have prospered, but the Atabean Trading Company has overrun much of their territory. Jibaro works hard to keep control and maintain peace, but with so many caciques near open revolt, he believes he has been too lenient with the Theans for too long. He intended to step down and name his granddaughter Tanama as his successor, but she ran off to lead the Riroco against the Company, and so he has no protege. He struggles now, in his old age, trying to save his people and find someone to carry on his legacy.

Tanama is the granddaughter of Jibaro and had been his presumptive heir when he thought he was dying. She was raised on Borequen and has been educated by both Rahuri and Castillian teachers. She and her wife, Risa, have raising two daughters. Tanama left for Naca'an to prepare to take the throne...but when she did, her village was attacked and Risa and her children were captured. Tanama was infuriated and demanded the caciques bring justice against the slavers. They proved no help, so she turned her back on the throne and took her fastest ship, the Tiburon, out to sea with anyone that would help. This was the birth of the Riroco. Tanama has become the glue that holds the guerillas together, leading them in the hope of saving her people and her family.

Yuke Merritt is one of the most famous navigators and monster hunters in the Sea of Monsters. He is the son of an Avalon pirate and his Rahuri wife, and was named for the white beaches he was raised on. He grew up watching his father go out to sea in his ship, the White Sands, coming back with tales of the monsters the Rahuri slew. One day, however, his father didn't return. Yuke and his mother found the White Sands nearly destroyed at the entrance to Devil's Strait, and the Rahuri salvaged the vessel and gave it to Yuke, who used it and its surviving crew to find the sea serpent that slew his father and kill it. Truthfully, it was essentially luck, but the kill built his reputation, and soon people were coming from all over to hire Captain Merritt of the White Sands to help solve monster problems.

Those problems are, in fact, everywhere. The Atabean is full of giant eels, whales, squid and sharks - and that's just the normal animals. There's far weirder things down there. Rahuri legend says that these monsters are the food of the feathered serpent Apocoatl, and they cull the ocean so he can come and eat at any time he wants. Everyone else just shrugs and says they're monsters. Pretty much all sea life in the Atabean is larger than normal and more dangerous. Fish and even normally gentle creatures are big and generally aggressive, while the predators are insanely large, often able to drag down whole ships. The sea is also far deeper than might be expected - it's clear near the shores, letting you spot trouble, but once you get out into deep water, it becomes dark and hides monsters well. The sheer size of the sea creatures does, however, make for excellent fishing. The fishers use long and sturdy nets to pull up fish, crabs and eels as large as a man - or more. One catch could feed a dozen people. Fishing on the Atabean is dangerous, though, given the other creatures around. The Rahuri deeply respect fisherfolk and sailors as warriors and providers. Anyone that chooses to go out and hunt monsters is doing the will of the gods. Theans on the sea know that anyone who faces down these creatures is worth a free drink and a prayer - many who go out never return. Funerals with a body are rare, and the sailors and fishers consider lost limbs a badge of honor - distressingly common one.

Besides the sharks, eels and squid, there are unnatural beasts in the waters. Sailors have spoken of sharks with massive tentacles, able to pull entire ships into their mouths, or of whirlpools that come from nowhere and pull down a ship, then disappear. Some nights they hear voices singing, or speaking to them in the voices of their relative,s calling them to jump overboard. Most sailors know - they probably won't survive. Those who do, however, become wealthy beyond measure by slaying monsters and selling the bits. Monsters are the lifeblood of the Atabean, and almost every local industry involves hunting, processing and selling their parts. When the Theans came, they were amazed at how the Rahuri used every part of the creatures in their lives, and they began to export whalebone, eelskin, giant fish - all kinds of stuff. An entire trade grew out of what is now called 'extreme whaling.' it's easy to spot a ship preparing for a hunt. By tradition and pragmatism, each has at least one Rahuri hunter or whaler aboard, who will mark the ship with long white stripes, to resemble the Atabean sharks. You only need to ask for the captain to sign onto the crew - they're always looking for more sailors given the high mortality rate. They get plenty every time, though - the rewards are too rich to give up.

Once at sea, the whaling ships follow schools of fish, watching to see if they suddenly veer away from an area. That tells them a monster is nearby. Seasoned hunters will often know of a particular beast's hunting grounds and will stalk it for days or weeks. The hulls are filled up with chum to lure the monsters upwards, sometimes even dragging entire carcasses behind them. Each ship also has many harpoons, nets, dive lines and harnesses. The sailors leap off the ship into battle, climbing atop the backs of the monsters, armed only with a weapon and a harness. These ships will hunt any creature, not just whales, and every season, some go down. But again, the payday is astronomical. They drag the beasts aboard ship with hooks, processing them on deck to reduce their size. Sometimes, they can't, and have to use immense rafts to drag the body home, which can draw in more monsters. Once the carcass is at port, it is chopped, cut, cured and sold - every bit. The captain and crew split the profits, and hunters claim trophies as needed. Every ship keeps one piece of the kill as a trophy. Most of these whalers are primarily crewed by Rahuri, and always have at least one Rahuri aboard even if Thean. Often, they also have Rahuri spirits on board to help - seasoned whalers seeking revenge for their own deaths. Dead names on a crew are marked by a star on the roster to indicate their unlife. Theans often find the idea of crewing a ghost ship scary, but they tend to get used to it once the hunt begins in earnest - the ghost that wants to help you is less frightening than the squid that wants to kill you.

While Theans have documented all kinds of monsters on the sea, there are two that bear special mention. Mama Tortue, the Giant Sea Turtle, is the size of an island, with plants growing upon her back. For generations, she has been told of in Rahuri story. She is the daughter of Mama Yaya, and spotting her is a sign of good luck on a long voyage. She is a sentient (and immense) sea turtle, and her kindness has saved many a sailor from death. Legend goes that when the Rahuri came to the Sea, Mama Tortue was found trapped in a reef. The Rahuri fishers spotted her and worked to free her. She was already ancient, even then, and she thanked them and pledged to return the favor. Ever since, those lost at sea or swept overboard are occasionally found on the back of a sea turtle that sings them to sleep and delivers them to safety.

Tiburon, the Shark Whose Maw Consumes, is not so benevolent. He is a gigantic megashark of great intelligence that likes to rise under ships, tear out their hulls and occasionally swallow the smaller ones whole. He is almost invisible under the waves, his dark hide broken only by pale white tiger stripes. He is ever moving, never sleeps. Despite his terrifying appetite, however, he is not just a monster. Legend has it that Tiburon can become a man, or take over the body of a man, to check on the Rahuri. He is their guardian, who can be called on for aid in the face of great danger. Three times - and only three - have the Great Caciques called on Tiburon to destroy their foes. Once, against Aztlan raiders, and twice against nearby nations' raiding parties. Each time, the entire fleet was consumed in an orgy of death. Young Rahuri often seek out Tiburon as a rite of adulthood, asking him for one of his many teeth. They must climb into his mouth ot retrieve it, but if he judges them worthy, he will let them leave safely. However, those who are unworthy or who cut themselves on any of the many teeth, will be swallowed. It is said that these lost warriors are reborn as Tiburon's offspring, the smaller sharks. Most Theans initially dismissed the legends around Tiburon, but now, most who know of them believe. They've had a chance to run into him. ...and, of course, to blame him for all kinds of accidents, lost ships and general mischief which he was not actually responsible for. He's become kind of a bogeyman.

Places! Soryana is the island that is in both this world and the next. It is the home of the Rahuri ancestral dead, and to reach it, you need to be on a mission to seek out one of those dead. You can spot it sometimes if you're not - but you won't get there. Legend has it that Soryana was created by Apocoatl's oath - that the Rahuri bound themselves to the sea even in death. Their ancestors lingered, restless and lost, many going mad and attacking their people. Mama Yaya took pity on them and made an island for them to live in peace on until they were needed. Soryana. It appears and disappears on the horizon without warning, and most pathfinders that seek it either use gateways deep in the earth or head out to sea with no heading planned. If their intentions are pure, they will find a way.

Once there, the dead great visitors with food and refreshment...and if you eat of them, you may never leave the island. You must find the person you seek among the thousands of dead souls, and the island is much larger than it initially seems, full of both modern and ancient villages. The Rahuri work and live there as they did in life, tending the sea and the ghosts of the monsters. On finding your spirit, you then go to the great roundhouse of Locuo, the king of Soryana, who sits upon a throne of ancient sea beast bones at the foot of the only mountain. He is the ancient ancestor of the Rahuri, who led them to the Sea, and now is king of their dead. He decides if your reasons for needing the dead are worthy and sets the length of their trip. Only once he accepts a petition may a visitor leave, either by walking back over land to the mountain or sailing into the night. This practice is considered so common among the Rahuri that most have been to Soryana several times and understand the rules implicitly. Foreigners are welcome to try, but theey're going to need a Rahuri pathfinder and also most prove that their goals are for the greater good of the Rahuri and the Sea. Making Locuo angry can get your soul torn apart by the dead and used as chum.

Then you have the Devil's Strait - the dangerous passage between the Serpent's Sea and the Atabean. It lies just south of Guare Island and is nearly five miles long, surrounded by misty cliffs. On a clearer day, you can spot the two mountains on Guare, where the Rahuri elders retire to contemplate. But most days, it's full of fog that leaves you open to running into reefs and getting caught by monsters - ferocious giant squid, carnivorous flying fish and more. At the end of the strait is Haakenssen's Lighthouse, built by a Vesten architect, which provides a signal that you near the end of the strait. 'Seeing Haakenssen's light' is now a metaphor for the end of a long or hard journey. It has two beacons - one red, one green - that line up properly only if you're on the right course. There are other, secret ways into the sea...but those are all guarded by pirates and smugglers. The Thean nations have long sought charts that show all of them, but so far, none have been acquired.

The two greatest threats of the Devil's Strait are the ghost-sirens and Wu'a, the mouth of the Sea. Any sailor heading into the strait learns to cover their ears if they hear voices in the water. Chances are they're the voices of the restless dead - dishonored Rahuri who refused to return to Soryana or who were misused and driven mad. And even they are wary when the waters boil and the lights come from the mist, because those are the only warning of the doom that is Wu'a, the charybids that haunts the STait. Any ship that follows the lights will be caught in a whirlpool and dragged into Wu'a's waiting mouth. Once it feeds, it moves on, leaving only shards of hull in its wake. Its name comes from the Rahuri word most often shouted when it's found - "Wu'a" means "no".

Thorindin's Spires are a small island chain on the far northern edge of the Sea, too small to be considered individually. Collectively, they are the spires - a range of undersea mountains whose barren peaks stick up from the water. The Rahuri never settled them because there was nothing there, so htey were left basically untouched until the Vendel pirate Erik Thorindin came. He saw the colonies appearing on the southern isles amd sought out a territory to use as a Vesten outpost. He managed to pick the Spires, which was a really dumb move. They'd been abandoned by the Rahuri because the area was full of bad weather, possibly caused by a cursed spirit, and because the islands have essentially no plant life and only a few springs of fresh water, and because each is little more than the top part of an undersee tower, with how much island is even there shifting with the tide, making them very hard to map. Oh, and the islands are also full of underwater caves that are revealed and hidden by the tides, which you can get pulled into if you dock too close when the tide goes out, or be trapped in when it comes in. This makes them terrible for actually living on, but they're excellent for secret meetings, hiding places for treasure and ambush spots for raiders. The Riroco hide their ships in the Spires, using the caves on the larger islands to house freed slaves until they can be smuggled to real freedom, and if you feel like braving the eye of the needle, you can go between the Spires to head north to the mainland of Wabanahkik...if you don't smash yourself on the Spires themselves.

There are also three major Thean colonies. First is San Sancha, high on the cliffs above Borequen's western shore. It was named for Alejandro Dantes' first daughter - the first Thean child born in the Atabean. Legend has it he tried to negotiate to have the entire island named for her but couldn't convince the Rahuri. The Grand Cacique was amused, however, and let him name the outpost that instead. It was his reward for being friend to the Rahuri - a retirement village for him and his crew, which blossomed into a trade center for pirates and merchants. It is mostly Castillian and is a welcome reminder of home for Theans. Dantes was the first governor, but had to flee when the Castillians showed up to arrest him. They tried to take over, but when warned that if they did, the Rahuri would seize the city, so they gave up. The settlement is now run by a board of governors - a mix of pirates and anyone that can bribe their way in. It officially swears to no flag, recognizing the Rahuri as owners of the land, and is a firm ally to the Rahuri Nation.

Sylviette is a Montaigne colony on the Ile de Sylviette, a wooded island that proved the first totally Thean settlement in the Atabean. It is now a bastion of Montaigne culture and society. It was founded by the disgraced Mariquise Sylviette du Morne, and is said to be the only place of "real Thean civilization" in the West. It is home to music halls, artists and estates in the latest Montaigne designs, with the locals wearing hgigh fashion and holding opulent parties, all on the back of slaves purchased from the ATC. The gilded exterior hides the truth, however - it is a military outpost with a party culture overlaid on top. It was built and operates under guidance from Montaigne top intelligence, with hidden weapons stockpiles under the estates and ships ready to fight for l'Empereur. Marquise du Morne was never disgraced - rather, the Marquise was dispatched forrty years ago by the Sun King himself. As the Marquise ages, it is unclear who will inherit the island, its slaves and its secrets. The court there waits uneasily, and the parties continue.

Last is Fortunato, a cautionary tale to colonists. It was first proposed to the Rahuri as a Vodacce outpost on a small island near Yamaka, a home for traders. The original settlers built a small Vodacce town alongside the Rahuri, but they brought a strong Vaticine presence with them. The Church saw Fortunato as a perfect base for missionary work, and even began to plan expeditions from it to Aztlan. Soon, there were tons of priests and emissaries there. The Rahuri were patient and amused at first when the pushy and insistent missionaries came to them, but the fire and brimstone tactics employed soon ended that. When the Vaticines began to call the gates to Soryana unholy and tried to seal the entrance to a sacred cave system, the Rahuri revolted. In three nights, they seized Fortunato in a largely bloodless coup. The civilians were not harmed - the missionaries, however, were driven into the jungles or put out to sea in small boats, most never to be seen again. Since then, the Rahuri have run the place with the aid of Sorello, a former Vodacce shipping clerk who helped negotiate the new peace. For two years, Fortunato was closed to all Thean traffic, but it has recently reopened for trade and settlement under Rahuri management.

Next time: Aragosta

Pirate Nations: Pirate Don Quixote

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Pirate Don Quixote

So, around a generation ago, a desperate group of pirates formed an alliance to defeat the all-out war declared on them by Theah and the ATC. Their only cause was survival, and their only allies were each other. That small band grew to become the Brotherhood of the Coast, and their holdings have expended to be the Republic of Pirates, with a theoretical center in Aragosta. Every ship a state, every captain a voice on the Council of Captains. The tiny island is mostly used for transfer of goods and for entertainment than any kind of governance, of course, but it and the Brotherhood are ruled by an elected king or queen. Most discount the Republic of Pirates as little bit a villain's haven...but on the other hand, almost no one can stand up to the naval power of the Brotherhood when they gather en masse.

The story of Aragosta begins with Vincenzo "Knobby Knees" Gatto, who was the worst pirate in the world. Not in the sense of being the most terrifying, but in the sense that he just wasn't any good at it. Vincenzo Gatto was an old, rich Vodacce merchant with romantic dreams of piracy and no skills whatsoever at either ship command or combat. He spent his fortune to live out his dreams, beginning as a hunter of Crescent shipping in the Numanari Approach. He lost three ships and their crews with them, and earned a price on his head from both the Crescents and Vodacce, so he headed for the Widow's Sea to hunt Castillian vessels. He lost three more very expensive ships. Fearing for his life and knowing he'd really have trouble getting another crew, he took what he had left and headed for the Atabean Sea in search of better fortune.

He found none. He attacked a Castillian merchantman and failed disastrously due to a frigate guarding it, which crippled his ship and forced him to land on a large but unpopulated island covered in crabs and lobsters. Gatto decided that he was probably going to die on that rock, but at least he wouldn't have to starve...except for one problem: the frigate chased him down to arrest him for the reward. Gatto and his crew boarded their ruined vessel for one last stand when a giant lobster appeared, attacking both ships. The two crews worked together and slew the massive beast, and in exchange, the captain of the frigate, Jacinta Irati Loida Vela, offered to spare Gatto's life if he swore to never again practice piracy. Gatto swore that oath on the Book of Prophets, to never be a pirate again, and Vela sailed off, leaving Gatto to find a new dream - specifically, becoming the great Merchant Prince of the Atabean.

Gatto declared the crab-infested island his new home, dubbing it the Porto di Aragoste for the numerous crustaceans, and declaring it safe harbor for all pirates and ne'er-do-wells. Most knew it then and now as Aragosta. If Gatto couldn't be a pirate, he reasoned, he'd surround himself with them in a haven unlike any that had ever existed. Which isn't to say he had any good luck. He started by building a large tavern on the shore and naming it Vela's Mercy. It burned in down within a year. So, he rebuilt it as Vela's Dream, and it burned down within five weeks. So the third time he just went with 'Vela' and it ended up as the site of a violent battle between two rival crews that left it burned out and covered in blood. When he began rebuilding again, one of the pirate captains asked why he was rebuilding that bucket of blood, and in frustration, he renamed it Seccio di Sangue. For some reason, it survived that time - along with the name.

Over the years, Aragosta achieved Gatto's dream - it became a safe haven for pirates and scoundrels, an island that sold whatever illegal goods youm ight want, thriving and protected by those who believed in the power of crime. Gatto was the de facto governor, but he never actually enforced any kind of law or order - no king, no lord, just the crew. This made Aragosta quite dangerous, but he wanted it that way. The Bucket o' Blood, as the tavern became none, still stands to this day, and Gatto never thought it'd be the site of the most infamous agreement ever signed in Theah - an agreement signed in blood.

In the years after the island's establishment, the Castillian and Montaigne nobles became quite upset about piracy. Normally, they would hire warship to protect their merchantmen, but even that wasn't reliable any more, so the two nations form an alliance against pirates. The ships they hired to fight piracy flew the colors of Castille and Montaigne, but with a black dot in the middle of the flag, to mark them as pirate hunters. These ships, the black spots, hunted and slaughtered pirates, stealing their ships to sell off to Vesten and Vodacce. The Black Spot Fleet nearly destroyed Atabean piracy.

Nine great pirate captains met at the Bucket o' Blood: Roberts, Reis, Aardig, Fevrier, Carrigan, Hupia, Vinter, Quijano, Cannonnaso and Gosse. They spent a week discussing, trying to unite, before finally agreeing on a single Charter to bind all the vessels they commanded. It promises mutual protection, annual election of captains, a council of captains that would meet at the Bucket, sharing of spoils for repairs and fleet maintenance, protection of Aragosta, the sharing of sea charts and information, and a vow to hunt down any ship that flew the black spot. As punishment, any sailor who violated the Charter would be branded with a black spot as the true sign of a traitor. When the Charter was finished, all nine captains pooled their blood in one bowl and signed their names with it. The Republic of Pirates was born. Gatto was present htat night, and out of respect, he was given the chance to offer up his blood and his signature. Finally, Vincenzo Gatto was the pirate he always dreamed of. He walked back home with the aid of his cane and servant. A few years later, he headed out to fish in a small boat. A wave of fog rolled in and his servants lost sight of his vessel. When the fog left, he was gone, never to be seen again.

Today, ARagosta has been transformed from a small, minor pirate haven to the de factor capital of the Brotherhood of the Coast. Its popularity and its infamy have attracted countless pirate crews and captains, many of whom have signed the Charter and joined the Brotherhood, and they have helped to build Aragosta into a bustling freehold of shipbuilding, trade and smuggling. Aragosta is a safe haven for all of the Brotherhood and those they ike, though the fact that it's open to anyone willing to sail there means it also has everyone that's ended hated somewhere else in the world - wanted criminals, dissidents, political fugitives. All are welcome. Aragosta is the lowest common denominator. But hey, the lobster's great!

Most of Aragosta runs on a barter economy, primarily because the only natural resource on the entire island is the lobster. Every transaction is based on some mix of Guilders, goods and services, and reputation. There are three main measures of the Guilder that the Republic cares about : 100, 500 and 600. A hundred Guilders is the pay the Republic gives for loss of an eye or finger in service. Five hundred for a limb, six for something horrific and larger in scope than that. That's your only reliable standard of value to hte Guilder. So the question is, how difficult is what you want, compared to the kind of job that'd lose you an eye or a leg? That's how you price in Guilders. Larger transactions, however, rarely involve coin - they're usually based on haggling over goods. Fine coffee, facy cigars, sailcloth, a boat, a door repaired, an enemy investigated, a leg broken. It means that buying or selling anything takes a lot of time, of course. But the most important of Aragosta's currencies is reputation. Pirates live or die by fear, infamy, adventure and story. An exchange can alter your reputation based on how fairly the other side thinsk you haggled, how pleasant you made the process, or what promises of futre deals you made. Thus, the most powerful are those with an excellent reputaiton. Frequent and fair dealings with many poeple, who will vouch for you, that's what makes an elite on Aragosta. Everyone wants to talk to you because you can spread their name into a reputation of their own. This is why it's very hard to get an Aragostan to give a fair, honest assessment of someone else. Anywhere else, that's just tavern gossip - people talk about each other, make jokes, tell tall tales. In Aragosta, the description you give of someone you deal with is money you give away. Spend your money wisely.

Aragostan buildings are mainly built form shipwrecks - Vendel mead halls made out of longships, fences made of ship hull, roofing of snapped mast and sailcloth. If someone says you're dressed like an Aragostan, it means your clothing is mismatched, if charming - every sleeve or button beginning life on another shirt, stolen from another person, yet tastefully and classily assembled. From an Aragostan, it's a high compliment. From anyone else, it is a deadly insult to your sense of style. Aragostan food is likewise eclectic - and as a result, it's amazingly good. They mix meats, spices and recipes from across the world. You might not find any specific ingredient you go looking for, but you can easily find a dozen that are quite similar. And of course there's the lobster. Aragosta has dozens of different and excellent recipes for lobster bisque. A chef can actually make an excellent living on the island - sailors off a ship love eating food other people make, and will pay heavily for it. The poor have to make do with seafood, nutritious but lacking in vitamins that are the great luxury - which is to say, fruits and vegetables to ward off scurvy. While in Vodacce, 'aragosta' on a menu means lobster, 'Aragostan' on a menu means 'whatever looked good and/or cheap at the market today.'

Aragosta is covered in small churches, temples and shrines, rather like barnacles. The average pirate tends to be a rather more spiritual person than you might expect, simply as a result of being so close to death so often. Houses of worship are generally shared - a small church may service Dinists from the Crescent in the morning and Jaraguan Sevites in the evening, with a weekly Vaticine service one morning, and an Objectionist one at nightfall. They stay friendly pretty easily, not least because of the threat of cultists of the Devil Jonah. Many Aragostans are so terrified of Devil Jonah that they've decided he's the only dangerous spiritual power to worry about. Vaticines may complain of Objectionists, Objectionists may complain of Crescents - but none of them are chopping each other's limbs off and hurling them into the sea for dark powers, so that makes them okay. At least, that's what everyone says Jonah cults do. Rumor has it that they perform violent, deadly rituals involving sacrifice of body parts in order to be rewarded by the evil spirit that is the Devil Jonah. Jonah worship is the only crime on the island that is punishable by exile or death, usually at the hands of an angry mob.

Aragosta has no formal government - just power players, those with enough wealth to control a district. The real power, however, is in the hands of the senior captains and the King of the Pirates. (Queen, these days.) The war with the Black Spots is long since ended, but now a new war is brewing against the Atabean Trading Company. Their recent creation of what amounts to private Letters of Marque against their rivals is a blatant attack on the Brotherhood...and the real knife is that one of the First Captains, Stephen Fevrier, is now a Company man. A pirate hunter. Company President George Rourke promised him the deed and rulership of all Aragosta if he can end the Republic and kill all of its successful captains. This betrayal is legendary, and it couldn't come at a worse time.

The King of the Pirates is the job no one wants, but someone has to have. It's a thankless, tiring job. The First Charter maintains that the King must stay on Aragosta to manage disputes and keep the peace. The First Captains agreed to this because none of them wanted the job and none of them wanted the others to enjoy the job. The Charter is vague on what it means, however, and each King has interpreted it differnetly. King Roberts continued to sail, returning once a month handle affairs. King Gosse was a more permanent resident, leaving the island once or twice a year for adventure. A few years ago, however, he retired after being maimed in battle by the Company, losing the use of one arm and requiring a cane. No one wanted to take the crown after him, so he announced that on the last day of the year, the last Captain to arrive and tell him they didn't want the job would be the one to get it. Every captain sailed in that day as quick as they could. It went long, the sun setting, until at last, Captain Morgan, Jacqueline Bonaventura arrived and was made Pirate Queen. The King (or now Queen) rules from Gatto's old mansion atop the hill by the port. It has a small staff, and receives 10 percent tax on all treasure obtained by the Brotherhood...but a gilded cage is a cage, and all three monarchs have hated it. The pirates hate following rules, but they must have a leader to survive.

Since the founding of the Republic, it has suffered two great betrayals, and each has shaken them to their core. The first was Captain Reis. She - yes, she - is one of the most feared pirates in the world, called the scarlet reaper. Why do so many on the continent think she's a huge man with a scythe? Because...well, she doesn't leave survivors, but the tale keeps opping up. Some believe the Devil Jonah made her leave some survivors alive, but that she has her first mate claim to be Reis to keep heroes off her scent. Others think some man is out there using her name and reputation and hoping never to meet her. Anyway, when the First Charter was formed, no one actually expected her to show up, but she did. In the first week, no one expected her to sign the First Charter, but she did. And no one expected her to keep to it...but she did. No one knew it then, but she was willing to help out and even to wait years to enact her true villainous plot. She is a very, very patient predator.

Reis was the one who suggested the Charter be signed in blood. She peformed the ritual that bound them all together, and while the others didn't truly understand the blood rite they did, or its implications, Reis knew. Everyone knew it was magic, but only she knew what it meant. She knew the ritual that tied them all - and when she went to the Devil Jonah and offered him the souls of those bound to her in exchange for immortality, the Charter let her do it on an equal footing to the most terrifying being on the sea. There was only one catch - Jonah would need to claim each captain's soul himself, at the exact moment of death. Jonah took the deal. The Captains weren't aware of this betrayal until Roberts was wounded and captured by a pirate hunter. As he lay dying, the Black Freighter appeared from the fog. The survivors said Jonah's crew attacked the pirate hunter, but that the Devil Jonah himself took the very soul from Roberts' body. After Roberts, it was Hupia, betrayed by his first mate and bosun. At the moment of his death, the Freighter appeared, and Jonah took his soul as well. And then Gatto vanished in the fog. A pattern became evident.

The Captains soon figured it out. Reis' betrayal has put her on every Brotherhood ship's hit list. The curse of the Charter should have struck Reis, but none of the other captains know if it did, or if the Devil Jonah gave her a way to avoid that fate. Any ship that has encountered the Crimson Roger since has not survived to tell the tale and answer the question. The First Captains are now all damned by the betrayal. The Devil Jonah haunts them, waiting for them to die so he can take their souls. The Charter holds, but it's only a matter of time now before Jonah comes calling.

Next time: The Second Betrayal and the major Captains.

Pirate Nations: Steve February

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Steve February

Stephen Fevrier was another First Captain that signed the original Chaarter - indeed, he'd been a quiet man who was among the first to call for an alliance against the Black Spots. Shortly after their defeat, though, his ship was caught in a storm that took him to the Seventh Sea and trapped him and his crew there for three years, dodging horrors from beyond reality. Eventually, Fevrier made a pact with an entity within the Seventh Sea that let him escape, but at a horrible cost. While 30 months had passed for him and his crew, 30 years had passed in the actual world - and now, he was bound to the beast and was slowly changing, growing to resemble his otherworldly master. He joined the ATC, giving them all the secrets he knew - names, places, ports, sea charts. He began hunting the other First Captains and the Brotherhood in general. The Company gives him crews and ships, but he still prefers the one he brought back from the Seventh Sea, crewed by men and women who were ex-pirates, as he is.

No one is sure why Fevrier betrayed the Brotherhood. Perhaps he believes hunting them down will somehow free him from the pact he made with the monsters of the Seventh Sea. Perhaps he thinks they betrayed him somehow, condemning him to his fate. Perhaps he's just gone utterly mad. Whatever the case, the Company has promised him Aragosta, if he can destroy the Republic of Pirates and shatter the Brotherhood. Fevrier is certain that, armed with his strange ship, his crew and the wealth of the Company - he can do it. He may not be wrong.

To join the Republic is easy. Many have done it, signed their own Charters and nailed them to the walls of the Bucket o' Blood. All you need to do is write your own Charter, sign it in blood and put it on the wall. The specific ritual used by the First Captains has been lost - only Reis knew it, after all - but others have mimicked its procedure and gotten lesser effects. What Reis and the First Captains did has been passed down in 40 years of oral tradition, and its purity has been corrupted. The sorcery just isn't as powerful now as it once was. Still, signing a blood Charter gives both a blessing and a curse. Those that abide by it get luck, those that break it get ruin. Of those First Captains, only five remain. Three of the original crew are dead, one is missing, and Gatto of course vanished as the tenth. They remain, however, notorious figures.

Morgan Jacquueline Bonaventura, the Pirate Queen is the third to hold the job. She is a literal bastard - she was born without a family, knowing neither parent. She was raised in an orphanage and apprenticed as a sailor on a Castillian fishing boat. Five years later, she was an officer aboard Gentleman Gosse's ship. She sees Gosse as her true father, who taught her everything she knows. Since taking her job as Queen, she's proven a progressive and dynamic leader - she wants to do things right, and has implemented improved communications using various magically talented pirates as well as developing new lines of trade to areas that aren't La Bucca. Her strict policy of solidarity has meant many leave the island marked with the black spot, but her improved defenses have prevented heavy losses during Company raids. Unfortunately, it's under her that Fevrier has come back. Both the Company and Fevrier have underestimated Bonaventura, at least, thanks to her youth. She's managed to keep the captains loyal and coordinated, but she's having trouble continuing to rally the entire Republic indefinitely. She needs to find a feasible end to her war before the coalition fractures. She has to defeat her foes, maintain her limited power, keep Aragosta out of Company hands and stop the Devil Jonah from taking more souls. To make it worse, it's not been a profitable war. Yes, they've captured newer, faster ships...but their losses outnumber their gains, thanks to Fevrier's pirate hunters and pirates choosing to break ties and leave the fight. Some think Bonaventure must be removed to make peace with the ATC, if she can't win soon. While Bonaventura doesn't want the job she's got, Gosse has trusted her with it, and she respects no one more. She is deeply frustrated, as anyone who meets her can tell. She is currently relying on the aid of her best friend, Madeline Dorman, and her sisters Chloe and Sophie, all skilled sorciers of Porte, who are running the communications side of the Brotherhood. The rest of her crew has moved on, but have all promised to rejoin her if she ever salls La Dama Roja again.

Michael "Cannonnaso" Gatto was never a great pirate. He had a crew, his ship didn't sink, he did pirate once. But he's always been better on land. He runs the longshoremen and workers of Aragosta. He's an older man, the son of the original Gatto, and has lived on the island his entire life. You want something done, you go to him. But you don't use his nickname unless you've earned it. You'll know when that happens - it's when you can use it and he doesn't have guys break your nose and limbs. He's called that because, yes, he has a big nose and lots of allergies. He's gotten used to it, insofar as he can. He's Bonaventura's right hand man, the guy who runs the island for her. He speaks Vodacce fluently and without accent but has never left the Atabean Sea. He hasn't a head for sailing or strategy - his expertise lies in shipping, scheduling and smuggling, and in finding people to delegate the things he's not good at to. He trusts capable people who will try new things. He's main gripe is organizational - he thinks that Aragosta needs more laws and accountability. Not a lot, but more. So far, every time he suggests it, he gets shouted down.

Konstance Vinter is gigantic. She's over six feet tall, with dark blonde hair to her shoulders. Her ship, Dame Dod, is a black frigate with black sails. While she's been running it for 25 years, she doesn't look a day over 30. When she speaks on the Council of Captains, her voice shakes the walls. She's made it clear that she wants to put together a giant fleet and just burn down Fort Freedom, the ATC's headquarters, once and for all. Bonaventura often reminds her that not everyone living there is part of the Company or even complicit, so she's been focusing on raiding Company hsipping near Vestenmennavenjar so that she won't be tmepted to act rashly. Still, her mind is always on Fort Freedom. She's still a hero - for now. She used to be a merchant with the Vendel League, who brought her wife and children to the New World to share her purpose...until they became targets of the ATC. Her wealth and power made her dangerous, so the ATC murdered her family and framed her for the crime, convincing the governor to ship her to Fort Freedom for her prison sentence, where they took all her holdings and used them to build up their slaving trade. She and few others ran a prison break, though of the 24 who started it, only 4 survived. Konstance became a pirate in order to fight the corrupt tyranny of the Company. She still remembers the screams, the torture, the labor, the hunger. She believes the only way to end her nightmares forever is to burn Fort Freedom down. As for why she ages slowly...well, one story says she was kissed by an Avalon Sidhe who gave her long life. Others say she found a fountain of youth in Aztlan, and another says she got a Vodacce FAte Witch to cut the black cord of death from her before she sailed for the Atabean. Konstance will never speak about which, if any, is correct.

Grace Aardig is the Old Dame now. Once, she was a beautiful young woman who had just taken her first prize ship - that was when she signed on with the first Charter. She's old now, knobby, has outlived two husbands, and she generally prefers to stay in the dry, warm climate of Aragosta where she can command her rather large fleet of ships from her armchair. They are, after all, run by her children and grandchildren. This makes Grace the head of the largest voting bloc on the Council, as all of her captains have signed their votes to her, and she attends every goddamn metting. It's no secret she's not a fan of Bonaventura, but she's busy enough with her own fleet to not worry about the whole Republic. She favors a more defensive strategy of wasting the Company's time and money...and because of her voting power, that's what the Republic is mainly doing. She can barely remember the old days, but they taught her hard wisdom. While she can no longer dance, she loves to listen to her grandson Ronnie play the fiddle, and she keeps tabs on her entire family. Her first great-grandchild, Emily, is a month old. She is in constant pain from arthritis and old injuries, but it keeps her sharp. She doesn't drink except for a dram of whiskey for the sharper pains, and while she is a cranky busybody, she's still sharp. Some think she's gone deaf; she lets them think this, and sees it as her job to keep others from making her mistakes.

James Dharr is the captain of the Lamya. Every time he comes into port, he's a conquering hero with exotic plunder and tall tales, host of an island-wide party that lasts days and ruins all productivity whenever he shows up. Bonaventura loses weeks of planning whenever he shows, and to her chagrin, even Cannonnaso and Aardig like him. He claims to be the bastard son of an Avalon Sea Dog and a Crescent princess. What's worse is how eloquent his speeches are at Council about going beyond the Atabean in search of treasure. Bonaventura would love if he really did just leave and never come back...but his charisma brings in more recruits than any other captain, and if he left, many would go with him. Dharr's most recent return sparked an eight day party on Aragosta thanks to the gold bullion and ivory he brought back from Ifri. He claimed to have married the daughter of a king and gotten it as a wedding gift before leaving the princess at the altar to sail away. He finds the entire Atabean political stuff exceptionally boring and thinks that the ATC is unable to catch any decent pirate, much less himself. He preferred Bonaventura before she was Queen and got all uptight, thinking that if she was like that still, the Company'd be done already. Problem is, he said something like that once too often and she's gone cold to him. For all his bragging and arrogance and vanity - he is a hero, through and through. Just, the kind that makes sure he's first there when anyone needs help, and makes sure everyone knows he was first there. Doing right is a principle for him...but he wants to have fun doing it.

Thomas St. Claire is the star of John Wick's second novel, Born Under the Black Flag, but that's not actually very important to his role in the game. He's famous as a captain for the Republic because, for almost 10 years, he was one of the worst scum on the sea, first mate under William Stroud on the Crimson Ghost. He was a heartless monster, like his captain, who would burn down a settlement and rot out a ship just for a few coins. But...something happened to him. He was caught by the ATC and sent to a "plantation." He spent two months there and then, on official record, he was hung until dead. He showed up shortly after as a pirate captain, hunting down the Crimson Raiders with the ruthless efficiency he'd had as a Crimson Raider. Two years later, his ship, the Hanged Man, made port in ARagosta. He walked in with a young girl at his side, nailed his Charter to the wall and threw down a sack of coins to buy everyone's drinks, as demanded by tradition. Then he left with the girl. So, the truth? He was a monster, yes. There's too much blood on his hands to get rid of. But as he hanged, he saw a vision of black fire under his feet, and a light and beatific face gazing down at him from above. Ever since, he's been a changed man. The monster is still there, but he's caged it. He's found new purpose - a new reason to get up each morning. That purpose? Kill the Crimson Raiders. Every last one.

Morgan Doyle is the classic Inish pirate - short, one-eyed, long braided red hair, knack for surviving just about anything. Rumor has it that he's survived more monster attacks than any other pirate on the entire Atabean Sea. However, he cannot remember why he came out to the sea. All he knows is that he has a locket bearing two pictures - his own and that of a beautiful woman - and that sometimes, he can hear Sidhe whispers in his dreams. He knows he's lost something but isn't sure what it is or where. The truth? He grew up in a small fishing village and fell in love with a woman named Cordelia. He tried to put her out of his mind when she was shipped off to Vodacce to marry a noble, but he met her again a decade later when she hired him to smuggler her out of Vodacce by night. They returned to Inismore to be married, but found their entire village had vanished. They set out to rescue their friends and family, to find the truth...but then, they ran foul of Unseelie, who stole Cordelia away and took Morgan's memory, dropping him off in the Atabean for his trouble. Morgan can't remember much of his past, but he knows he will fight for the poor and innocent, that evil wins when good does nothing, and that it's better to have loved and lost than to be cold. In his dreams, he hears whispers of something he should know but doesn't, feels a Sidhe hand stroking his face and drawing silver threads. Part of him knows he must leave the Atabean. If the right heroes show up, he'd love to return to Inismore and regain his memory, to find out what he must do to meet the woman he knows he loves, but whose name he can't recall - only the face in the locket.

Locations! The Claws are the two forts on either edge of Lobster Bay, the main bay on which the docks, quays, wharves and piers are built. They are armed with long guns meant to deter enemy ships. One of the Claws was built by the Republic, while the other is made out of an abandoned Vaticine friary. They're high, solid structures built decades ago, which is kind of a problem. Their square build is antiquated, wiuth modern ones using the Vodacce Star pattern to have mounted guns covering all angels of approach. So far, only the Company and some governments can afford star forts in the Atabean, though. Bonaventura would like to raise funds to rebuild the Claws, but she's had no luck. The bay itself has pure white beaches intersperesed with ship moorings and ships under construction. Aragosta's the place to get a new ship, especially a coastal raider. The best builder is Red Alice Stewart, an elderly Highlander whose name is not taken from her (black) hair, but from her undending sunburns. For ten years, she's complained of the sun and swore each project would be her last, until one of her friends put a sign up over her door - 'Red's Ten-Year Retirement.' Red's never taken it down - she just changes the number each year. (It is now 22.)

The Bucket o' Blood has been destroyed and rebuilt many, many, many times. Bona ventura and Cannonaso have finally spent a fortune transforming it into something amazing, hiring Augustin Hebert, an Eisen castle architect, to make a tavern that couldn't be destroyed. He took the challenge, using modern Castilliand and Eisen design to make a modular interior for easy replacements. The inner walls are coated in Charters, flags, fish, anchors and ship's wheels, all with a story the staff will happily tell. The food is expensive by Aragostan standards but quite good. The bouncer is Adetokunbo, a 40-year-old Ifrian mercenary who is said to have met the O'Bannon when he went to Inismore to fight the famous boxers there, and made the man smile just by standing there. The main floor is for the common pirate, with uncomfortable but sturdy chairs that make decent weapons, and tables bolted to the floor, designed to be too heavy even for Ussurans to lift after Herbert witnessed pirates flipping tables after games. The three walls that don't face the harbor all have their own bar, and two spiral staircases lead up to the balcony level, where the tables have tablecloths and the chairs are comfy. Dancers, musicians and jugglers are always working upstairs, and the customers are wealthier, with candles on the tables. The food costs the same, but the waitstaff expect much better tips for their wit and expertise. A few of the ladies were courtesans in Vodacce and expect the treatment they'd get at home from admirers. The third floor is all private rooms, mostly for meetings. Some are retained by the Republic in perpetuity. They're not as fancy as you might see in Vodacce or Montaigne, but are extremely large.

Then there's the Emperor's Boyfriend, which takes some telling. A decade after the Black Spots were defeated, the Captain Zwarte Hoop's shop, Angstrdroom, picked up a castaway on the eastern side of Aztlan. She spoke no known language, and even the Jaraguan and Aztlan crewmen were baffled by her appearance and clothes. When she was offered water, she stripped naked on the deck and revealed a skin covered, head to toe, in elaborate tattoos, which seemed alive in the sunlight, moving across her skin. Later, she impressed them by saving Hoop as he was dragged across the deck by a broken spar. She leapt from the deck to the ratlines to catch him, breathing air into his mouth for minutes while he untangled himself from the ropes underwater. When asked how she managed to mvoe so fast and hold her breath even longer than the best pearl divers, she pointed to her tattoos and said something that sounded like 'whoa sherr Whenshen.' Ever since, she's been Wenshen. Hoop became convinced the tatoos were magic, and asked for one in exchange for whatever she wanted (via a long series of hand signs and sand drawings). She agreed, and he took her to Aragosta, giving her a share of his loot. She mixed her inks, using a goldsmith's forge to make her own needles, and gave him his first tattoo.

Before long, she was in high demand. She learned Numanari, which she speaks with a heavy accent, and she doesn't give a tattoo to all the customers that enter her shop - that'd be the Emperor's Boyfriend, a name she says means 'miserable job' in her homeland's slang. She talks to her customers and often asks a task of them before she'll do the work, and she always gives you the mark you need, not the one you want. She also does mundane tattoos for cash, but she never lists prices - she charges based on what she thinks of you after looking you over, and each tattoo is custom. You never ask for someone else's. She has now trained several apprentices over the years, and she once told Hoop and a few others of her two terrible voyages and her trek across Aztlan. Most of her stories are tall tales of warriors leaping from tree to tree, fighting aerial monsters. Her favorite stories are similar to her own tales, but about Theah, IFri, Aztlan or the Crescent Empire rather than her own homeland. Her shop is right by the Bucket o' Blood, and she's been known to give a magic tattoo to someone who tells a particularly good story over particulalry good booze.

The Forever Reef...well, everyone knows Aragosta sits on top of an ancient reef - you can see it if you go swimming. Everyone just assumed there was more rock and coral under it, until Bonaventura hired a squad of adventurers to investigate Devil Jonah cultists. They discovered ruins under the reefs, which went deep, deep inside - below the sea floor. Chambers, tunnels, chutes, secret doors, ladders - all on top of each other in some kinf of cylindrical maze that went as far down as you cared to go. After a disastrous fight with the cultists destroyed the entrance, the captains decided to blockade the place...until the Explorers got wind of it and showed up. Expeditions are limited to low tide due to flooding, but they've discovered some things. First, the ruins appear to be Syrneth in origin, but some of the devices appear to have been modified and corrupted with the kind of devilish prostheses granted by the Devil Jonah. The upper levels of the reef are fully inhabited by cultists, outcasts, beggars and traitors, though just a few months ago they found a quick tunnel to move from one side of the island to the other as a shelter against hurricanes. It has also become a haven for thugs and assassins, known as the Forever Reef or the Aragostan Underground. It's dangerous even for the bravest heroes - ten times worse than surface Aragosta in its worst moments. The murderers openly ply their trades, without care for any rules of god or man. The deeper levels currently known are four to five stories under the island, with windows of glass or crystal that reveal the water beyond, and tunnels of seawayer cutting through and across. Locks and hatches would allow a diver, if daring enough, to enter the water.

The archaeologists have noticed a strange effect, however. The lower you go in the tunnels, the sicker you get. At first it feels like nausea, but the deeper you go, it starts to turn into madness, and before long you don't want to come back up. Those who go too low return saying that they saw things down there - people - and that the sea creatures clinging toe the glass spoke to them, saying true things. They spoke of dark shapes darting through the water, with trailing tails, whiuch carried weapons of coral and brass, with glistening eyes and ruined mouths in human faces. So that's fun!

Next time: Secret Societies on Aragosta, bad guys, and the Devil Jonah his own self.

Pirate Nations: Fifteen Men As A Dead Man's Chest

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Fifteen Men As A Dead Man's Chest

Aragosta is off all the major trade routes, so it's a pretty safe place for secret societies compared to Fort Freedom or the colonies. The Brotherhood of the Coast is based there, obviously, though most of the actual island's permanent residents aren't members. (Cannonnaso is only by virtue of having once captained a ship, briefly.) Pretty much the entire island economy runs on their piracy. Die Kreuzritter recently learned of the Devil Jonah when a member destroyed one of his dark gifts with a dracheneisen dagger. They're now wondering if dracheneisen would prove useful and effective against Jonah himself. The Explorer's Society is officially based out of Fort Freedom, regionally, but many who distrust the Company have decided to work out of Aragosta instead. Their new chapterhouse is in the Forever Reef. The Invisible College have a major contact in the form of the bartender Huemac, who is a member. Order the right drink, and he'll take you into the back and through a network of secret doors and staircases, to a sub-basement that got lost during all the rebuildings, which he's turned into a scientific lab.

The Knights of the Rose and Cross have no presence on Aragosta, and the locals wouldn't particularly like their moralizing if they did. Los Vagabundos have shown up, however. A few years ago, the Company hired an assassin to murder Queen Bonaventura, and she tried to shoot her at the bucket of blood. The masked vigilante El Vagabundo appeared in the nick of time, snatched the bolt from the air and chased the shooter down, defeating her in single combat, though the assassin killed herself rather than be captured. Bonaventura has been looking for more information ever since - she's grateful, but doesn't like knowing someone's watching her. Mociutes Skara operate fairly openly on Aragosta, and have a network of sympathizers who provide them with safehouses for refugees that have been extracted from various Atabean conflicts. The Rilasciare briefly and disastrously attempted to set up a cell in Fort Freedom, and have since headed for Aragosta. There's no nobles there except Queen Bonaventura, who barely counts, but that lack of activity means it's a good fallback point.

No,w villains. The big villain group (besides the ATC, who get their own dang chapter) is the Crimson Raiders. Once Reis betrayed the Republic of Pirates, she needed allies, and so she offered bargaisn and promises, and some say even made a deal with the Devil Jonah. The result is the Raiders. All who join make a blood pact with Reis and fly a red Jolly Roger. They swear to take no prisoners, show no mercy to enemies and to take anything not nailed down. They give up pity and fear, replacing it with violence. Now, if you see the red Jolly Roger, you know it's Reis' fleet, and your options are fight, flee or die. Reis has seven captains under her so far, each as wicked as she. She calls them her Seven Deadly Sins: Black Heart Spannagel, Jeremie Otto Oliverson, Andrej Vinicius Edwardssen, Maredudd Wallis, Ioanna Celso Mah, Jame Akelsesen and her favorite - William Stroud.

William Stroud is known as the Red Ghost of the Atabean. He's merciless and cruel, and he always wears fine silks, a black wig and a wide-brimmed hat. He's a dandy, and his accent's unplaceable but definitely not Avalon, despite his name. Maybe Eisen or Ussuran. His ship, the Red Ghost, never takes prisoners, and it is said that he cannot be killed by any weapon - not pistols, not swords, nothing. This is because, they say, his heart is hidden somewhere at sea.

Which brings us to the Devil Jonah's gifts. On a dark night at Backbreaker's Bay, on the north side of Aragosta, you might find a man and his mates. The man will bite down on a belt to stop the screams as the others cut off his limb or pluck out his eye. Then he will say a quick prayer to the Devil Jonah, using the true name of the Black Freighter: the Caroline. He will throw the appendage into the Devil's Spout, a blowhole at the edge of the bay, and wait alone by the shore ofr a gift from Jonah to wash up at his feet. The Spout's not actually required, either. Aynone who wants to can cut off a limb, say the prayer and hurl it into the water, waiting for a gift to return to them. Some do it out of desire for power, some to stay safe from the Devil, some because their crew won't take them unless they do. And some don't do it, but have the Devil himself board their ship and take their limb, leaving a gift behind. While the Devil Jonah gives the same gift to all, those who have it taken by force are less likely to be happy about using it than those who gave willingly. Gosse tried to stamp out the practice, but while many crews that follow Jonah's ways have been forced out of the Brotherhood, lone sialors and captains remain that have the gifts. Bonaventura has personally decreed that no further captains will be allowed into the Republic if they have the Devil's gift - she doesn't trust them. These gifts vary. Often, they are strange, creepy devices to replace a lost hand, leg or eye, but not always. They never work for anyone but the one that sacrificed to Jonah - and if you ever try to hurl your gift back into the sea, sell it or even give it away, it will return to your side by ther next fall of night.

The story of Jonah himself is told in-character by an old ghost to a serving girl named Jocelyn as a framing device. (A literal ghost, as it turns out, though not a Rahuri-style one.) But the tale goes like this. There was a pirate captain, Gonzalez, who was as good and honest as a pirate can be. His quartermaster, Jonah, was a black-hearted traitor, and while Gonzalez knew Jonah to be a wicked man, he thought there was good buried in there. There was not. Gonzalez also had a master gunner, a Vodacce woman with the gift of Sorte. The three of them and the other officers had, years ago, written up a charter, written in blood. Gonzalez' mother was Avalon, and there was magic in his blood - and in the gunner's, and in Jonah's. The Charter swore all to be loyal to the hsip, giving them a kind of magic no one had ever seen before. This was long, long before the First Charter and the Brotherhood ever existed.

The Charter gave each hand a vote, among other things, and to break it called down a horrible curse - a curse that could not be cured even by a Vodacce witch. Since the signing of the Charter, the ship knew nothing but clear skies and good hauls. They were happy. But one da,y Gonzalez saw a beautiful woman on another ship, and he became obsessed with her, seeking neither treasure nor glory - only her smile. He ignored wealthy galleons coming from the New World. He ignored Vesten ships laden with cargo. All he wanted was the woman, whom he could not find. The crew began to mutter, and Jonah whispered to them, poisoning hteir minds with it, but making sure the gunner woman never heard of it. One day, they saw a ship flying the flag of some Atabean plantation. The Captain said he was not interested, but Jonah called a vote, and the crew decided to take her.

There was no battle - on seeing the Jolly Roger of Gonzalez, the ship surrendered. But when the crew looked for treasure, they found nothing but illegal slaves. By the Charter, all slaves were to be released and given command of the slaver ship, abandoning the old crew on the nearest island. Jonah demanded they break with that, keep the slaves and sell them. Gonzalez refused - he reminded Jonah of the Charter's curse if broken, and so they followed it, and didn't even keep the ship to sell. And that was the last day Gonzalez was captain. When the moon rose, Jonah led the crew in mutiny, murdering all those still loyal. They reached the ugn deck, and Jonah's own blade pierced the master gunner's heart. She reached out and touched Jonah's face, her hands thick with blood, and she whispered a dying curse: "Vivere per sempre." Live forever.

He was unworried - a dead witch's curse can be cured by a live one. Then, the mutineers reached the captain's quarters. The two men duelled, but it was clear Jonah was neither so fast nor so good as the captain, and he ordered his crew to hold the man down. But it would not go so cleanly. Gonzalez fought them off, sword in one hand, Charter in the other. When he struck a traitor with the Charter, that man would burst into red and gold flames. They fought across the ship, and Gonzalez found he had no crew left that was loyal and alive. When he saw the gunner's body, his soul snak, and al lthe fight left him. Jonah and the mutineers overpowered him, but as they did, Gonzalez placed the Charter against Jonah's chest and drove his sword through the both of them. The Charter exploded in flame and the sword pierced Jonah's black heart. Jonah was hurled like a cannon shot, on the deck, chest aflame, and the captain fell overboard into the dark waters.

But though his heart was pierced, Jonah did not die. He was burned and bloodied - but the witch's curse kept him from death, and the Charter's damnation kept him from life. From that day, ever onwards, the Devil Jonah has been trapped between life and death. He is unlike any other creature, for his flesh rots off his traitorous form. And so, he must steal the flash and bones of living men, and he haunts the seas even today, captaining the Black Freighter, as any sane man now calls the Caroline, to raid ships and plunder their crews of flesh. When the Black Freighter comes - always by night, and now more bone than wood, its body repaired with the bones of sea monsters - the only escape is to sail like madmen until sunrise. Otherwise, you will be caught in its grapples, for Jonah never sinks a ship. He and his crew of skeletons will board your ship, and he will relish the fear and the hate, for he despises the living, he envies them. He will take limbs and eyes offered to him by the crew - and if you are unlucky, he will take those not offered as well, or even a whole person. He rarely touches passengers, unless they have been crew to a ship themselves. But the worst tales say that sometimes, if angered, the Devil will take all souls aboard, save for those who have previously given him an eye or limb.

That, incidentally, is why it is bad luck to board a free-floating vessel with no souls aboard. You walk where the Devil his own self once tread. But if Jonah meets someone who has already given him a limb, well, he thanks them personally. "One limb is all I require of thee, me hearty, but if you wish to donate more, I'd be willing to part with a fine gift from me hold," he says. The offer stands.

Next time: Jaragua

Pirate Nations: Rum, Tobacco and Slaves

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Rum, Tobacco and Slaves

For most of Jaragua's history, it was just Rahuri chiefs fighting over the rich fishing, mining and planting of the fertile island. A hundred years ago, however, Theans covered it in plantations, crowding the local Rahuri into the mountains. When the Atabean Trading Company seized those plantations by treachery and lies, they added the crucial ingredient to bring out Jaragua's real productive potential: slaves. Their greed led to working hundreds, even thousands of Ifrians and Rahuri to death in order to make the island their most profitable holding. And yet, these captives - the most vulnerable people alive - developed an unbreakable spirit that inspired daring escapes, the founding of runaway communities and support networks, and more. The Mawons, as these escaped slaves who turned to fight the Company were known, organized a revolution, using their superior numbers, excellent strategy and brutal determination to overwhelm Company security and seize Jaragua. They have turned it into a nation, a cultural mixing of Ifrian and Rahuri beliefs and a potential agricultural powerhouse, guarded by an army that has done the impossible. The Company doesn't want anyone to know about Jaragua and its history. They'd prefer no one believes their slavery exists, that there was no revolt, that nothing important happens there. But Jaragua is their biggest failure, and they will stop at nothing to tear it down.

Jaragua is the largest landmass in the Atabean Sea, right on the eastern edge, between Theah, Ifri and the Atabean proper. Las Alpes Azurees, a blue-tinged mountain range, bisects the island. The weather would be pleasant all year if not for the droughts, floods, earthquakes and hurricanes. The fishing is great, barring the sea monsters, and the farming is excellent. The forests are full of unique wildlife and also hidden seams of copper, gold, marble and limestone. The many natural resources led the early Rahuri settlers to establish five competing chiefdoms that fought politically and militarily over the fields and fisheries. By the time of the Thean arrivals a century ago, only the Mariana Chiefdom in the north and the Higuey Chiefdom in the south remained, having consumed the other three. Both sold the Castillians and Montaigne farmland in 1568, in exchange for Thean technology and crafts, in an effort to gain an edge. The Theans founded the port town Cap-Carrefour on the eastern cape - the first stop for Ifrian and Thean ships in the Atabean Sea.

Due to intrigues among the inhabitants of the island, Thean indigo, coffee, cotton, tobacco and sugar plantations infested the island. The crops provied profitable, but the heat, humidity and danger meant hiring and retaining workers was hard. When Vespasien de Vicquemare became governor in 1636, he had a solution: give the poor of Theah free passage to the New World, charging their fare with a term of indentured service on Jaragua. The system was illegal everywhere in Theah, but it worked well for Jaragua's planters. The hiring problem was solved, though retention was still difficult and they never had enough workers. Vicquemare worked with a Montaigne-based company, Rourke & Rudd, to be a local fixer and procurer, and arranged meetings betwen struggling planters and R&R lenders at a handsome fee.

Eventually, R&R became the Atabean Trading Company, and they intentionally crashed the market with cheap goods, buying up independent farms across Jaragua. Soon, the indentured servants were working side by side with the former poor farmers. The future, as envisioned by Company business practice, had arrived. The colonial period of Jaragua came to a sudden, brutal end when Vicquemare arranged a private meeting with the Higuey and Mariana Rahuri to discuss the division of the island. The Jaraguan Rahuri weren't idiots, and they fought hard against the Company security ambush, but after a short and bloody shootout, the Company captured both caciques. Security Chief Laerke Ulriksdottir assaulted the disorganized Rahurir settlements, driving them into the highlands, and the Company came to control the entire island (well, the parts they could plant, anyway, which was all they cared about).

They began improting Ifrian captives en masse in 1642. For the first time, the plantations were fully staffed and working at peak efficiency, as they could safely work slaves to death before replacing them. However, there was also a boom in escapes - the slaves had nothing to lose. Most traveled t les Alpes Azurees or the Mangrove Base, where the forests and terrain made recapture hard. Soon, hidden Mawon villages popped up in the mountains, offering asylum to escapees. Their guerrilla forces frequently raided the plantations for suppliues, arms and to free slaves. It all came to a head in 1649. After nearly two decades of operating a secret escapee network into Mawon territory, two heroic twins - Taiywo and Kehinde, who had been born into slavery on the island - met with Chaplain Nkansa and the chiefs of the Mariana and Higuey Rahuri at Mangrove Base. They proposed a revolution against the Company, a great marshalling of power towards freedom. Nkansa and the chiefs agreed - it was time to drive out the ATC.

At a night festival in the tradition of the Kap Sevi faith, they announced their defiance, their plan to take back the island not only for the Rahuri, but for the Ifrians and Theans who had been made into slaves. Their revolution would unite them all. Chaplain Nkansa organized her group of nganga priests as generals, with Chief Pablo de la Cruz becoming their drill instructor and teaching the rebels guerrilla tactics based on what he'd learned about Theans during his captivity. Chief Casiyuaya coordinated the naval support, stealing Company warships and harrying their supply lines by trading information to pirates and buying munitions. Kehinde used his resistance network to coordinate the rebels, using even small animals to send messages when humans were unable to. General Taiyewo led from the front, armed with machete and pistol plus her tactical genius. For eight years, casualties on both sides were high to the point where Laerke Ulriksdottir called in Thean mercenaries to defend the Company.

The final battle was at Cap-Carrefour, and the Jaraguans stormed it by night, striking at their foes with brutality and terrifying skill. Ifrians and Rahuri on the inside were prepared to help, staging a mock escape to distract the guards. With the defenders occupied, the rebels were able to scale the walls and seize the gun turrets, allowing them in and letting them cover the slaves already there. It was long night of vicious urban fighting, but as dawn came, the Company agents swam for their lives to the ships leaving harbor as Taiyewo dueled with Governor de Vicquemare, eventually sending him tumbling off the walls with the power of her machete. He was pulled from the sea onto a fleeing ship, bloody and beaten.

In the wake of the war, the rebels set up a profisional government, with Taiyewo running the military, Chief Casiguaya running the navy and Kehinde taking charge of domestic affairs, like the reclaimed plantations. Nkansa declined to join, saying that she hadn't had a day off in 15 years and just wanted to read a book on the beach. Chief Pablo del Cruz was not as happy as the others - he was shocked and upset that Higuey and Mariana lands would not return to their original owners, as the Ifrians had nowhere to go. Some wanted to return to Ifri, but not everyone could, and it would be easy for them to again become victims of slavers there...so why not share the land? But Chief de la Cruz was adamant - he wanted at least the Mariana land back, north of the mountains. The argument took all day, and no one could change his mind...so the new oligarchs sadly agreed to return the northern half of the island to the Mariana. It only got worse when the Mariana again began selling off the plantations to Castillian settlers. Again.

Now, the work's hard. The Jaraguan fighters must return to work...and often on the plantations they fought to escape, some converted to food production but others still working the cash crops. A new government must be established, and diplomats must go out to foreign lands and build alliances. The ATC's agents continue to lurk in the shadows, trying to foil them. In the north, a Castillian governor has built Porta Ozama, meant to serve the needs of Thean planters. While the ATC is banned from the isle, no one knows how many of the new planters are in their pocket. Worse, many of the Thean plantations in Mariana land still use slave labor. It's a well-kept secret and none rely on it entirely, for fear of the government's attention. Rather, they use a mix of free labor, indentured service and slave labor - a mix of Thean convicts, Rahuri and Ifrians. Paid workers are forbidden to discuss their pay, to keep slave identities unclear for as long as possible, and any workers who speak out will lose their jobs and possibly get killed.

Thean relations in the southern half of the island are going better. Eustache Dubois, son of former governor Alexandre Dubois, returned from Montaigne after the rebellion, bringing supplies and support that were desperately needed. As Eustache is half Jaraguan himself, he is already working to connect the Provisional Oligarchy with Montaigne revolutionaries as he travels between Theah and Jaragua. He's also built a chapterhouse for the Explorer's Society, inducting new members in the hopes of leading an expedition to the Syrneth ruins under the mountains. Despite hopeful signs, though, the darkness of the past seems to have outlived the revolution, and making peace now will be hard.

'Jaraguan' is a term that covers all ethnicities on the island. The ATC slavers deliberately targeted as many Ifrian ethnic groups as they could, to prevent any one group from organizing against them. The language of the island is Patwa Haragwen, a fast creole with a mix of Montaigne and West IFri roots. Most Jaraguans can slow their speech down and speak Montaigne for foreignters, however. They are extremely diverse, being a mix of Atabean, Thean, Ifrian and more. About all you can say is al ot of them have dark skin and dark hair, though even that's a stretch, as Crescentized Ifrians and Rahuri often have lighter skin. Hairstyles range all over the board, too, and figuring out social standing is intensely confusing.

In West Ifri, various cultural groups had caste systems - some had noble bloodlines, some warrior classes, some meritocracies or economic castes. However, the enslavement led to a mix of young, physically fit people with a handful of merchants and nobles, and pretty much all those distinctions vanished in the passage west. The Company encouraged a sort of slave meritocracy, with unskilled workers holding the least desirable field and sugar boiling jobs, and slaves with technical skills or training as house servants holding safer jobs closer to the Theans. They were more highly valued, sometimes even paid or tipped, and considered too useful to be worked to death. Flemming Rudd instructed the slavemasters to treat these "house slaves" as if they were better than "field slaves," to encourage classism and elitism among the slaves and distract them from their true enemy. It wasn't just envy and selfishness that drove the two classes apart, either, but fatigue and the need to pretend so long that some even convinced themselves.

The revolution has complicated this, but slavemasters generally found their 'devoted and loyal' house slaves shockingly quick to turn against them - and indeed, found too late that they were very, very well=positioned to kill slavemasters. In the wake of victory, however, the divisions have become something of a problem. Elite vs peasant, house vs field, Ifrian vs Rahuri. Many former slaves who worked in the fields have now been given opportunities they thought impossible, and it's been common practice to grant temporary control of the plantations to freed slaves, but all too often they find themselves relying on the old house slaves they never trusted, needing them to run the stables, keep the books and sell the product. The old distrusts haven't gone away.

Jaraguans use drumming for everything from communication to religion to social dances. Ifrian polyrythmic drumming is common, and drummers typically play in different time signatures with each hand. Dancers mix Ifrian, Rahuri and Thean traditions, but keep the steps basically simple and repetitive to make them easy to learn but allow extensive improvisation for experts. Ifrian artistic tradition has also survived mostly intact, as the slaves were able to pass their religious art as secular or even Vaticine symbols, though the most impressive were sometimes stolen by the masters for sale. Creatively decorated practical goods are common, as are stylized wooden carvings of human figures, many meant for export to fund the nation. One distinct Jaraguan style is the creation of sculpture and art from trash materials like scrap metal or driftwood.

The Company forced the Ifrian and Rahuri slaves to wear cast-off Thean clothes and rags, hoping to negate their ethnic identities, but the slaves made an art of swapping and recombining scraps to make eye-catching outfits...or camouflage. As the Mawons took the island, they also got hold of many ATC uniforms, and it's amused them a lot to wear them piecemeal, combined with other styles. In the wake of the expulsion, traditional Ifrian clothes have also had a renaissance - loose, baggy shirts, skirts, robes, trousers and colorfully patterned tunics with turbans or caps. Belts, shawls and scarves are used to augment this and carry things. Anklets, bracelets and necklaces of beads and cowrie shells are common. They don't often have tattoos, but some ethnic groups do perform ritual scarification on young infants to mark tribal affiliation.

Jaraguan currency for outside trade is leftover Company Guilders, but the Provisional Oligarchy is in the process of switching the island to an Ifrian-type shell currency, using quahogs - hard-clam shells marked with a national stamp. They're trying to keep a rate of one shell to one Guilder, with the help of the local Vendel League rep, Herlief Asgersen. He's an old man who volunteered to come to Jaragua 20 years ago because no one else wanted to. He was a terrible merchant, an excellent warrior and a willing helper to the revolution. He never liked slavery and was a small but important role in the success of the revolt by providing intel about ATC movements. He's tried to pass on word to the Vendel League about what really happened there, but the ATC has done its best to intercept or discredit his messages.

Next time: Government and religion.

Pirate Nations: Rum, Tobacco and Slaves

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Rum, Tobacco and Slaves

The Provisional Oligarchy has maintained the same leaders as it had from the start - General Taiyewo for the military, Kehinde for domestic affairs, and Chief Casiguaya for maritime affairs. Unfortunately, Chief de la Cruz was the most experienced actual leader of government among the rebels, and his recent departure has left them with little in the way of experience. Chaplain Nkansa has vowed to be done with leading and is no one's mentor, but the work frequently drags her back, and many believe it's only a matter of time until she takes a more formal position. The current plan is to establish a new government of elected representatives from each district of plantations, but there seems to be tons of things that need to be done first. They need to organize the plantations, determine which ones to repurpose for food and which for cash crops, set up mines, and figure out what to do about the increasingly hostile Mariana Chiefdom and its Thean guests. The war, it seems, was the easy part.

The Oligarchy is also trying to reach out to other nations as best it can, but they lack much in the way of diplomatic staff or relationships to draw on. Despite their best efforts, the empires of Aztlan seem uninterested in them, and while both the Nahuacan Alliance and the city-states of Tzak K'an have received them as guests, they refuse to come visit formally. The Jaraguans are unsure why, but it appears to be traditional for Aztlan to ignore the Atabean Sea. However, one Jaraguan, Hangbe, has headed all the way south to the Kuraq Empire and reported that the Kuraq Empress was shocked by tales of slavery and sacrifice, wanting to establish formal diplomatic ties and sending gifts of gold as a token of esteem. Time will tell if this pays off. Some Jaraguans also want to contact the Brotherhood of the Coast as allies, given their common enemy - particularly Admiral Casiguaya. However, the Brotherhood are still pirates, and many think it's only a matter of time before Jaragua's shipments become prey too tempting to ignore. Plus, other nations wouldn't look kindly on them for making treaties with such brigands.

As for relations with Theah, well, that's a bit of a fiasco. After eight years of fighting, Jaragua is not a nation to most of Theah but a ghost story. The ATC has convinced most people that slavery in the Atabean is a myth spread by President Rourke's political enemies to smear the Company. The few former slaves that made it to Theah in the wake of the revolt either disappeared shortly after their first public appearances or nervously recanted their stories while under observation by ATC agents. The Company believes it can retake the island, which had been their cash cow, but they fear the Oligarchy will find allies among the Theans first. Slavery, after all, is illegal in most of Theah. But hey, if the ATC can just scare or murder all Jaraguans that come to Theah, well, maybe they can prevent that damage from being done long enough to take the island back.

To fight the ATC propaganda machine, the Oligarchy has deputized a number of Mawon officers to be a new kind of diplomat. They must be subtle and charismatic, disguising themselves as dandies and courtiers to infiltrate the elites of other nations and find those among the powerful who might sympathize with Jaragua. They dare not serve as open agents, for the Company is watching for that and would attack them. This secrecy must be even more intense in the Thean colonies on the Atabean. The Company has huge power over these settlements, even if they're starting to doubt the ATC's motives, and it will have to be seen if the Jaraguans can reach out and build the relationships they need to turn the colonies against the Company.

There are some Vaticines and Objectionists on Jaragua, along with a somewhat larger Rahuri traditionalist contingent and Ifrian practitioners of Crescent faiths. However, the most widely practiced religion of Jaragua is Kap Sevi. The various Ifrian faiths brought to the Atabean with the slaves were and are diverse, but the slaves found commonalities. Most had a single almighty god, sometimes a sun god, who is called Bondye in the Patwa Haragwen, and is often somewhat alarmingly and casually called Theus in discussion with Theans, Crescents and other monotheists. This god has little role in day to day life, particularly compared to the Lwa.

Lwa, Patwa for 'king', refers to an entity that is more divine than a human but less than Bondye or Theus. Some philosophers claim the Lwa are parts of Bondye's soul, while others refer to them as servitors, angels or devils, though that last is a compliment, not an insult. These and revered ancestor spirits live in a spirit realm close to the mortal one, and once were allies of priestesses who practice Kurwa, a religious ritual that petitioned for favors or knowledge in exchange for sacrifices - typically stuff hard to get in the spirit world, like tobacco or rich foods. However, as the slaves needed more power, they asked for new things, offering their own bodies as vessels for the Lwa to inhabit, and the Lwa responded. They would take on bodies as well as granting favors of wisdom or trickery before leaving. The practice has, since its arrival in Jaragua, become so widespread that those who can call the Lwa down to their bodies are known as Sevites, even if 'Kap Sevi' is an exonym derived from what the practitioners would say if asked their religion. There's no formal structure - every Sevite has their own technique to call down the Lwa and their own relationship with the Lwa they can summon.

When the ATC took the Ifrians to Jaragua, they made certain to sequester any holy people from the rest of the population, hanging them publicly to destroy morale and culture. The idea was to indoctrinate the Ifrians to servitude with suffering, and this, mixed with corrupt teachings from corrupt Vaticine priests on the ATC payroll made life very hard for the slaves. They didn't want to give up their faith, but it'd be hard to keep up under the watchful eyes of the Vaticine slavers. The answer came in the form of the mass-produced lithographs of Vaticine saints distributed among the Ifrian slaves. They adopted those saints' names as ciphers for Ifrian gods, as every slave had access to the saint names and images, and they could speak of them openly without being questioned. They might use the staff-bearing Second Prophet to mean Ahron, the psychopomp with a staff, or the fiery sword of the Third Prophet to mean Jakuta, the warrior-god of fire and storms. Thus, Kap Sevi merges Ifrian and Rahuri tradition with Vaticine imagery as a veil. Their traditions include animal sacrifice, sacred dance, trances and ancestral divination. It is practiced openly now, but the secret traditions are still spread by agitators through the ATC-controlled islands, so that even those who are still enslaved may worship their gods.

The Ifrian religions fractured as a result of slavery, and one of the more common traditions that survived was divination. Various kinds made the sea trip, some the province of only the trained, others more widely available. The easiest and most common form is throwing kola, the halved nuts of the cola tree (or equivalent, such as coins) on a tray or mat. Anyone can throw kola and read the results based on how they fall, orientation and which face is up. The predictions aren't hard and fast, just suggestions of what to meditate on, though ancestors can speak directly through the kola if they must. (The Rahuri find this last idea somewhat confusing, as their ancestors tend to just yell at them directly.)

A priest is called an nganga, and is also an herbalist and community leader in Ifrian tradition. A prospective nganga spends their life in obayi, the religious craft, learning many things from poetry to oral history to medicine and toxicology to therapy and meditation. It's become even more demanding because the Company used to murder anyone who openly used their nganga skills, and they've had to adapt to new and strange plants and animals. One of their first discoveries was an herbal poultice that could remove slave brands, a secret that was kept so carefully that many slavers came to believe that Ifrians and Rahuri could just recover from branding due to their darker skin. When the rebellion began, Chaplain Nkansa drew on the social authority of the ngangas as military leaders, given her rebels weren't soldiers, but angry people with machetes. Thus, the rebel strategies heavily used nganga skills - they poisoned supplies with herbal mixtures and toxins drawn from marine life, used herbal medicine to treat wounds and wielded envenomed weapons.

Chaplain Nsowaa Nkansa came to Jaragua at age 16. Her parents had apprenticed her to a priest-herbalist, but she was forced to become a soldier instead when her state went to war, which ended up killing her parents and condemning her to slavery. She survived the Western Passage, hiding her religious knowledge to survive until her escape, which was almost immediate. She assembled a team of competent, smart and brave slaves who would listen to her, gathered up some makeshift weapons, killed the overseer, hid the body and headed for the mountains. She and her team hid out in a mangrove swamp on the west coast, in the correct belief that the Theans wouldn't want to deal with the swamp. Mangrove Base, as it became known, grew into the strategic control center for the entire Mawon network, which would become the Jaraguan rebel army. Nkansa led them militarily and spiritually, though she never fought on the front lines. She was proud and angry, but not reckless. She led Kap Sevi ceremonies of victory and funeral, trained others as warrior-priests and practiced chemical warfare. While Taiyewo was the strong arm and Kehinde the breath of the revolution, Nkansa was its heart and its mind. She is now forty, but says she feels like sixty. She hates to mention it, but she's arthritic and has depression. However, with the departure of Pablo de la Cruz and the losses the Mawons took, she's the most experienced leader they've got. She needs rest, but they need her. She is tired now, lacking patience for most. She doesn't want to lead, and it would be terrible for her health. She'd probably do best getting de la Cruz back on board - she's the only one he really trusted, though she'd still need help proving that his interests would not be ignored. she is also notable as the founder of the Ko nan Espekte, an intelligence division she set up before retiring. They serve as Jaragua's monster hunters, as the undead seem to just kind of show up sometimes on Jaragua for no clear reason, and also as defense against ATC sabotage and espionage. They are detectives above all, keeping an eye out for hidden menaces.

Taiyewo and Kehinde must be spoken of together. They are the children of slaves - a Rahuri farmhand named Juax and an Ifrian carpenter named Olubunmi. They were born in 1642, the pregnancy concealed carefully from the slavers. While many infants born to slaves die, they did not, and the twins showed strange powers even as children. (Jaraguan twins are often believed to share a soul connection to each other, and will either be great forces for good or evil depending on how they are raised.) Kehinde could speak to animals and command them, while Taiyewo was a natural leader with a knack for chess and tactics even as a child. Their parents planned an escape for years once the twins were born, escaping under cover of a Mawon raid. However, once safe in a Rahuri village, the twins demanded to go back. They had a plan - they could use their age and size to move under the radar, helping the slaves in greatest need, like the sick, disabled, those who knew magic or lore, and other children. They could move them between plantations and eventually get them to safety. Their parents were terrified, but even then, they saw something special. Over three years, what had begun as a plan to free more slaves grew into a massive network of informants and saboteurs that relayed slaves to the mountains. The ATC could never catch them, for they never understood their organizational skill.

When Taiyewo and Kehinde fell in with Nkansa and the Rahuri leaders, the ATC was blindsided. The twins proved themselves in the fighting, with Kehinde's animals providing key intelligence and logistical support while Taiyewo fought on the front lines. Now, the twins are 26. They never got a true childhood, and they've seen violence for most of their lives. They've only ever really talked about it with each other, but they both kind of want a normal life. They expected Nkansa to lead the government, and with her bowing out, they don't know if they're up to it or if they can just keep their lives on hold for everyone. Taiyewo has been the rebel face - brash and inspiring, though inwardly unsure. She feels out of her depth now, fully aware that she's at her best when able to deal directly with a problem on a small scale - strategy was always Nkansa and logistics was Kehinde. She doesn't want to give up, and everyone expects her to lead - so she's going to fight to the bitter end if she must, even if she doesn't have what it takes. She's a hammer, and she's having to deal with not everything being a nail. Kehinde is an eccentric if optimistic man, who handles animals better than people. He's remained caring despite the suffering he's seen, and he's far too easily distracted by the beauty of nature, even in inappropriate situations. He genuinely cares about the opinions of anyone he meets, and he usually takes the time to ask them about them.

Admiral Casiguaya, Former Chief of the Higuey Rahuri, was born on a catamaran in the middle of a monster hunt. In retrospect, both his parents admit that they probably should've stayed home that day, but it was a fun story at parties. Casiguaya has herself always been most at home at the sea. Her worst time was when her father was captured by Governor de Vicquemare. In a bid to get him out of prison, she sent word that she, not he, was the true cacique, and would trade herself for his freedom. Vicquemare agreed, and she was soon imprisoned at the House of Sorrows over Cap-Carrefour. She lived in prison alongside Pablo de la Cruz of the Mariana Rahuri, who converted to the Vaticine faith in prison and became the chief of the prisoners. When Casiguaya masterminded an escape using some kind of device they'd found deep in a dungeon which set the stones on fire, de la Cruz came only reluctantly, to avoid burning to death. Casiguaya stole a Company ship in the escape, sailing for the mangroves, where she met up with Nkansa. In the revolt, she was their admiral, leading Rahuri flotillas against Company vessels by stealth and stealing them for use by the rebels. She even invited pirates in to harass Company shipping. She loves being the head of the navy now - much better than being a chief. She's not sure what to do about those pirates, though. The Brotherhood's been sending gifts to Kap-Kalfu, as Cap-Carrefour is now known, and wants to use the place as an outpost against their common foe. However, the rest of the Oligarchy aren't fans of the idea. It'll be too hard to make other allies, they say, and will give a bad reputation. Casiguaya has told the Brotherhood that they may dock, but only if they keep their allegiance secret. This will likely not last, especially after the new government is set up.

Next time: More people, and also places.

Pirate Nations: Bad Decision Time

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Bad Decision Time

Chief Pablo de la Cruz of the Mariana Rahuri remembers nothing before he had to leave his ancestral home as a young boy, making the long trek into the mountains to hide. His parents, the cacique of the Mariana and her husband, complained bitterly about needing to live among their enemies, the Higuey, and recited for Pablo a list of Higuey crimes the way other parents might tell bedtime stories. Pablo knew it was his destiny to retake his ancestral lands and beat the Higuey. While trapped in prison, he met with a priest named Diego Mendoza. Feeling cut off from the ancestors and desperate for hope, he converted and set aside his Rahuri name for a Vaticine one. He saw this as a method of survival, a way of learning the weaknesses of the Theans. But even when he escaped with Casiguaya in 1650, he was plagued by doubt as to the effectiveness of the rebel cause. He thought that the Company might not be beatable, even as he trained troops. The doubt never left him, and when the war was won, he saw his chance. Half the land, he insisted, was Mariana land. If the Higuey wanted to throw in with the Ifrians, well, that's fine. The Mariana wanted it all back - nothing less. They'd not take one seat at the table when they deserved half an island. The debate was long and hard, but the Oligarchy couldn't find a reason to deny his request. Over a month, the Mawons and Jaraguans vacated the north and the Mariana took the land back, at last. Shocking everyone, Cruz then opened it up to the Castillians - for a significant fee, of course. Now, there are as many Theans in the north half as they are Rahuri, with the Theans running most of the plantations and Captain-General Camila Abasolo in charge of Porta Ozama, their new city. Cruz suspects them of keeping slaves, but he is deliberately ignoring it. If he doesn't see it, it's not his problem, right? That means he doesn't have to make any hard choices. And honestly, that's what he wants at this point. He's a bitter, pragmatic man who was raised on hate. He hates the Higuey, the ATC and personally resents Casiguaya and the Ifrians on 'his' island. He's forced himself to choke it back for much of his life, but now he doesn't need to. He believes that by collaborating with Theans more reliable than the Company, he can secure his people's future, and he's probably wrong. He's given up hope that things can be better. He does remain friends with Nkansa, however, and on some level he knows that the Oligarchy is more likely to compromise with him than the Castillians.

Ex-Governor Vespasien de Vicquemare was once a lieutneant in the Musketeers. He was court-martialed for use of excessive force in breaking a riot - specifically, a riot in protest against l'Empereur, which shows exactly how excessive the force had to have been. Only his mother's noble line and extensive bribes kept him out of prison forever. Fortunately for him, the last governor of Jaragua, Alexandre Dubois, had just died - rumor said by murder, but that didn't matter. They wanted a new governor who could hold off claims by the young son of Alexandre, Eustache. Vicquemare's superiors and parents suggested that, perhaps, a trip very far away to the Atabean colonies might salvage his career, especially if he never returned. So he went, finding fertile land, valuable crops and criminally understaffed plantations whose workers were dead or quit. He revitalized a few with indentured service, tripling production, and drew the eye of the ATC, who moved to secure control of the colony from Montaigne. Vicquemare welcomed them with open arms, touring them through Jaragua. His amoral ambition earned their attention, and they offered to pay him to keep doing his job. Vespasien de Vicquemare became very, very wealthy, building Cap-Carreofur as a luxury vacation destination for wealthy Theans. His mask of succees cracked, however, when he realized there was an epidemic of escaped slaves. He brought in Company security to chase them down to little avail. The Mawons left false trails for them, sending them in circles...and then the rebels began attacking in earnest, and he was not ready. He was trained as a policeman, commanding the best and most disciplined warriors in the world, essentially. He was best at urban combat with elite troops. In the rebellion, he had to operate in the jungle with asshole washouts and dishonorable discharges like himself, and whose only saving grace was their utter ruthlessness. That made it easy for the rebels to draw them into ambushes, though, fueled by their bloodlust. Every day brought new losses, and it never occurred to him that he might even be enabling the rebel recruitment with his violence.

The Battle of Cap-Carrefour was the ultimate shame for Vicquemare. He was defending his home city with his best men, but the attack from inside and out set his troops into disarray long enough for the Mawons to get past the walls and take the western fort, which was linchpin for all his defenses. He and his elites fought hard, but at the end of the day, most of them were swimming for their lives, and Vicquemare only escaped death by purest luck. The ATC was furious. Vicquemare had managed to lose the most profitable island in the sea. Laerke Ulriksdottir hung him from a battlement at Rourke's Tower while Rourke told him that if he didn't find a way to take Jaragua back or otherwise produce return on investment, he would be fired. In a kiln. Now, Vicquemare operates as a spymaster out of a basement office in Fort Freedom, coordinating informants across the Sea of Monsters to try and stop the Jaraguans from gaining help and support. He's nearly 50, burly, and scarred in such a way that he seems older. He still dresses at the height of fashion, and barely speaks above a whisper. He can pretend at the old Musketeer grace at social functions or when recruiting new spies, but the mask cracks when he gets angry. He's a shadowy figure in the Company who rarely acts personally unless he has to, and even then, probably through a false identity.

Locations! Les Alpes Azurees are the mountains that split the island, running east to west along the center. The mangrove swamp sits on the west side, Kap-Kalfu on the east. North is Mariana land. The forests and valleys are no-man's land now, full of abandoned Rahuri villages and Mawon forts that are no longer needed. While dangerous animals are rare, venomous snakes are not - their bites just aren't very fatal unless you have an allergy. However, there are the boa constrictors, and of course the venomous rodents, the solenodons, which can grow to the size of a small dog. The area is a bit of a trade battlefield as the Mariana and the Provisional Oligarchy hunt for mining sites. Several valuable minerals are quite common in the mountains, including iron that's put the swordsmiths of Kap-Kalfu into business, rubies in a vein that runs deep through the Syrneth ruins under les Alpes, and gold. The fighting over these sites is frequently violent, as the Mariana hire mercenaries and the Jaraguans bring in Mawon troops to hold the best sites.

The Company also has a research station in a hidden valley, accessible only via underground caves. This the Buried Laboratory, and its isolation is required by its master, Doctor Oluf Karstensen, who experiments for the sole goal of controlling the undead wights and ghouls. Results have been...mixed. Karstensen and his sorcerer-scientists have found tools and potions that give them a limited ability to motivate ghouls in a general sense, but nothing that lets them work safely or closely with the monsters, which was the real goal. Karstensen's gone through a lot of attendants, mostly by having them turn into ghouls by accident. When the rebellion began, he just sealed off most of the exits to his lab and set his undead minions to guard the rest. He doesn't even know the war's over. His ghouls and wights have escaped over the years and currently wander the wilds, eating animals or people that they run into. Reports are frequently confused with zombie stories, and since no one outside the top of the ATC knows about the lab, the presence of these monsters is very confusing for the ngangas of Jaragua. They know how to ward them off, and it's not totally unknown for them to show up in Ifri or the Atabean of their own accord, but the sheer number and the fact that they wear Thean clothes is rather unsettling. The more that escape, the worse Jaragua's reputation becomes as an isle of the walking dead. Most outsiders who've heard of the ngangas believe the apocryphal rumors that they kill good people and resurrect them as ghouls via Ifrian magic.

The top port of the island is Kap-Kalfu in Patwa, Cap-Carrefour in Montaigne. It lies in a dormant underwater volcano's caldera, the Eye of Ulikun, whose sinkhole lagoon is said to lead to the underworld. Occasionally the Eye bubbles or belches flame from the depths, usually before an earthquake, and several believe this energy could be tapped if the Eye's Lwa could be contacted and placated. The buildings are close to each other in Montaigne coastal style, with a market that runs the length of the caldera. The huge senzalas at the port once held slaves off the boat. Now, they store sugar, tobacco, cotton and other exports. A huge arch between the two ten-story towers spans the mouth of the lagoon, and the Twin Princes, as the two great senzalas are called, double as lighthouses and defensive turrets.

The Grand Caiman Tavern sits in a repurposed two-story senzala on a loading dock. Only the most trusted or richest can dock alongside it, and it's run by a Mawon woman named Anty Luv. (As far as anyone knows, anyway, that's her name.) She's quick to fight if someone interferes with her profits, and she's happy to sell anything, regardless of provenance. Nearby is the Vaticine Cathedral, overlooking the port and standing opposite the Royal Palace. It was built on Company funds and served the Prophets in name only. Now, it is full of effigies and shrines to the Lwa alongside the traditional Vaticine images. Father Diego Mendoza has remained, unwilling to live Kap-Kalfu without a priest, but he's uneasy. Most of his parishioners used to be the Theans and Company agents that the rebels killed, after all.

The Republican Palace is the new name for Vicquemare's Royal Palace. It was full of stolen art, brought in by Vicquemare when he lived there as a way of flaunting the Company's strength and wealth. Now it has been renovated in IFrian style and is the seat of Jaraguan administration. It sits near the prison called the House of Sorrows, once used primarily as l'Empereur's dumping ground for people he wanted to disappear. The ATC then purchased it and all of its contents. It sits atop the Gallows Cliff, facing the sea, and 6000 of its prisoners have died since its construction. It is hidden behind two 30-foot walls, and has three levels of dungeon full of torture devices to extract the secrets of political prisoners. The slave uprising accidentally destroyed the maps of its hidden underground vault, where many Atabean secrets were kept. Rumor has it that it was built on top of a Rahuri sacred cave complex, with tunnels that span the island. Since the uprising, a person named the Red Duke has repurposed the place for honor duels. The Red Duke is a religious figure of some kind but no one knows his credentials or affiliation. The gallows pole now serves as a scoreboard bearing the name of each winning duelist. The Red Duke adjudicates all duels, and those that break his rules learn he is not to be trifled with.

Mangrove Base used to be the headquarters of Nkansa and the rebels - huts and shelters of wood and hide between gigantic trees, set on poles sunk into the shallow water. Locals travel by rope bridge and walkway, and the whole of the 'city' hovers over the water itself. It was the perfect place to plot revenge, and the fishing is some of the best on Jaragua, especially the clams, shrimp and snails among the roots of the mangroves. It's almost impossible to approach with any but the smallest boat, and even those must come slowly. The Company troops that found it never got to return thanks to Mawon guns. Now, however, Mangrove Base is under Mariana control and is the seat of Chief Pablo's government. Jaraguans are welcome, but most have left for the countryside or Kap-Kalfu, in the belief that the Mariana Rahuri don't really appreciate their presence. Loss of the old base does sting - many Mawons think Mangrove Base should have remained under Jaraguan control, given its role in their victory. If they wanted to take it by force, they probably could, given how well they know the swamp - but Cruz would then end up asking for military aid from Theah.

Porta Ozama resembles the Jaragua of fifty years ago - a small but fast-growing port in white and coral, with few Ifrian faces but plenty of wealthy and middle-class Rahuri and Theans. Captain-General Camila Abasolo has a small but nice palace, too. She and the Castillians keep close watch on all ships coming in or out. Neither pirates nor Company ships, except for the Seahorse Express vessels, are permitted to dock at Porta Ozama. Castille doesn't want the Company's competition, though a handful of residents are secretly informants reporting to Vicquemare.

Next time: The Atabean Trading Company in all its glory.

Pirate Nations: Be Glad I'm Skipping The Galt Speech

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Be Glad I'm Skipping The Galt Speech

The next chapter opens with a two-page speech from George Rourke on the benefits of libertarianism, the profits of the ATC, the virtues of slavery and statistics. It is infuriating to read. Like, congrats, you managed to write an effective libertarian villain and I hate him, but it takes up two pages and I hate it, too. Short form: holy shit this man is scum. The Atabean Trading Company was the result of his work and his partner's, a mix of Vendel and Avalon shipping that has grown into the first multinational corporation ever to exist. Its philosophy is simple: Explore dangerous and exotic places, meet unsuspecting natives, kill them, take their stuff. Link all the stuff together into a circulating system of profit. Laugh at anyone that tries to stop you. In a nutshell, it's all about gaining wealth and freedom on the backs of those weaker than you. They are a Villain, but one whose methods can sometimes resemble those of Heroes, and they're happy to hire a Hero that becomes tempted by the siren song of profit into dark places. Their motto is this: "Neither Will Nor Power Save Mine."

The Company has gotten into many ventures. About a third of their business is dedicated to shipping and moving goods. Spices, sugarcane, food, liquor, lumber, monster parts. If someone will pay for it, they'll move it. They buy in bulk to save on costs, using their immense network to find the buyer who'll pay the most. They don't just move their own product, however - they will ship yours, cheaper than anyone else. They undersell every other shipping company for a few reasons. Firstly, they own more shares in more vessels than any other, and indeed more than most navies. Second, they cut corners on their ships whenever possible. ATC vessels are notoriously uncomfortable, unsafe and poorly defended. They don't care because they don't lose much cargo to pirates, thanks to the deals they make.

How's that work? Well, supposing you're a pirate that spots a poorly defended ATC ship. By the time you're close enough to board, the captain's laid out the fine china and has tea ready for you. He invites you aboard, and you take his tea and demand his goods. You don't want the ship because it's barely afloat as it is. The captain nods, says you're welcome to it...but hey! Why take a single payout when you could make a deal that'll give you reliable plunder? What if you spared Company vessels and in exchange you got access to accurate charts, cheap repairs, discounts on slaves, safe harbors and reliable buyers for your plunder? The captain takes out a contract for you and offers you a chance to read it. The benefits start out small, but with every other pirate captain you sign on to the same deal - and why wouldn't they, given how good the deal is and how scary you are - then you get more. You'll get an address in Fort Freedom you can take your contract to, getting recompense for each captain you recruit. And so you sail away, leaving them unplundered, with confidence that you'll be rich tomorrow.

So how does the Company handle pirates that won't buy into their pyramid scheme? Their ships are neither defensible nor worth trying to defend. Elite warships guard high-value shipments, yes, but that's rare. The problem is what happens after you rob a Company ship. Their informants mark you wherever you dock. Contracted pirates hunt you down for bounty. If you're particularly dangerous, Laerke Ulriksdottir and her security einherjar will come for you instead. The first time they catch you, you'll be branded with the letter P. If you're a ship's captain or already bear the P, they'll execute you and shove your head on a spike on the battlements of Fort Freedom. Now, most pirates are prepared for dangers in boarding, even ready to lose a limb. But the ATC? Everyone knows they keep records - meticulous records - of what they buy, sell and lose. And if anyone you sell your plunder to recognizes it and reports it to a Company man...well, then even your friends might decide to check the wanted posters to see your worth to them.

Besides shipping, uh, literally anything, the ATC thrives on exploration. It wants to know where the best ports, easiest defended harbors, most fertile plantations and safest routes are. While they'll happily buy good charts, they'd prefer to know those things before anyone else. Company explorers are full employees, working directly under Flemming Rudd, President Rourke's old friend and business partner. No one wants to risk independent archaeologists using Company resources and then keeping their finds - or selling them to governments. The salaries are reliable, with bonuses worth a fraction of your finds' value, but all rights, land and slaves go to the Company. They lure explorers in with excellent equipment, far better than their shipping crafts. The fastest galleons, durable enough to bear a gale and heavily armed enough to repulse hostile natives. Explorers with a lot of ambition and not a lot of cash find the Company a helping hand, offering them all the tools they need...at the price of everything truly valuable they might find.

Then, of course, there's the evangelism business. Many Theans see the New World as a chance to spread their faiths, and while the War of the Cross put a moratorium on open religious warfare, zealots have a new chance across the sea. Evangelical missions tend to have cash, personnel and enthusiasm, but not a lot of logistical support or experience. The Company's pre-packaged missions come with a crew, a ship and all the supplies and maps you'll need to reach the New World. The Company-appointed captain will log events, notifying the Company of any interesting territorial discoveries...and a subclause, often overlooked in the contract, guarantees the Company has rights to any newly discovered lands. Of course, often the captains nudge the missions into 'discovering' regions that the Company's already scouted, in order to ensure a chaotic checkerboard of Objectionist and Vaticine holdings rather than allow either to consolidate a defensible bloc. After all, that could end the ability to play both sides against each other. Flemming Rudd is a devout Vaticine, and the CFO, Annie Goldflower, is a devout Objectionist. Ostensibly, they get along fine, and while Goldflower is silent on the subject, Rudd loves the chance to compete with Objectionists, violently or otherwise. It'd be hard to war profiteer off just one side, though, so the Company plays both, and is more than happy when a mission fails due to violence at the other side's hands. Monster attacks discourage missions, but rivals? Well, if we just hire more soldiers and spend more money, we'll get them back! Of course, the Company's security forces never get involved personally. They just sell off captured military equipment to both sides.

And then...slaves. The Vaticine has always maintained that slavery is a sin, but the practice has existed for centuries. The Company's version of it is a new form, however. It is fueled by greed, a greed that is fed with human bodies and lives. The Company moves slaves wherever they are needed, no matter the cost in lives. Many Atabean islands are fertile, hot and humid - perfect for sugarcane and tobacco. The first settlers struggled, however, unprepared for the hard labor and diseases and accidents. Mounting casualties discouraged other workers from heading west, and the plantations were in trouble. The Company showed up to lend them money, and once they had plenty of debts owed to them, they started leaning on their Vendel contacts to lower sugar and tobacco prices. This drove many planters to bankruptcy, forcing them to sign over their property to the Company. Rourke and Rudd saw opportunity in these plantations. They realize the workers still saw themselves as fundamentally equal to their employers, and to get the most of things, they'd need an underclass.

Sidebar: Slave, Not Victim posted:

The slave and former slave are classic heroic archetypes we see in Spartacus, Nat Turner, King Zumbi and Harriet Tubman. 7th Sea is a game about larger-than-life Heroes and Villains, about inspiring heroism and unabashed wickedness. The distinction is often wide and clear. But it's easy to apply that mindset to other divisions between people: the brave and the cowardly. The strong and the weak. The actors and the victims.

We must caution you about this last division. The Company's crimes are many, but perhaps the most appalling is its classification of slaves as possessions, animals or benighted savages who benefit from bondage. Seeing slaves as innocent victims is a small step up, but not enough: a victim is a victim before he is a person. Slaves in Terra's past and present are people first and foremost. They've suffered violence, disenfranchisement and loss, but none of those removes their personhood. They have strengths, weaknesses, senses of humor, families, vices, loves and hates like every other character in your game and your world.

In a game where victims of injustice need rescue and vindication, it's okay for slaves sometimes to be those victims, as long as their victimhood never eclipses their personhood. Game worlds are always richer when even background characters have names and faces. Don't miss this opportunity here.

Next time: The slave trade.

Pirate Nations: Haven't You Heard, Mr. Adams? Clink, Clink.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Haven't You Heard, Mr. Adams? Clink, Clink.

Theah on Slavery posted:

Avalon has outlawed slavery explicitly. Memories of occupation still sting.
Castille does not mention slavery in its law codes. The Church's prohibition more than suffices.
Eisen law wildly differs between konigreichs, but all explicitly permit forcible military conscription. They very in regulations and protections of conscripts' or conscriptors' rights.
All joking aside about the value of a law in Montaigne, no legal prohibitions exist against slavery. In previous centuries, the clergy stood strong against such exploitation. But in these decadent times, an honest cleric is hard to find. Many peasants are little better than slaves to aristocrats.
The Sarmatian Commonwealth not only forbids slavery, but also enforces that prohibition. Almost all Sarmatians will alert local administration of any such maltreatment.
As you might guess from the status of their peasantry, Ussura has not outlawed slavery. It probably never will. Ussurans often describe themselves matter-of-factly as slaves of their Czar; it's just a feature of their lives, not a moral judgment.
Foreigners sometimes miscategorize the workers in Vesten called "thralls" as slaves. However grueling the thralls' work may be, and however strict their employers' control may be, they retain fundamental human rights and can even bring suit against their employers in a thing. Things may also hand down a sentence of thralldom in place of a punitive fine if the offender cannot pay. Aside from that, the question of slavery is up to the thing, but what thing would stand for the kind of indignity a Company slave suffers?
Vodacce has outlawed slavery, but no one there seems to have noticed.

The Company began its slaving with Atabeans, largely Rahuri, as they were visually distinct from the average Thean and thus couldn't blend in as easily as Thean criminals, who are a small minority of slaves. Besides, training overseers to treat the darker-skinned slaves like animals proved surprisingly easy. Still, one slave for every four free workers wasn't enough. Ifri, with so many prisoners of war, addressed that issue. Because Ifrians also look different, they were easy to dehumanize, too, and Rudd suspected they'd handle the Atabean climate well. Waiting for Ifrian wars to supply captives wasn't fast enough, however. They had to grease the wheels.

Within a year, the Company had managed to spread enough distrust and resentment among some Ifrian vassal states to start a civil war, framing leaders for various crimes against neighbors, using guerrilla warfare to strike key targets and selling "intelligence" that urged towards violence. Soon enough, the Company were able to lay siege to the capital of Lougua, capturing land, hostages and slaves. That was enough for a brisk trade, avoiding Theah so the Church could not denounce them. Once the plantations were staffed by chattel slaves, they realized they could just work the slaves to death and replace them. Much cheaper than investing in their survival. To survive, many other plantation owners followed suit, and even those initially disgusted by slavery changed their minds after reading the pamphlets of Flemming Rudd, which presented slavery as a Theus-given benefit to the slave's intellectual and spiritual character.

Theans make up only three to eight percent of Atabean slaves, and the Thean governments tend to love the idea of selling their prisoners to the Company. All nations outlaw the sale of free Theans into slavery, but political prisoners or false convictions can result in that anyway. The Company prefers, however, to transport their Aztlan and Ifrian slaves via independent contractors. Slave ships are high-risk, after all, what with disease and revolts, which require heavy insurance on the slave ships the Company actually owns. Much better to buy cargoes from independent slavers, most of whom are former pirates the Company has convinced to change careers. After the utter hell of a slaveship hold, quarters at a Company fort or plantation often seem almost pleasant - small, unassuming villages far from the plantation's great house, or in catacombs under the fort. New slaves sleep in communal halls, and those who show obedience and use are allowed family huts and small plots to grow their own food on. Because keeping slaves alive and letting them reproduce are not priorities, these holdings are very few.

Slavery has also given rise to the most notorious martial art of the Atabean, best known by its Odisean name - Jogo de Dentro, the Inside Game. The name may refer to it being developed "inside" - that is, in jails, slave enclosures and so on. Or perhaps it refers to its extremely close range. It is practiced in a circle of singers and musicians, with two people vaulting and twirling in the center. If someone were to ask, they'd say they're just dancing, which isn't false. However, it's easy to miss the shard of glass in one hand or the straight razor in another. Most Ifrian martial arts train using combative rhythms to musical accompaniment, teaching a warrior to read the enemy's polyrhythms. They teach defense on the beat and attack on the off-beat. In captivity, the Ifrians have traded their lances and shields for shivs, shards of glass and razors, dialing back the all-or-nothing strikes of field engagements to disorienting blows that unbalance and avoid attention from others. The result is a mix of subtlety and dirty tricks that is perfect for an exhausted slave fighting a better-fed and better-equipped enemy.

Generally, it is the slave-owner's best interest to allow slaves to accumulate some meager wealth of their own. Revolution is easy when you have nothing to lose, no hope and no family. But when you have worked for some money, and that's all you have? That becomes something to protect. The idea of accumulating enough to buy your way to freedom is a daunting task, of course. Some slaves manage it, or buy the freedom of their children. Being a freed slave isn't much easier, but Company vessels offer slaves that buy their way free a free passage to Fort Freedom, hoping to keep them from going to Jaragua.

The Company's latest, fastest-growing venture is also probably the only one it's engaged in that everyone can agree isn't actually reprehensible and monstrous: the Seahorse Express. Mail delivery. While most mail travels on shipping vessels, more urgent materials are given to the seahorses, as the Company's couriers are called. They're fast, honest and almost suicidally brave, given their job mainly involves outracing monsters. They are considered noble servants of the sea, respected by all. Penny dreadfuls about attractive and daring seahorses are quite popular, and while the Company has diverted copywriters and illustrators to develop more, the best stories tend to be the independently made ones. Mesquite, the figure on the Company board who showed up from nowhere to found the Express service, masterminded them entirely and personally trained their postmaster leaders. Mesquite patterned all this on Aztlan courier networks, which were and are designed to maintain communications and supply chains over massive, highly organized empires. The project has been so successful that the Company, whose employees tend to believe the Board invented the system entirely, is now considering starting up a similar service in Theah. The mail is now considered so sacred that even the pirates who will take Company vessels will send runners under flag of truce to drop off the mail at Company dead drops, marked with the sigil of the Postmaster General. Even the Rahuri rebels will let seahorses go, believing they serve a higher ideal. This is basically the only Company position a PC can hold for any length of time without being complicit in atrocity, and even then, it's hard to stay ignorant of the Company's activities - they'll eventually have to face up to the fact that the ATC are Villains on a massive scale.

Most of the Company's employees are clerks and analysts who handle numbers and money from behind desks. Most are Thean, though there are a few New Worlders and even fewer Ifrians. None are former slaves. Mostly, they're bored, but those with charisma and ambition get promoted if they can stand it. At the head of the company is President George Rourke, an Avalon man in good fashion with a tendency to fiery speeches. He was the third son of gentry, wealthy but with little standing. His eldest brother got the land and title, his second-eldest joined the priesthood (Objectionist, if it matters) and he was expected to join the military. He chose instead to become an adventurer, whose enterprises uniformly ended in the death or imprisonment of everyone involved but him, at least until he got involved in the Vendel League. He flourished under the mentorship of family friend Flemming Rudd, now his chief procurement officer. However, by then, Rourke was growing disillusioned with the Vesten customs that bound merchants unnecessarily. He began to resent the nobility in general, given how little his own name had ended up being useful to him, and he began to develop his wholly egocentric philosophy of personal genius and achievement. Like the Rilasciare, he saw those who were born with advantages like nobility were getting undeserved rewards. Unlike them, he saw compassion as weakness. This viewpoint made waves, earning him investors - even noble ones.

Rourke's skills in commodities trading weren't bad, but he was better at speeches, charisma and recognizing synergies. He founded Rourke & Rudd in Montaigne, simply because he enjoyed their culture and art. However, l'Empereur was not a fan of his plan to make a corporation that answered to no government, and sent the Musketeers on Rourke's offices. They attacked by night, using a falsified threat to draw security away and storming the offices, beating up anyone present, taking any papers and burning the place down. Rourke had backups copies on his personal ship, yes, but it wounded his pride and budget. Thus, he learned, heading for the Atabean to rebuild - not as R&R, but the Atabean Trading Company. He is a confident, friendly fellow, charismatic and entirely self-serving, who is free with small things like dinner invitations and charm to hide his greed for land, wealth and power. He is no doubt an inspiring figure...but he is also one of the greatest Villains there is, and possibly the most powerful man in the Atabean.

Next time: More Staff

Pirate Nations: It's Not Morals, It's Money That Pays

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: It's Not Morals, It's Money That Pays

Flemming Rudd, Chief Procurement Officer, is a fat, pale man in a weg, has mixed Vesten and Avalon heritage and an old friendship with Rourke. It was Rudd who invented Rourke into a Vendel shipping guild, which is what transformed him from a failure of an adventurer into a shipping magnate. Flemming is a devout Vaticine - rare in both Avalon and Vesten. He felt stifled by their Objectionist leanings, and he sees the ATC as a chance to spread Vaticine values - whether the recipients want them or not. He believes - quite genuinely, in fact - that Theah blesses the Ifrians and Rahuri it converts and enslaves by bringing them to civilization and light. Obviously, he is dead wrong - any slave ship hold will prove that. But he does put his money where his mouth is occasionally, building cabildos, ethnic clubhouses for slaves and freedmen. Typically they are sponsored by Vaticine priests or other religious members of the Company, hosting dinners and dances as well as educating their members in the catechism and, if the owners don't object, math and literacy. Outwardly, Rudd supports Rourke's playing of Vaticine and Objectionist missionaries against each other, but inwardly, he's worried. He'd always hoped that Rourke would see the Vaticine light after years of his quiet influence, and...well, it's not working. He's wondering what else he doesn't know, and who he can trust. Rudd is a Villain - but a Villain who is genuinely avuncular, soft-spoken and kind in person. He's just a huge fucking hypocrite who truly believes he's helping the people he oppresses and enslaves. He doesn't cackle or monologue, and he really does believe he's helping. And he's still a horrific Villain.

Laerke Ulriksdottir, Chief of Security, grew up in the Vesten hinterlands, and was wielding an axe before she could even walk. She was an aide to her mother, a traveling mercenary, before finally accepting a position - a very boring one - as a guard at a guild outpost in Kirkjubaejarklauster. She didn't especially like the city life there - the merchants talked a big game, but they weren't honest. She grew bitter and disillusioned by mercantile cowardice and other failings, and when Rourke came to her to talk about conquering the Atabean and bringing it to heel, she saw something in that that felt familiar. She went home one last time, gathered up the hardest raiders she could, and set sail with Rourke. She is tough, no-nonsense and adores her job - especially the fighting. She's happy to stand there and glare when Rourke needs to intimidate people, but she loves the part where she gets to go pacify some natives with her axe and shield. It's been a long time since she's faced a worthy foe, however, and she wants it. She's largely a silent figure, looming and terrifying because...well, she really likes killing people. She will always accept a challenge to single combat, however.

Annie Goldenflower, Chief Financial Officer, has no idea who her father is, but her mother was Rahuri. However, she and her sisters can easily pass for Thean, and generally do. She was a bookkeeper when she got a job offer from the Company, and while she knew its reputation and the harm it'd done to her people, she believed she could change things from the inside. Her existence as an NPC as to say that no, you can't. It doesn't fucking work. She believed she'd keep her head down until she had a chance to betray the Company to the Rahuri, who could then launch a hostile takeover and nationalize the ATC, ending its crimes in a positive and peaceful way. It hasn't worked. It will never work. She's a leader now, controlling records and allocations, but she's still never found an element she can control that'd be so critical it'd hamstring the entire operation. She's also struggled to coordinate with Rahuri leaders, and her need for secrecy means she reveals little even to her theoretical allies. It doesn't help that she's a devout Objectionist, whose love of numbers led her to respect the science and progress she felt the faith represented. As much as she wants Rahuri acceptance, she will not hide or betray her faith, and if she had to choose, she would choose her faith over her people. Annie is not a Villain, quite, but she's an accessory to atrocity and villainy, and she has no real qualifications to lead a revolt at all. If she's stuck in her job much longer, she'll probably get corrupted by all the horror she has to be party to, though the help of an outside Hero, like a PC, might just be able to help her and allow her to pull out of her nosedive.

Mesquite, the Postmaster General, is a shadowy figure that wears a wide-brimmed hat and rain cape. They showed up one day at Rourke's Tower in the middle of a hurricane. They are neither male nor female. The guards showed them up to the Board, and they unrolled a map of the region - completely accurate - with courses of trade winds and currents marked, skirting monster-infested waters. They said only this: "You have a communication problem. My name is Mizquitl. This is how I'll fix it." Mesquite is what they're called now, and they founded the Seahorse Express to regiment the travel of news and words across the sea. Mesquite personally trained the Postmasters in charge, and they're as dedicated and secretive as any secret society. Mesquite is silent in any meeting, largely ignoring any question not related to route selection or mail transmission. None of the Board can remember ever getting a good look at them. Their office is a belfry atop Rourke's Tower with no bell and no glass in the windows, its iron desk literally bolted to the floor. Regardless of the weather, Mesquite is generally found sitting on top of the desk. And the reason is Mesquite is a god. A literal god, from Aztlan. They aren't a very big or notable god, mind, and aren't like Theus - closer in power to the dievai, Devil Jonah or Matushka, really. They were worshipped centuries ago in Aztlan, when the first roads were made, but their worship dwindled until they had no priests or temples left. Their long-term goals are solely related to spreading communication, and they're not proud - just dedicated. They've decided the ATC is just in the best position to help their cause, and would leave the instant that wasn't true. They value human allies and friends, far more than obedient servants - after all, they've lost everything before and realized how valuable an ally truly is. They will do anything to protect those friends.

Relations posted:

Avalon: "As often as my people's foibles frustrate me - particularly their religious attitudes - Avalon, Inismore, and the Marches originated much of the spirit which inspired me and young George to do business the way we do. We make a lot of money on sugar and tobacco in Avalon. In fact, we have more noble investors there than anywhere else in Theah. You'll find many an Avalonian in the Company ranks, from the Board down to the greenest cabin boys." - Flemming Rudd.
Castille: Castillians, and Odiseans especially, deal extensively with the Company, though the highest social strata rail against President Rourke's contempt for nobility and government. Since the loss of the Armada, the Company has frequently stepped in to fulfill rich Castillians' shipping needs.
Eisen: It's no secret that George Rourke greatly admires Nicklaus Trague. In fact, he modeled Rourke's Tower visually after Freiburg's Wachtturm. Freiburg is the most profitable city in Theah to the Company, as well as the most cordial to Rourke's philosophy.
Montaigne: "Oh, I hope he tries to do business in my country again. Maybe this time I'll get to set Monsieur Rourke himself on fire." - l'Empereur Alexandre
Numa: Numa and the Company have a tense working relationship. The Company craves Numanari mint and spices. Numa craves the many manufactured goods and other substances their islands can't provide. But while Company and Numanari philosophies both extensively use the word "freedom," the similarities end there.
The Sarmatian Commonwealth: "Fascinating. I could talk about the Commonwealth for days. So much potential, such good fashion sense, such respect for liberty...but ultimately, they disappoint. 'Sarmatism' is yet another excuse for the weak to leech off the strong. That business about ennobling everyone is exactly the wrong way to go about the right thing, and everything about their King and his Walezy Articles vexes me. Still, doing business there is straightforward enough. If their government has any problems with my Company, it's too busy bickering with itself to express it." - President Rourke
Ussura: Ussura's import needs and export offerings suit the Company well, but of late the increasingly hostile Vendel League has used its geographic proximity to usurp Company business there. In response, Rourke has publically decried Ussura's backward and superstitious attitudes as not worth his business. Only Flemming Rudd knows how incensed Rourke really is at this development.
Vestenmannevanjar: "Damn those honorless whelps! The Vendel League made Rourke and Rudd. Their corporation could never have existed without our Guilders, our customs, and our organization. We were fools to think they would stay loyal to the League even after they monopolized the Atabean Sea. Rourke would have you believe otherwise, but trade is about relationships, and relationships are about trust. Our Guilders represent the trust which Thean markets place in a system which helps us all. When one merchant, especially so fortunate as those traitors, sacrifices honesty and respect, the very concept of trade itself suffers. Well, if it's a trade war he wants..." - Harald Hermansson, Sailor's Guild.
Vodacce: "Rourke seems like a good fellow. We do a lot of business together." - Prince Giovanni Villanova

Next time: Fort Freedom

Pirate Nations: Asshole Town

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Asshole Town

Fort Freedom was founded by Rourke on a rocky island with peaceful natives after Laerke noted its excellent natural harbor that would allow small groups in and out but be hard to enter in force, which Rourke considered important given he'd had to flee Montaigne. They made a fortified keep called Rourke's Tower at the highest point on the island, expanding the fort to overlook the harbor. Rourke and Laerke worked to popularize the island by spreading word that it was a good pirate hideout - and it was, with ample supplies of cheap coffee, liquor and other addictive goods, plus fresh Thean supplies. The lack of law also helped, though Laerke was quick to step in if anyone threatened Company interests. The first settlers were either ATC employees or retired pirates, but now, Fort Freedom is home to just about any kind of Atabean, and serves as a full-fledged city, rivaling Aragosta in size.

The island itself is a flat-topped crescent with fortified cliffs facing all sides but the inner arc harbor, which is full of piers. A huge statue of George Rourke towers over the harbor, gazing out to sea and bearing the Freedom Bell, which rings each day at daybreak to remind everyone of exactly how free they are. Fortified turrets watch over the harbor, and ships of any flag are welcome if they can pay for a berth. Only one rule is applied: no ship-to-ship combat in the harbor, or everyone aims their guns at you and prepares to fire. The eastern arc is home to the Shallow Graves, the only area of harbor with no ships. The water's only ankle deep at high tide, and so it is home to a series of piles covered in memorial stones or plaques for the dead, sunken into the beach. Off harbor are the warehouses and senzalas (slave quarters), and taverns are common, each with some gimmick to attract people. The windows have no glass to allow for easy ejection of patrons by bouncers. The city itself has no urban planning whatsoever, so it just kind of sprawls. However, the highlands around Rourke's Tower are Company-controlled, home to the employees and company stores and service offices. Chief Ulriksdottir's patrols are thick in that area, ensuring that while the rest of the city may be chaos, the Company is undisturbed.

The Snowflake is the massive fortress that dominates the western side of what is now called Freedom's Island. It's named for its perimeter shape and is Laerke's HQ, training center and general base. It's extremely advanced, designed by the Vodacce engineer Cinzia Pontecorvo, who originally came to the New World to fortify Castillian holdings but headed for Fort Freedom after the Company made her a better offer. The Castillian King is incensed - she took her plans with her - but he can't do much about it, with his Armada gone. The outer rampart rises up from the sea, except for the bit facing the land, which has a moat and drawbridge. The ramparts are a meter and a half thick, with triangular or kite-shaped bastions of alternating depth to ensure there are no dead zones for the cannons. This is called the Vodacce Star. Inside, there's barracks, a senzala for the slaves and plenty of resupply magazines. The citadel within has its own star-shaped wall and houses the smithy, mess hell and other essentials. Most Company coastal forts are not so advanced, and are mainly purchased or captured medieval-style castles built in the early years of Thean exploration, scheduled to be renovated when funds and labor permit. Only the most valuable holdings have Vodacce Star forts.

Fort Freedom is full of street gangs, which are born alarmingly quickly. They draw in children, particularly orphans, starting them as runners or pickpockets before teachign them to fight. Leaders began referring to themselves as Rourkes 15 years ago, which has devolved into Rooks. Constant fighting causes them to have shockingly sophisticated fighting styles, often distinct variations on the Inside Game. The gangs are vital to Fort Freedom's odd ecology, fighting not only for pride and territory but to earn recognition from the societal leaders. Hiring a street gang is, after all, the fastest way to get muscle, if not super loyal muscle. Other times, pirates will recruit an entire gang as crew for a major assault. Laerke also has her men observe the top gangs in high-profile fights, inviting the best to join her security forces. Many gangs view taking her offer as dishonorable, as it turns your back on your community, but there's not much they can do to take revenge on those who "go corporate."

The Cipactli Gang are primarily New Worlders from Tzak K'an and Nahuacan, and they're feared because they are rumored to sacrifice their captives to the New World gods. They go to some lengths to conceal the truth of the rumor, which is worse: they sell them as slaves. The Wayward Sons and Daughters are the rich kids, children of dispossessed nobles and the local rich who sneak off from the good neighborhoods for excitement and danger. They're usually seen as weak, privileged kids, so they've developed a tendency to berserk ferocity to fight that perception. The Anglerfish are a Rahuri gang - quite large, probably the biggest in Fort Freedom - but full of internal disputes and violent challenges for leadership. The Bad Guys are an Ifrian gang and, yes, that's really their name. Their best Inside Game players wear pure white to show they've never been struck or knocked down while playing. And then there's the ulama teams, as the Aztlan ball game ulama is very popular in Fort Freedom. Each team has a small but fierce and surprisingly well-organized gang of hooligans, and sometimes the ulama players help them out.

Rourke disdains the secret societies, but encourages them to set up in Fort Freedom so his people can spy on them. Both sides have extensive spy networks watching each other. The Brotherhood of the Coast have no formal base, but can easily meet up in the crowded taverns. Die Kreuzritter uses Fort Freedom as a base to monitor the movements of sea monsters, and also to keep tabs on when powerful people show up, for fear of infernalists or other monsters in human skin fleeing to the Atabean. The Explorer's Society has a prominent clubhouse in Fort Freedom, on the edge of the highlands district. Rourke knows they're competition, but he respects them and enjoys how they annoy the Vaticine, so he leaves them alone. The Invisible College have a few hidden labs in Fort Freedom, subtly encouraged by Rourke. However, whenever the Company gets close to one, they shutter it and destroy all evidence, fleeing to the next. It's a constant game of dodging the Company's thieving minions. The Knights of the Rose and Cross are the anthithesis of Rourke's beliefs, and their leaders have decided Fort Freedom is too dangerous for a full chapterhouse...which is probably true. They have to keep a low profile - their brand of heroism is not appreciate by Laerke Ulriksdottir at all.

Los Vagabundos have arrived recently in order to connect with the Rahuri leadership. They have also decided a Fort Freedom base is too dangerous for them, though they've managed to have their agents in Fort Freedom avoid detection so far. Rourke and Laerke would both love to beat them to a bloody pulp if they found out, however. Mociutes Skara have probably the best powerbase in Fort Freedom after the Explorers. The Company's watchdogs have warned the Board about the potential danger they pose, but the Board is entirely unconcerned, and haven't a damn clue where the Shawl base is anyway. This is because they typically meet in large crowds in the open, relying on coded language to transmit information. Their resources are primarily focused on small, unglamorous jobs, and have been slowly reaching out to the Rahuri leaders to figure out how to help avert a war of conquest that many worry will be Theah's next step. The Rilasciare had a cell in Fort Freedom until approximately last week, when they all vanished. Rourke despises the Rilasciare, as they promote a philosophy quite similar to his own, but with diametrically opposed ends. The rumor is their last strike against a corrupt Vaticine priest was too bold, and Laerke tracked them back to their base and disappeared them. It is unclear if this is true or if they left of their own accord.

Next time: New mechanics.

Pirate Nations: Piratical Heroes

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Piratical Heroes

We get stat bonuses for Heroes from Aragosta, Jaragua, La Bucca, Numa or the Rahuri. Not Fort Freedom - no one is 'native' to Fort Freedom. They're all from elsewhere. We get some new backgrounds!

General Backgrounds
Atabean Rook: You were a gang leader in Fort Freedom. Earn a Hero Point when you use your rep or status to help another character.
Company Escapee: You were a prisoner or slave or other victim of the ATC and escaped. Earn a Hero Point when you subvert the Company's plans or sabotage its income stream.
Seahorse: You moved the mail. Earn a Hero Point when you deliver an important message, written or otherwise.
Thean Outcast: You had to flee to the Atabean to survive. Earn a Hero Point when siding with your adopted homeland in favor of Thean tradition gets you into trouble.
Aragostan-Only Backgrounds
Freebooter: You were an Atabean sailor without parallel. Earn a Hero Point when you convince another character to join you on a journey at sea.
Troubleshooter: You were a pirate sniper. Earn a Hero Point when you spend all your Raises on shooting a target and suffer Consequences for it.
Rum Runner: You were a smuggler. Earn a Hero Point when you sail your ship into forbidden waters.
Lost Soul: You sold part of your soul to the Devil Jonah, and won't let anyone make the same mistake. Earn a Hero Point when you prevent the Devil Jonah from claiming another soul.
Jaraguan-Only Backgrounds
Nganga: You interpeted the will of the Lwa. Earn a Hero Point when you use your spiritual knowledge and skills to aid a community.
Mawon: You were a rebel guerilla. Earn a Hero Point when you defeat an enemy using guerilla tactics.
Jaraguan Provocatuer: You were a diplomat, smuggler and alliance-seeker for Jaragua. Earn a Hero Point when you gain a new ally for Jaragua.
Enspkete: You were a monster hunter and detective. Earn a Hero Point when you learn a secret about a Monster or anti-Jaraguan conspiracy.
La Bucca-Only Backgrounds
Siren: You were a problem solver for the Chapters. Earn a Hero Point when you solve a problem with stealth and subterfuge rather than direct confrontation.
Chapter Member: You were an agent for a Chapter. Earn a Hero Point when you fulfill the duties of your Chapter.
Sentinel: You were a quick-witted street gunner. Earn a Hero Point when you beat another character to the draw.
Los Ninos: You were saved by the Mother. Earn a Hero Point when you protect a brother or sister.
Numa-Only Backgrounds
Docent: You were a warrior who decided to test the other nations. Earn a Hero Point when you push another character to live up to their potential, even when it means trouble.
Haimon: You were a glory-seeker. Earn a Hero Point when you take on a dangerous task for no other reason than it will bring you glory.
Mystai: You plumbed the depths of your spirit. Earn a Hero Point when you thwart the mystai of Hecteba.
Myrmidon: You were a defender of Numa. Earn a Hero Point when you impress the crew of a foreign ship with your daring.
Rahuri-Only Backgrounds
Boriqua: You were a warrior-diplomat for the Rahuri. Earn a Hero Point when you win a diplomatic contest with a threat of violence.
Wave Hunter: You were a monster hunter. Earn a Hero Point when you defeat a Sea Monster.
Bohiti: You were a guide to Soryana. Earn a Hero Point when you solve the problem of a Lost ancestor.
Horizon Chaser: You were a Rahuri explorer. Earn a Hero Point when you set foot in a place you've never visited.

We also get new advantages!
One Point
Eye for Talent: When you spend Wealth to hire a Brute Squad, their Strength is 1 point higher.
Letter of Marque: You or another PC must have Married to the Sea. Choose a Thean Nation. You have a Letter of Marque from them. Any privateers or military ships of that nation will not harass you if you present it, and you have no legal ramifications from your privateering with them. Other nations will rarely care.

Two Point
Agoge Weapon Mastery: You must have the Lakedaimon Agoge dueling style. Choose an additional weapon from its list; you gain the appropriate bonus when using it.
Cross the Palm: When you spend Wealth to reroll a die in a social Risk swayable with money, you may reroll 2 dice instead of 1.
Devil Dog (Knack): You or another PC must have Married to the Sea. You may activate this to give any Crew Squads under your command this round 2 Bonus Dice on any Risk.
Indomitable Will (Knack): Costs 1 less for Numanari. You may activate this to automatically resist when another character attempts to intimidate, seduce or otherwise goad you.
Insistent (Knack): You may activate this when you apply Pressure. The effect of your Pressure lasts until the end of the round.
Married to the Sea: Nothing new, just Aragostans pay 1 less for it.
Speed Load (Knack): You may activate this to reload a single firearm you are carrying with 1 Raise instead of 5. You may do this only once per Sequence.
Tavern Favorite: When you make a Perform Risk in a low-class place such as a dockside tavern or street corner, you get a Bonus Die.

Three Point
Atabean Traveler (Knack): Costs 1 less for Rahuri. You may activate this when in the Atabean Sea to know the direction to the nearest port, find fresh food or water, or to ask the GM a yes/no question about the environment or a creature you've encountered.
Dynamic Approach: Again, not new, but costs 1 less for Buccaneers.
Frog Man: When you make an Athletics Risk that involves swimming, you get a Bonus Die.
Nerves of Steel: Costs 1 less for Jaraguans. Whenever you spend a Hero Point for bonus dice in any Risk against a target with a Monster Quality, you may also reroll one die.
Powder Monkey: When you make an Aim Risk to fire a ship's cannons, you get 2 Bonus Dice.
Sweeten the Pot: You may spend 1 Wealth to bribe someone in an Action or Dramatic Sequence without spending a Raise. You can only do this once per Sequence.
The Ocean's Favorite: You must have Married to the Sea. As long as you are Captain of your Ship, you may spend a Hero Point before rolling dice at the start of any round to reorganize the Crew Squads, spending a Hero Point to aid another Hero on your ship gives 4 dice instead of 3, and you get a Bonus Die to all Risks you take aboard your Ship.
Wheel Man: When you make a Risk to steer a ship through treacherous waters or to avoid enemy fire, or when your expertise at the helm would be useful, you get a Bonus Die.

Four Point
The Devil's Due: Costs 2 less for Aragostans. You cut off part of yourself and sacrificed it to the Devil Jonah alongside part of your soul. In its place, you gain a magical artifact with unique abilities. You may activate its powers for a scene by spending 1 Hero Point. Examples include a bronze-and-silver spike used as a false leg, which never tarnishes and can break through any door - effortlessly, up to a foot of wood - and deals 1 additional Wound on top of normal when used to kick people, a spyglass made of bone and gems that can see through walls or ship hulls, or a pair of dried leather boots that never get wet and can walk on water as if it was dry land.
Salty Dog (Innate): When you make a Risk using Sailing, Theft or Intimidate, all of your rolled dice have +1 to their value.
Seeker of Soryana: Rahuri only. When exploring the wilds or sailing, you may spend a Hero Point to find a gate to Soryana and meet with Locuo to plead your case. If he finds your cause just, he will grant you an ancestor, who is a ghostly, translucent specter that can interact with the world like anyone else. They have free will but will usually help you with your goals for, generally, the length of a single Story. The ancestor has 3 in all Traits, 1 Background chosen by you, 1 Background chosen by the GM, all associated Advantages, and 2 in all associated skills. They can take 10 Wounds before their soul is destroyed forever. At the start of each session, you must spend a Hero Point (and be close to the) to keep them sane, or they become a Strength 10 Monster with Destructive and Horrifying as Qualities, plus all their old abilities, and begin to prey on the living. Locuo will also hold this against you and refuse to grant future requests until you find and either destroy or redeem the Lost ancestor. You may also serve as a guide for another character, in which case they must pay all Hero Point costs instead, though you still have the responsibility to take care of it if they end up making a Lost.
Whisper to Mother: Buccaneer only. You may spend a Hero Point and spill a drop of your own blood onto your hand. You may then whisper a name into it - either one of your siblings or the Mother - and then make one statement or ask one question. The person you named will hear you, and if you cup your hands to your ear, you hear their response. Responding to this call costs nothing, but allows only one statement, and you still have to talk into your hands to respond.

Five Point
I Cannot Be Broken (Knack): Costs 2 less for Rahuri. When you spend a Hero Point to gain bonus dice on a Risk directly related to completing a Step in your Hero Story, you get 2 Bonus Dice instead of 1.
My Word Is My Bond (Knack): Costs 2 less for Aragostans. You can activate this to spend any number of Hero Points and make a promise to another character. For the rest of the scene, when you make a Risk in pursuit of fulfilling that promise, you get 1 free Raise per Hero Point spent this way. If you have not fulfilled your promise by the end of the scene, you lose all Hero Points and cannot gain more this session. If your promise is fulfilled by the end of the scene, you gain 1 Hero Point. You may use this only once per session, and the promise must be suitably dangerous or difficult.
La Palabra: Costs 2 less for Buccaneers. You know the secret code languages and handsigns of La Bucca. When you speak to anyone else with this Advantage, you may give them a message that is only understood by those who have this Advantage. This cannot communicate complex ideas, but simple requests or common statements are possible, and any code that contradicts spoken words will usually be assumed to be the truth. You may teach others how to make a single gesture or pass a message to a third party, but they cannot understand any replies or use phrases except the one you've shown them. Useful phrases to teach are things like 'I need to speak to you privately' or 'I am carrying an important message' as a result.
Seize Your Glory: Costs 2 less for Numanari. You have a second Virtue. You may still only activate one Virtue per session.
We Share Our Victories: Costs 2 less for Jaraguans. When you help another PC complete a Step of their personal Hero Story, you gain a Hero Point. Whenever another PC helps you complete a Step of your personal Hero Story, they gain a Hero Point.

And new Arcana!
The Devil Jonah: As a Virtue, you may activate this when you enact poetic justice, make someone pay their due or force them to follow through on a bargain. If you do, for your next Risk, all of your dice count as a Raise automatically. As a Hubris, you gain a Hero Point when you refuse to aid someone until they beg you or when you otherwise demonstrate your petty, vengeful nature.
The Drowned Man: As a Virtue, you may activate this when you would be killed. You instead are removed forcibly from the scene but survive. As a Hubris, you may activate this whenever you take Dramatic Wounds to gain 1 Hero Point per Dramatic Wound just taken.
The Fisherman: As a Virtue, you may activate this after you roll dice for a Risk. You lose half of your Raises. All other PCs in the scene gain that many Raises. As a Hubris, you get a Hero Point when you avoid the spotlight, insist you're nothing more than a simple man or otherwise refuse to take credit for something that it would be advantageous for you to claim as your own work.

Next time: New magic.

Pirate Nations: Doubly Damned

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Doubly Damned

Charter Magic is the famous sorcery used 40 years ago to bind the Brotherhood. It was a blood ritual of the Syrneth, and only Reis knew how to perform it truly. However, bastardizations of it have been passed down by word of mouth since that night, and each version that's developed has enough power to make a similar pact, if not as strong. The ritual currently used on Aragosta probably has elements that aren't strictly needed, but are included just in case, like needing to be signed at 3 AM or being done in a circle around a fire or having the words spoken aloud. Any single bit might not be needed, but no one wants to take chances.

The ritual is done around a fire on the shore, in a circle. Each person takes a dagger from another in the circle and cuts their hand, then pours blood into a bowl that is passed around and speaks their name - their full, true name - then passes the bowl along. It must be passed widdershins, and each participant must then place their bloody hand into the fire and squeeze blood onto the embers. If the ritual worked, the fire will blaze high, then suddenly die out. At that point, each participant must sign the Charter using the blood in the bowl, and the name they sign must be their full, true name, or the ritual won't work. Names cannot be added once the ritual is over. Mechanically, each signatory must spend one Hero Point - or a Danger Point, if they are a Villain. Villains explicitly can sign your Charter if invited! However, remember that it is their nature to backstab when they see the best chance.

The mechanics of having a Charter are simple. For every signatory that paid in, you get one point in a Luck Pool. Each Luck Point is worth a single d10 - so if you have six signatories, that's a Luck Pool of 6d10. At any time during the game, any signatory may draw as many Luck Pool dice as they want and add them to a roll. Once a die is used, it's gone for the rest of the session. The Luck Pool restores to full at the start of each session. That's pretty simple! But there's a price.

Any signatory that breaks the Charter as written is doubly damned. Almost all Charters use this language, to remind you that the rules are not to be broken lightly. They suffer "the black spot." For every other signatory, they get one black spot - so a six-person Charter would provide five black spot curses to the one that breaks it. The GM chooses from a small list of effects which spots to apply, combined however they like, though they may allow a cursed player to choose.

Black Spots
-1 to any one Trait
-2 to any one Skill
Lose access to any one 2-point (or less) Advantage
Require a Hero Point to get the benefit of any one 3-point (or more) Advantage, on top of any normal costs

The only way to free yourself from the black spot curse is to go to each other signatory and beg their forgiveness. To grant forgiveness, each must cut their hand and the supplicant's, holding them together. The supplicant asks if they are forgiven, and the other says they are. For each one that gives forgiveness, one black spot is removed and the stats it affected return to normal.

If all members of a Charter die, the Charter burns up with blue flame. Because there are so many Charters nailed to the walls of the Bucket o' Blood in Aragosta, there is a pirate tradition of a moment of silence whenever one of them burns up. Most believe it is bad luck to sign a new Charter on the same day an old one burns, but the bravest dismiss this as mere superstition and will even go so far as to mix the ash from a burned Charter with the blood of a new signing.

In case you're wondering - none of this requires the Sorcery advantage. Anyone can set up a Charter, and it has the exact terms you set down. Sample charters that are often used by various groups are in an appendix we'll hit eventually; most ships have a charter even if they don't have a Charter - that is, the magic kind. Having the magic one just means the PCs and any Villains signed on get a big pool of luck to play with. This is not Aragosta's sorcery - that's Mohwoo, magical tattoos made by Wenshen. La Bucca, however, has no Sorcery of its own.

Next time: Kap Sevi

Pirate Nations: Take Me For A Ride

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

The game isn't trying to make it hard to keep to your Charter anyway. It is literally 'here, be heroes, have bonus dice.' The effect isn't so powerful it needs protection, it's just...some useful luck.

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Take Me For A Ride

While many forms of Thean sorcery involve making pacts with otherworldly beings - most notably Sanderis, the Knights of Avalon and the Mother's Touch - none have done what Kap Sevi does. Sevites are brave or desperate souls that set part of themselves aside to allow these otherworldly beings into their bodies and souls. The cornerstone is worship of the Lwa and the West Ifrian practice known as Kurwa. Sevites have expanded on the Kurwa priestesses' teachings to find new, hidden aspects of the Lwa, and some Sevites believe they've still only scratched the surface. In West Ifri, only women could do Kurwa, making offerings to the Lwa for favors. In Jaragua, however, the Sevites found new ways to petition them - dismissing part of their own soul for the Lwa to take the place of. It helped them tap into the darker, more vengeful aspects of the Lwa and gave a reprieve from the living hell of slavery. The Lwa also granted their gifts not just to women, but to men as well. Kap Sevi was born of torment, and its use often reflects the dire circumstances the Sevite once lived in.

When you get Sorcery (Kap Sevi) the first time, you pick one Lwa you can summon and gain its Gran Met ('power') that you can ask for. It is extremely risky to your soul to ask a Lwa for the wrong Gran Met or to ask for one without knowing which Lwa to ask. Each time you take Sorcery, you gain one Gros Gran Met ('Great Power') and two Ti Gran Met ('Little Powers'). These can be from a Lwa you already have, or from a new Lwa.

Whenever you summon a Lwa into yourself, you must give part of yourself. To use a Gros, you must give up your Virtue. To use a Ti, you must give up one of your Quirks. While the Lwa occupies you, whatever was offered up cannot be activated or invoked by any means. You may ask a Lwa only for one Gros and two Ti at any given time. You can give up more of yourself after the summoning - so if you called down a Gros and then need a Ti, you can do that. But once you have given to the Lwa, you cannot take it back - your Virtue and Quirks will come back only once the Lwa leaves.

A Lwa remains in your body until the next morning's sunrise. There is no other known way to get rid of a Lwa, and no Lwa ever leaves early. Once the pact is made, they're sticking around until sunrise. The Lwa don't actually enjoy sharing a host, however. You can only have one Lwa at a time, and it will block any attempt to call on a second Lwa - and then stop letting you use its Gran Met. This strips you of any powers you had but doesn't give back your Virtue or Quirks. However, the same Lwa can ride multiple Sevites at once. Some believe this is because the Lwa doesn't fully inhabite you, only sending a piece of itself into you - so there's plenty left to go into others. While there are hundreds of Lwa, the game presents the five most popular and prominent in Jaragua; the GM is free to invent more.

Badagris appears wearing a leather apron, carrying tongs and smelling of soot and metal. She may choose, however, to become a warrior at any instant, clad in armor and wielding a blackened sword. She is the Lwa of justice, protection, war, fire, violence and steel. Her name means 'She Tore' and while she kills those who offend her, she is also respected for her crafting skill and is known for helping those in need. She is the sister of Jakuta, whom she often forces to help her out. Any Sevite hosting Badagris is hot to the touch, becomes angry quickly and stops being angry just as fast if they see people helping each other. They are prone to random acts of charity and sudden violence.
Hammer (Gros): You can spend a Hero Point to automatically and instantly heal all Wounds between (and including) your fourth and third Dramatic Wound.
Nail (Gros): You may spend a Hero Point to automatically render someone Helpless if they have 3 Dramatic Wounds. You can use this only once per session.
The Hunger (Ti): You may spend a Hero Point to consume and take nourishment from literally anything you can fit in your mouth.
Unchained (Ti): You may spend a Hero Point to escape any shackle, prison or restraint.
Blackened Skin (Ti): You may spend a Hero Point to withstand any fire or flame, taking no damage from it or any other source of heat you are touching.
Blackened Soul (Ti): You may spend a Hero Point while Helpless to be able to act as normal for a full round rather than just one action. While doing this, you get +2 dice to all Risks. You may use this only once per session.

Bawon Ge appears in a top hat, black coat and with a skull-like face - sometimes an actual skull. She is the Lwa of death, tombs, gravestones and cemetaries. Legend says she was the first person to be wrongfully sentenced to death, and because of that, she was made a Lwa. She is married to Baron Lakwa, who often helps her out. A Sevite who is ridden by Bawon Ge often shouts obscenities or spits. She is temperamental, and will make you bite your own arms if you feed her things she doesn't like. She loves rum and cigars.
No Grev (Gros): You may spend a Hero Point whenever any character would die. As long as Bawon Ge rides you, they can't die, even if Helpless.
Lameci (Gros): You may spend a Hero Point to instantly kill a willing Helpless character. This does not cause Corruption.
Eternal Guardian (Ti): You may spend a Hero Point to place a corpse eternally beyond the touch of any Sorcery, including Hexenwork and Kap Sevi.
Sacred Ground (Ti): You can spend a Hero Point to consecrate a small area. While standing in your Sacred Ground, no one can use Sorcery; any attempts to fuel Sorcery with Hero Points get refunded.
Windows Into the Soul (Ti): You may spend a Hero Point to touch a corpse and witness its last moments of life, as the dying person saw them.
Cemetary Walls (Ti): You may spend a Hero Point to secure a wall. As long as you remain within the wall's confines, nothing inhuman may cross that wall in either direction.

Mareaux is a Lwa whom some claim is a pair - brother and sister - but the truth is that they are constantly in flux. This can make male Sevites take on feminine traits or vice versa while ridden. Mareaux is the Lwa of night, secrets, darkness, truth, mysteries and reason. Other Lwa see them as a divine child and will go out of their way to help Mareaux in their duties. While riddenby Mareaux, you are stripped of your biases and preconceptions. While this is enlightening, it also results in a distinct tendency to get lost in your own thoughts, be distracted and wander off.
Egregore (Gros): You may spend 1 Hero Point to add someone to your thoughtform. All members of your thoughtform (which you are automatically part of) can communicate telepathically for as long as you are ridden by Mareaux. The network ends after Mareaux leaves.
Unafraid (Ti): You can spend a Hero Point to ignore the personal effects of any and all fear, including supernatural Fear caused by Monsters or Sorcery.
Nuit Jumeaux (Gros): You may spend a Hero Point to make your shadow sentient and semi-corporeal. It will obey simple commands, but cannot pick things up or interact with other people. If it takes a dangerous action, it has Strength 5 and rolls dice accordingly. If it takes even a single Wound, it instantly returns to you and will not be animated again until the next sunset.
Unknowable (Ti): You may spend a Hero Point to peer through shadows and see a place you cannot currently reach, such as a hidden drawer or dark alley. You must know where to look and the area must be in darkness. You may not see anything in the light while using this.
Unforgettable (Ti): You can spend a Hero Point to render something an unforgettable memory to yourself - even if sorcery or trauma would normally remove it.
Unforgivable (Ti): You can spend a Hero Point to make the target unable to forget the scene before them by any means short of death - perhaps not even then. It resists all attempts to remove it from their memory.

Papa Ahron is called the Silent Lwa and the First Father. He appears as an old man with a cane, wearing a broad hat and smoking a pipe. He is always accompanied by his dog, Ati-Gbon (sometimes called Atibon). He is the Lwa of missing people, silence, confusion, the lost and other Lwa. He is the father or grandfather of all other Lwa, but he never asks them for help. Anyone he rides finds it hard to speak and becomes prone to forgetting words or grammar, sometimes developing a stutter or lisp. This becomes less noticeable in the presence of dogs or when your lips are moist and your thirst quenched.
The Lost Voice (Gros): You may spend a Hero Point to be able to speak as proxy for anyone, living or dead, provided you can touch them or one of their personal, valued belongings. There must be someone else to ask questions of you, as you cannot talk to yourself. You get no insights into the target's desires - they merely speak through you.
La Bliye (Gros): You may spend a Hero Point to vanish from memory for a scene. Anyone interacting with you can still see and hear you, speak to you and so on, but as soon as you leave, they forget you exist and anything you did.
Lucidite (Ti): You may spend a Hero Point to make a connection with any other person ridden by Papa Ahron, sensing the general location and mood of any other possessed and seeing through their eyes.
Crossroads (Ti): You may spend a Hero Point to ask the Lwa a single question about the world. They must answer honestly, as lying to Papa Ahron is a grave crime. The answer must be direct but the GM doesn't need to elaborate on it.
San Yopa Sound (Ti): You may spend a Hero Point to move silently for a scene. You can still be seen, felt and smelled, but you cannot be heard by any means. You must still be subtle - a gun firing next to someone's head or screaming in their face will still grab their attention.
San Yopa Sight (Ti): You may spend a Hero Point to move invisibly for a scene. You can still be heard, felt and smelled, but you cannot be seen. You must still be subtle - you can't just stab someone in the chest and expect not to get noticed.

Sousson is a Lwa of vile appearance. He is usually emaciated, with thinning hair, sallow skin and many warts, boils and wounds. He is, however, quite happy. He is the Lwa of disease, injury, mental illness and perfume. He has no wife, but many children, all of whom share his appearance and help him out. While ridden by Sousson, you will develop blisters, sores and rashes, though they are purely cosmetic and cause you no suffering. Beyond this, Sousson does little to affect your behavior - he's just inexplicably happy all the time.
Zonbi (Gros): You may spend a Hero Point to make a Helpless person appear dead, slowing their heart and breathing, clouding their eyes and stiffening their muscles. They also become susceptible to suggestion and can be directed to simple actions at your instruction.
Unlikely Allies (Gros): You may spend a Hero Point to instantly befriend anyone, including Villains. The effect ends the moment Sousson leaves you, and depending on how they were treated, they may resent you.
Purify (Ti): You may spend a Hero Point to cure any non-supernaturally-caused ailments, diseases or illnesses a person is suffering, physical or mental. This cannot heal Wounds or cure diseases or illnesses caused by Monsters or Sorcery.
Mask of the Pariah (Ti): You may spend a Hero Point to make others avoid you. You become horrifically ugly and produce an aura of disgust and fear. Any PC wishing to approach you must spend a Hero Point to do so, or a Raise during a Sequence, and any physical interaction with you requires an additional Raise on top of the normal costs.
Cleanse (Ti): You may spend a Hero Point to remove any contaminant from any object, material or substance - plague bedsheets? Fine now! Poisoned water? Clean!
Bon Zanni (Ti): You may spend a Hero Point to know someone nearby that you've helped previously and who now owes you a favor.

Next time: Mystirios


Pirate Nations: My Magic Is Within

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: My Magic Is Within

Mystirios is the magical tradition of Numa, and it is vastly different than most Thean sorcery. Sanderis and Glamour grant power from other beings. Sorte manipulates external forces. Hexe blend things together to make magic. But the mystai of Numa? They are inspired by the gods, but their power is not from the gods. They listen to the tales and take their power from the human spirit itself. The stories just show how to use your hidden potential - the gods do not grant that power at all. Numanari epics are often about deeply flawed people with limitless potential, and Numanari magic is about the infinite potential of the human spirit, which can exceed the power of even gods. Many of their tales are about how mortals defeat the gods by power or cleverness, and the immortals become impressed with hteir wits or courage. The message is that anything is possible, if you but strive.

When you purchase Sorcery (Mystirios), you select one Numanari god and learn their mystirio, their mystery. This involves a long, guided ritual in which the sacred secrets of that god's devotees are shared with you. Each also comes with an apokalypsi, a revelation that only those devotees may know, which relates to the god's motivation and true desires. Once the ritual is complete, you are a mystai, initiated into the mysteries. You learn some insight of the god's wisdom and better understand your own ability, allowing you to unlock part of your own heroic potential. It's often less flashy than other sorcerous powers, but not less potent. To activate a mystirio, you spend a Hero Point. From there, you gain its benefit until either the end of the scene or when you activate its associated apokalypsi, whichever comes first. Activing an apokalypsi has no cost whatosever, but you must have its associated mystirio activated to use it. A given mystirio can only be activated once per scene, and you can only have one mystirio active at a time.

Dityhrambos, God of Plenty has a story of pain and regeneration. His story teaches that pain is temporary, and that you must endure to be able to triumph. Even the wrath of the father of gods cannot crush the body of Dithyrambos, let alone his spirit. He returns each spring from the dark depths of winter, and his mystai similarly learn to claw their way back up.
Mystirio: Every time you take an Action, you heal 1 Wound. If this would cause you to heal a Dramatic Wound, you instead activate the apokalypsi immediately and the mystirio ends.
Apokalypsi: On your Action, you may activate this to immediately heal one Dramatic Wound.

Potnia Agrotera, Goddess of the Hunt and War has probably the best kept secret among all the gods. Her secret tale of love and sacrifice is sometimes seen as at odds with her more common portrayal as a brash, bloodthirsty warrior. What her initiates understand is that if you truly want to fight for something, you must love it and be willing to sacrifice for it. What greater sacrifice can be made than your life given to save another?
Mystirio: When you spend Raises during a Risk to prevent Wounds to another PC, you case 1 Wound to whatever character tried to harm that PC.
Apokalypsi: On your action during an Action Sequence, when you use Aim, Brawl or Weaponry as your Approach, you may activate this instead of spending a Raise to take an Action, effectively allowing you to go twice in a row.

Hecteba, Jailed Goddess of Mysteries, Murder and Dark Magic has a mystirio, but it can only be learned by Villains. She is the bloody-handed goddess, patron of killers, and her worship is illegal in most of Numa, for good reason. Murder is a sacrament to her, a holy act, and the learning of her mystirio requires a cold-blooded ritual killing to be performed by the mystai.
Mystirio: When you make an Aim, Brawl or Weaponry Risk, you can increase the value of any one of your rolled dice by your Strength.
Apokalypsi: When you announce your intention to commit murder, you may activate this. If you do, you only need to spend one Raise to commit the murder - meaning you may still take additional actions during the round, though the murder still is not completed until the very end. This can only be used once per session.

Supati, Deity of Writing, Language and Magic, is the patron of scholars and tricksters. Their devotees value knowledge greatly, especially practical and beneficial knowledge. More esoteric knowldge can be useful, but Supati teaches that pure academics are less interesting than helping others with knowledge.
Mystirio: Whenever you make a Wits Risk, you may reroll any 1s on the dice, though you must use the new result. This happens before any other rerolls you may have.
Apokalypsi: On your action during a Risk, you may activate this. Any PCs, including you, who are under Pressure may take an immediate Action, though they must still spend Raises to do so - they may just act out of normal order.

Salacio, God of the Underworld and the Sea, is the patron of commitment. Once the river's course is set, it cannot be altered by anything short of divine intervention. This means Salacio is reliable but also stubborn. This and his loyalty to Zendio are his most defining traits, and they are the core of his mysteries: stay the course, maintain your faith, and nothing can stop you.
Mystirio: You are immune to Pressure.
Apokalypsi: You may activate this when you make a Resolve risk. You may reroll any dice with a result lower than your Resolve, but you must use the new result Dice rerolled this way cannot be rerolled by any effect and cannot have their values further modified in any way.

Theonoa Dianoia, Goddess of Craft and Wisdom, prides herself on knowing just when and where to act to bring victory, either in battle or in diplomacy. Her mysteries show how to be adaptable...and how to change the rules, when you can't win by them.
Mystirio: You may spend Raises during Action or Dramatic Sequences to modify the timing of Opportunities and Consequences. 1 Raise lets you change things by 1 - so if a Consequence would happen on 3 Raises, it now happens on 4 or on 2. You may influence things this way only once per round, but can spend as many Raises to do so as you want, and influence as many separate events as you want when you do.
Apokalypsi: When you use Empathy, Scholarshp or Warfare as your Approach in a Dramatic Sequence, you may activate this. You immediately gain Raises equal to your ranks in the chosen skill. You may use this only once per session.

Caledon, God of Medicine, the Home and Family, is the center of a story of simple mercy and giving. However, his real power lies in that each urt he heals, each home he blesses, each marriage - they all take something from him. He cannot last forever.
Mystirio: An PC in a scene with you that is under Pressure, including yourself, may have the additional Raise required to take actions under than the Pressured action paiud by any other PC in the scene.
Apokalypsi: ACtivate this to allow all other PCs in the scene to heal all Wounds on the current tier of their Death Spiral and 1 Dramatic Wound. You take 1 Dramatic Wound. You can activate this only once per session.

Next time: Mohwoo

Pirate Nations: Check My Sweet Tats

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Check My Sweet Tats

Mohwoo is the use of magical tattoos, which are given out by Wenshen and the huajia she has trained, pretty much all of whom are on or near Aragosta. You remember Wenshen, right? Of course you do. Unlike other Sorcery, anyone can 'learn' mohwoo, regardless of nationality, as long as they get Madam Wenshen's respect, or that of one of her huajia. However, if you already have Sorcery of some kind and choose to get mohwoo, once your mystic tattoo is complete, your old Sorcery goes away entirely. You can only be one kind of wizard at a time. In fiction, the tattoos you receive are chosen by Wenshen or her huajia, and may not be the ones you asked for, as they always pick the one their mystical interview tells them is best for you. It is a longer and more painful experience than a normal tattoo - the mystic ink burns more and the custom needles are sharper in some places and duller in others. At several points in the process, the mohwoo must be wrapped in foul-smelling seaweed for an hour or so to let the inks set. A small tattoo could take days, a large one most of a week.

The first time you take Sorcery (Mohwoo), you get one mohwoo in both its major and minor versions, and a second in its minor version only. Each time you buy it after that, you either get two new minors, two new majors associated with minors you already have, or one minor and one major associated with one you already have. To activate a mohwoo, you must invoke the tattoo somehow, such as by touching it or muttering a phrase of personal import or concentrating on it, and spend a Hero Point. Some also have an additional cost or restriction, but they all have the Hero Point cost. However, the tattoos have a mind of their own, and many believe even Wenshen doesn't really know how they work, just how to make them happen. The GM may spend a Danger Point to make your tattoos animate, glow or otherwise become obviously supernatural and impossible to conceal, even with clothing, for the rest of the scene. The GM can spend a Danger Point to make the environment react in a way appropriate to your tattoo, such as summoning a swarm of sharks for a shark tattoo or slamming a window shut as you sneak by one with a wind tattoo. This is always instantaneous, but the effects may linger - those sharks aren't about to vanish any more quickly than normal sharks. The GM may spend a Danger Point to apply Pressure to you to act in accordance with the mohwoo's nature for a round, requiring you to spend 2 Raises instead of 1 to do any action that isn't explicitly within your mohwoo's nature, such as protecting and defending for a crab or seeking a secret for a fish.

Fish is the mohwoo that represents searching or discovery, usually a personal search or one the seeker is not aware of. It might be about the revelation of truth from your past or a journey of self-discovery.
Minor: You do not need to breathe for the rest of the scene when you activate this, cannot be choked or strangled, cannot suffocate or drown, and cannot be harmed by airborne poisons.
Major: You can activate this in place of spending a Raise during any Action or Dramatic Sequence in which your task involves swimming or when being at least half-submerged in water would be helpful to what you want to do.

Crab is a protector and guardian mohwoo. It shows you place great importance on guarding something or someone, often to the exclusion of all else. This might be an actual, physical thing, like a child, or something more abstract, like honor.
Minor: You can activate this when you spend Raises to take Wounds in place of another character. The Wounds you take are halved, rounding down, to a minimum of 1, before you take them, and you can cancel them by spending Raises or triggering a Riposte or Parry.
Major: When you activate this, you can prevent another character from being Murdered by spending only one Raise rather than all of your Raises. You can use this only once per session.

Squid is a mohwoo with an unbreakable grip, and will die before it lets go. You are the same, if less literally. You often find yourself easily becoming attached to others and having problems letting go or admitting you're wrong. You are stubborn, according to foes, and steadfast, according to friends.
Minor: Activate this when you spend a Raise to apply Pressure. To act against your Pressure, your target must spend 2 additional Raises, not 1. You can use this only once per session.
Major: You may activate this when you deal Wounds during a Brawl Risk. Those wounds cannot be negated except via supernatural means. You can use this only once per scene.

Anchor represents someone who takes on burdens for others. You are reliable, self-sacrificing, and would throw yourself into the jaws of death to save others, generally without caring who those others are. This is what separates Anchor from Crab - Anchor's motives to help and protect are less personal.
Minor: Activate this to let another PC in the scene gain a Hero Point. You can use this only once per scene.
Major: Acitvate this and select another person. You are bound to them, and you two always knwo the direction and distance to each other with nothing but a moment's concentration. This lasts until the next sunrise or sunset, whichever comes first.

Turtle is the mohwoo of caution and wisdom. You move only when you are certain it is right. You are thoughtful and careful, and you know getting something right is more important than doing it fast.
Minor: You must spend your first Raise in a round to activate this. For the rest of the round, you take 1 fewer Wound from all sources.
Major: After you activate this, you may negate all Wounds dealt by any single attack. You must activate this on your turn and spend a Raise to do it. You can use this only once per scene.

Shark is a restless hunter. The mohwoo is usually given to you because you are aggressive, decisive and prize action over waiting to see what will happen. It can also represent chasing something, in which case it differs from the Fish in that it doesn't to discover - it wants to catch.
Minor: When you activate this, no one can successfully hide from you or avoid your notice by any means unless they have a supernatural ability to do so. If they have that, the two powers cancel out - they can attempt to hide as normal and you can try to notice them as normal. You can activate this only once per session.
Major: When you activate this, name a specific person as your prey. The GM will tell you their direction and approximate distance. Any physical Risk you take to pursue them gets 1 Bonus Die. This lasts until the end of the scene, but you can pay another Hero Point to keep it going. You may activate this only once per session.

Next time: Duelists and Also Botes

Pirate Nations: Pirate Blades

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: Pirate Blades

The fighting schools of La Bucca, Jaragua, Numa and the Rahuri are rather less defined than those of mainland Theah, but the Duelist's Guild is trying to change that. For the most part, the Guild respects their talents and traditions, and wants to integrate them as equals. They have two main tactics in integrating these foreign fighting schools. First, they've been founding guild halls in distant lands, offering masters who teach memberships in the Guild, along with their students, so long as they can prove their skill with the blade. They make immense efforts to approach these teachers respectfully and reverently, as the Guild actually does want them to join. A bigger guild means more funds and resources.

Second, the Guild uses its connections and power to help foreign-style masters establish schools back in Theah. This gives them access to an entirely new population of students, and a chance to establish a reputation. It also makes bonds of friendship and trust between duelists who may one day face each other. Foreign duelists that join the Guild are expected to avide by the same rules as their Thean counterparts, but are sometimes given more leeway on minor infractions caused by ignorance or cultural differences. The Guild is quite thoughtful about its rules and sees no reason to punish people for a slight difference in perspective.

Bugu Takobi was adapted from an Ifrian short sword style, using misdirecting movements to unbalance the foe. It primarily uses the machete these days, but can be done with any one-handed small weapon, such as a hatchet. It relies on quick slashes and dancing in and out of range, with quick steps that confuse the enemy and allow for easy sidesteps of attacks. The Mawon perfected the style and its obfuscative skills to hide the directions they'd attack from. Today, there are a few schools in the Atabean that teach it. The two most famous are Makaranta Takobi ('sword school') in Sunset Haven of La Bucca and Taiyewo's Memorial, in Kap-Kalfu of Jaragua. Rumor also says that a Bugu Takobi master has recently traveled to the Sarmatian Commonwealth to open a school there. The bonus is Takobi Gudana. When you wield a small hand-held weapon in one hand and nothing in the other, you may perform the Takobi Gudana maneuver, the Sword Flow. This prevents (Weaponry) Wounds, and the next Maneuver you perform this round that deals Wounds deals one additional Wound. You can use this only once per round.

Jogo de Dentro, the Inside Game, fuses dance and fighting. Its stances are dance steps, hand balances and acrobatic dodges meant for close quarters. It fights with kicks, sweeps and prison shives attached to hand or foot - ideal for fighting while bound. The tactics unbalance and evade over killing, relying on deception and trickery. There are no schools that teach this style, though Mestra Gaviao has been trying to earn enough prestige and wealth to open a formal academy in the Odisea Peninsula of Castille. For now, the only real way to learn it is either to be a slave or to find a teacher in Fort Freedom's back alleys. It was developed by anonymous Ifrian and Rahuri slaves, and has no named founder. Practitioners call themselves malandros, an Odisean insult to freed slaves that htey have reclaimed. Its bonus is the Riso da Malandragem. When you wield small, improvised blades such as barber's razors in the sleeves or glass embedded in the shoe, you may perform the Riso de Malandragem maneuver, the Scoundrel's Laugh. This deals 1 Wound to each of two targets, and the next time those targets deal Wounds this round, they deal (Weaponry) fewer Wounds. You can use this only once per round. Also, on top of this, whenever you make an Athletics, Brawl, Hide or Perform Risk, you get a Bonus Die if you describe how your mastery of Jogo de Dentro aids you.

Lakedaimon Agoge is the style taught by the docents of Lakedaimon's schools. They push their students hard to be worthy. They must make their own spear and sword, must sleep with their bow. All graduates of the Lakedaimon agoge learn this style, though it has since spread beyond those walls. Indeed, Numanari agoge and fighting styles are considered fashionable right now, though most young nobles have no stomach for the rigorous training after a few days. Docent Euthalia, one of the toughest andm ost respected teachers, has taken it on herself to go to the mainland and teach this style out of the Vodacce city Joppa, to test the heroic spirit of Theans in search of those she deems worthy of calling Numanari. When you learn the style, you select one weapon - the spear, sword or bow. When using that weapon, you get a special benefit. If you chose sword, you take your first action in a round as if you had 1 additional Raise. If you chose spear, you may reroll 1 die for any Athletics Risk in which you describe how you use your spear to help. If you chose bow, you can use Aim instead of Weaponry for all Maneuvers when using the bow. On top of all this, when wielding your chosen weapon, your Lunge is replaced by the Agoge Thrust Maneuver, which allows you to choose how many Raises you spend. It deals (Weaponry+Raises spent) Wounds, but you must spend your next action recovering from the blow, spending 1 Raise to do so.

Now, ships! We get some new ship Origins.
Aragosta: You always get one additional Raise on any Risks taken by the ship or her Crew at sea.
Atabean Trading Company: Once per session, you may repel all boarders automatically for one round in an Action Sequence.
Jaragua: You earn 1 additional Wealth for any goods sold in a Company-controlled port, and your Crew always has 1 additional Raise in any Risk against the Company.
La Bucca: Once per session, you may present a Letter of Marque from any nation in Theah. Once presented, it is useless, and it was probably a forgery anyway.
Numa: Whenever a PC aboard the ship activates any Knack Advantage, the Hero Point cost may be paid by any other PC on the ship.
Rahuri: Your ship and Crew always take 1 fewer Hit or Wound (minimum 1) from any other ship or Monster, provided the battle is in the Atabean Sea.

New Backgrounds
Black Flag: Your ship was a renowned pirate vessel. When you meet a pirate NPC nonviolently, you may spend a Raise or Hero Point. If you do, they treat you with respect and as a comrade until given a reason not to.
Port of Ghosts: Your ship has sailed to Soryana. When any PC has the service of an ancestor using the Seeker of Soryana Advantage, as long as both they and the Lost ancestor are on the ship, the PC may spend a Hero Point to revert the Lost ancestor to sanity. Any given ancestor can be rescued this way only once. If they go mad again, they are gone forever.
Salacio's Favorite: Your ship has been blessed by a hiereus of Salacio, Numanari god of the sea. The first time a PC gains a Hero Point each session while on the ship, they gain a second Hero Point.
Smuggler Queen: Your ship excels at breaking blockades. When you seek to sail your ship into forbidden waters and avoid notice, you may spend a Hero Point to do so automatically.

New Adventueres
A Family Matter: Have a member of La Cosca call in a favor you owe them, and succeed at fulfilling it. You may now perform basic Secret Society functions with La Cosca using Wealth instead of Favor. If you are already a member of La Cosca, you instead gain 5 Favor.
Clap 'Em in Irons!: Escape from the ATC after being captured or esnlaved. Each PC gains their choice of Slip Free, Streetwise or Team Player. In the future, all PCs get one bonus die to attempts to resist Company capture.
From Hell's Heart I Stab at Thee!: Kill a Sea Monster of Strength 10 or more without losing your ship. While at sea, when the GM spends a Danger Point to activate a Monster's Quality, you may spend a Hero Point to prevent it.
More Teeth than Stars in the Sky: Successfully hunt a creature bigger than the Ship you use to do so. When a creature with a Monster Quality renders you Helpless, you may spend a Hero Point to immediately heal your final Dramatic Wound and all Wounds on its tier. If you are rendered Helpless again before the end of the scene, you die.
Mother May I?: Transport a member of Los Ninos from a hostile or dangerous place back to La Bucca safely. When you are in La Bucca, you can spend a Raise or Hero Point to make contact with one of Los Ninos, who treats you as a friend until given reason not to.
Original Harpooner: Kill a Sea Monster with the help of a Rahuri ancestor without losing either the ancestor or the ship. The first time each round your Crew or Ship deals Hits or Wounds to a Sea Monster, they deal 1 additional Hit or Wound.
Sailor Overboard!: Rescue a marooned NPC. Add 1 Strength to your ship's total Crew. You may complete this Adventure multiple times, but only once per arc.
She Sailed, She Sank, She Sailed Again: Have your shup sink and be rebuilt using a memento. Your ship retains its former Origin benefit and gains a new one based on the nation it is rebuilt in or the background of the shipwright.
Spit in the Devil's Eye: Survive an encounter with the Black Freighter or the Devil Jonah. All PCs aboard gain the Reputation advantage, with a descriptor relating to the encounter.
To the Victor Go the Spoils: Claim an ATC ship intact and with a full cargo hold. Each PC gains 3 Wealth and 3 Favor with their Secret Society, if any.

Next time: Secret Societies! The Not Mafia and the Riroco. Also, ship charters.

Pirate Nations: For the Family

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: For the Family

La Cosca date back generations in Vodacce. When Cardinal Ordunez founded his prison island, the Merchant Princes saw a chance to be rid of them - people too connected to execute or effectively imprison in Vodacce itself. They were the leaders of a powerful, shadowy organization that had operated just out of sight, using their wealth and connections to become folk heroes that could be trusted when the banks, the Church and the Princes could not. In a sweeping and coordinated action across most of southern Vodacce, the Princes arrested most of the organization in one night and shipped them off to La Bucca before going back to their scheming. The exiled members of La Cosca, the Family, had no intention of just going away, though. They set down roots in La Bucca and flourished when Allende took over. The leaders, called zios, or 'uncles', were ready when La Bucca declared its own freedom. They are there now, for when official channels fail. If the bank will not loan to you, they will. If the police will not arrest your son's killer, you can turn to them. They are the honest thieves, the honorable criminals, and if you break your word to them, they are a terrifying enemy. Under the Zios, you find the cuginos, the cousins - members in good standing, unofficially ranked by age and seniority. Under them are the nipote, the nephews and nieces, who are junior members. There are also amicos, friends, who are not members but are valued and considered useful.

La Cosca considers itself a family and cares deeply about community and wellbeing. They are often appealed to for aid and justice by those that fall through the cracks or are abandoned by the system. Asking for help always has a price, however, a debt of honor or obligation in most cases. They take it very seriously. Recruiting a useful contact or asset, or helping such an asset, is worth at least 4 Favor - more, if they're quite important or useful. Helping them spread their influence back to Vodacce is worth 6 Favor. It'll be years before they can fight the Princes directly, but any act that pushes towards that is worthy. Defending or protecting them at personal cost, such as taking the fall for them or going out of your way to hunt their rogue agents, is worth 8 Favor.

A Hero that belongs to La Cosca can get any aid requested at half the normal Favor cost if they directly help complete whatever task they asked for...provided that isn't implict ot the job itself. You ask to break out of prison, that costs full price, as your involvement is literally required. Asking La Cosca to collect a debt or avenge a wrong for you costs 6 Favor. And any time you gain Favor with La Cosca, you may choose to get up to half of that Favor in the form of Wealth, at 2 Wealth per 1 Favor. You can't just cash out Favor this way, however - it can only be spent on this in the moment it is earned.

The Riroco are the Rahuri resistance movement against the ATC slavers. They are led by the Rahuri princess Tanama, and have groups across the Atabean, fighting via guerilla raids and sabotage. Most focus on freeing slaves and smuggling them out to Rahuri lands, but the most radical work to capture ships and turn them into anti-Company warships. The Riroco tend to be peaceful to anyone except slavers and slave owners, but they're growing frustrated with their lack of prgoress, and have now begun to count any ally of the Company as a potential target for violence. The Riroco ships can be identified by a red flag with a long righ-to-left diagonal slash...and the fact that they are often full of returned ancestors, brought back to help free their descendants. Just the sight of a ship of angry ghosts is usually enough to send slavers or Company merchants fleeing in panic. They brand captured slavers with a jagged X mark on the cheek, to warn other Riroco and Rahuri that these people are slavers and should be treated as such. Most marked survivors live only long enough to spread the Riroco legend before being killed. While the Riroco do seek aid from others to help end slavery, they don't trust non-Rahuri very often and require them to prove themselves willing to fight to the very end. Once they trust you, though, they are strong and fierce allies.

The Riroco's key interest is keeping the people of the Atabean safe from slavers, foreign interests and monsters. Striking a blow against the ATC is worth 6 Favor at least - more, for a truly legendary strike. Slaying a Monster that threatens the Atabean or its people worth half the Monster's Strength in Favor, but if you kill multiple in one trip, they use only the highest. If you belong to the Riroco, you can get a favorable introduction to a cacique for 4 Favor, ensuring they will at least listen to you if not cooperate. Getting the aid of a Seeker of Soryana to lead you to the land of the dead costs 6 Favor, and you must still pay all Hero Point costs associated with bringing an ancestor out to the world. If you allow the ancestor to become Lost, you must hunt them down personally and set things right or be considered a traitor.

Now, charters! Almost every pirate crew has a charter, if not necessarily a magical Charter. All crewmen are expected to sign a charter - no exceptions. It's bad luck to sail with a crewman that hasn't. Some signatures are noted as having been under duress, however, which can sometimes save you from being hanged if the ship is captured. Typically, these signatures are those of skilled crew members, such as surgeons or carpenters, who are given special dispensation due to their desperately needed skills. Each crew has its own ritual for signing a charter - some swear on the Book of Prophets, or on a skull, or crossed pistols, or the largest or oldest cannon aboard.

Many crews go beyond the basic charter and use the Pirate's Code, a specific charter based in the one supposedly signed by Captain Gonzalez and the Devil Jonah. On some level, most pirates consider themselves bound by them, even if their crew isn't sworn to it. Mother Ocean grants favor to those that keep it, and those who break it have the Devil Jonah's eye ipon them. Committing to the Code is not done lightly, and if you get caught having sworn to it, you will usually be hanged by authorities.

quote:

We Pirates, servants of Mother Ocean, do abide by the following Code, lest we dishonor Mother Ocean and curse our brethren to unluck while upon her waves.
I. In the Moment of Truth, fly yer True Colors. If asked, admit you be a Pirate, for if ye deny the Code, the Code will deny ye. When you begin an attack, remove any false Colors and raise your True Colors.
II. Never refuse the crew a vote for Captain. When the crew is strongly against an action proposed by the Captain, they can call a single vote for a new Captain, or the Captain can concede to their demand.
III. Parley. Never refuse parley with any party who calls for it. We be Brothers and Sisters o' the Sea.
IV. Don't set sail when the sunrise is red. A red sunrise is a warning from Mother Ocean to stay home and be safe, or face her wrath at sea.
V. Don't anger the denizens of the sea. The sea is their home and ye be a visitor.
VI. Give the first take of a prize to Mother Ocean. She be the source of all our bounty and we shan't scorn her.
VII. If pulling a sailor from the sea when the sea is calm, pay to the sea a reward of equal value. Don't steal from Mother Ocean.
VIII. Don't go back for a sailor who has fallen overboard in a storm. Mother Ocean has claimed him and rescuing him when she be angry will only bring her wrath to ye.
IX. Don't save a sailor who's been marooned. She be bad luck and will bring it aboard your ship.

The Brotherhood's ships all carry a copy of the First Charter, thoguh each ship may also add new articles unique to them - typically regarding officer and sailor behavior aboard, settlement of disputes, length of shifts and so on. They are typically signed in blood.

quote:

I. Every hand to have a vote in the affairs; equal title to the provisions and liquors, and may use them at pleasure, unless scarcity makes it necessary to vote to a rationing.
II. Every hand to be called fairly in turn, by list, on board for duty.
III. If any defraud the Brotherhood to the value of a Guilder in plunder, marooning shall be his punishment.
IV. No person to game at cards or dice for money.
V. All souls aboard a captured ship shall be set free and determine amongst themselves, by vote, the course they set once their hull is plundered.
VI. Nor member of a crew to be harmed if she surrendered without violence.
VII. Every hand to keep his piece, pistols and cutlass clean and fit for service.
VIII. To desert the ship or his quarters in battle is punished with death or marooning.
IX. No striking one another on board, but every hand's quarrels to be ended fairly ashore with fists, or sword and pistol.
X. If in service to the Brotherhood, any hand should lose a limb, or become cripple he should have 600 Guilders, or 500 Guilders for limb, or 100 Guilders for an eye or finger.
XI. The captain and quartermaster receive two shares, the sailing master, boatswain and gunner one and a half shares, and other officers one and one quarter shares.

Reis has her own charter as well - the Pact of the Crimson Roger. It is written on human flesh, branded and covered in bloody fingerprints, and it's a fairly simple one: swear loyalty to Reis even beyond death, and be rewarded. It's said that Reis herself demanded the inclusion of its final clause.

quote:

We, the crew of the Crimson Roger, swear loyalty to Captain Reis 'til death and beyond. Should we betray or disobey her, may our souls burn in the blackest pits of the Abyss forever. We will do as she commands without hesitation, even if it puts our lives in peril, for such orders will be for the good of the crew.
In exchange for this I, Captain Reis, promise a fair share of all plunder taken, that you will not be punished without reason, and that your family shall receive your share of the take should you be killed in the line of duty.

La Buccan charters are often based on Letters of Marque, recognizing them as privateers. Many crews have multiple Letters for multiple nations, switching them out depending on the colors of enemy ships. The Thean Ambassadors in La Bucca write these and broker deals for prizes and goods. Specific rules often concern engaging ships less than a day's sail from La Bucca, as is its recognized neutrality. They also generally contain specific language on experiation dates and crew behaviors, to provide plausible deniability to the nation in the event that someone actually lodges a formal protest. Letters of Marque can also be gained in Thean ports, but the vast majority are signed at La Bucca.

All Jaraguan vessels swear to the Mawon charter, based on their principles of freedom. They show no mercy whatsoever to slavers, and freed slaves are always given the choice of joining the crew and a fair share of any prize taken from the slave ship. The number of Mawon crews out there has exploded since Jaragua's freedom was secured, and the ATC has orders to destroy Mawon ships on sight. It has done little to help.

quote:

I. Each Man and Woman granted fair share of the Prize. The Captain is allowed two shares. Officers are allowed one and one half shares. The Soul that spots the Prey originally is allowed first pick of a small arm or the equivalent cost in Guilders as a Prize.
II. No Man or Woman regardless of origin shall be taken as a Prize. If a soul is Enslaved, Indentured, or in Bondage upon a Prey, they shall be freed and given a fair portion of the take to begin a new life of Freedom.
III. A Man or Woman Enslaved, Indentured, or in Bondage can choose to join the Crew but must swear to this Charter. If they choose not to join the Crew, they will be ferried to Safe Harbor and placed in Trusted Hands to be Free.
IV. No Man or Woman is allowed to gamble aboard the ship while at Sea. Punishment is additional shift and a reasonable loss of share dictated by the Fair and Honest Quartermaster.
V. Each Man and Woman who has signed this Charter is allowed a vote in matters concerning the welfare of Ship providing the Ship is not engaged with an enemy, at such time the Captain's word is Law until said engagement is over. The Captain will hold the safety and welfare of the Crew tantamount to her own.
VI. All Men and Women aboard are to be Fair and Honest, and Officers to be held as Paragons to these virtues. To lead is a Gift to those under you and that Gift can be revoked if abused. Revocation of Officership is decided by two votes, the initial from the fellow Officers, and ratified by a Majority of the Crew. The offending Officer shan't be punished lest his actions dictate so.

Next time: Monsters

Pirate Nations: I Am Skipping The How To Speak Pirate Section. It Exists.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: I Am Skipping The How To Speak Pirate Section. It Exists.

So, Sea Monsters. There's plenty of them out there, and they're plenty dangerous. On the lower end we have Giant Clams, which...well, they're big. Bigger than a human child, anyway, and more than capable of clamping down on your arm and holding you underwater until you die. Numanari kids who dive for clams often make a bit of a game playing with them, until someone gets caught and dies, and the games end for a while. Giant Clams are STrength 5 and have Chitinous and Suffocating. They do not have Aquatic primarily because they are essentially stationary critters whose prmary danger comes from people not respecting their immense strength.

Giant Crustaceans are crabs, lobsters or shrimp the size of a human. They aren't that dangerous, as sea monsters go, especially if you can get on their backs, but they're around the Sea of Monsters and do have nasty claws. They are Strength 7, Chitinous and Destructive. While they can go on land and they can swim, they simply aren't terrifying enough to be Aquatic.

Predatory Fish covers giant barracuda, puranha, pike and gar. They're considerably nastier than you'd think - they thirst for blood, and are as large as a grown man. They tend to travel in packs, too. They're STrength 8, Aquatic, Swift...and if exposed to blood, they become Relentless as long as their victim is in the water. A school of smaller ones can instead be treated as one or more Assassin Brute Squads, with the ability to spend Danger Points to bring in additional squads if exposed to blood. Do not bleed near giant monster fish.

Whales are nasty. See, you'd think that whales would just be...whales, but they come in all shapes and sizes. You run into a cow that's defending her calf, well, that's going to tear you apart. Older whales can be cunning, too, and killer whales are vicious. Whalers run into all kinds of them...but your average whale is Strength 12, Aquatic and Powerful. The Great White Whale of the Atabean is somethinbg more, however. It's a cruel creature that is smart enough to remember ships that come for us and strong enough to attack ships directly from below. It generally doesn't eat people after destroying their ships, though - it likes to make its point and then leave, and is known to hunt whalers for a long period. It is a legendary beast, Strength 15, with Aquatic, Colossal, Powerful and Slippery. Ordinary whales can be dangerous if you're not prepared, but the Great White Whale can hunt down and take out even the most hardened crew.

Sea Serpents are fairly common in the Atabean. They come in two broad varieties, and the Rahuri prefer not to hunt them if they can - no real meat, no blubber, soft bones. Only their teeth and their poison have value, and that not enough to merit a hunt specifically, most of the time. Your smaller type of sea serpent is called a Sea Snake, ranging in size from that of a boa constrictor to larger than a man, and ranging in Strength from 5 to 10. They are Venomous, Aquatic and Slippery. The larger kind are called Sea Dragons and can take on an entire ship. They are Strength 18, Aquatic, Colossal, Silppery, and Suffocating due to their poisonous breath.

Makara are a fairly unique kind of sea creature. They're not overly large by sea monster standards, but quite clever. The most common have the appearance of a sheep or goat from the front, with horns and a trunk-like nose that grab things. They have the rear of a fish or a snake. They breathe air, but can hold their breath for a very long time, and are able to drag themselves up out of the water onto land with their hooved forelegs. They prefer rough seas and deep water, so most never see them. They are Strength 6, Destructive, Slippery and often found in groups of 3 to 8 - though they aren't Squads. Each is an individual monster. But hey, their teeth are very pretty.

Mabuya are horrific creatures, rotting ghosts that lurk under the water to grab the living and drag them down. They can be mistaken for ancestral spirits in the dark, but they are given away if you can see their feet, which are backwards. This ensures they can never go home. Some say the mabuya are demons, while others say they are the final stage of the Lost. There is no reasoning with them, however, and they serve as a reminder to the Rahuri of the dangers of violating tribal honor. A single Mabuya usually has Strength 5 to 7, and is Aquatic, Horrifying, Regenerating and Suffocating.

Side note: Why are there so many dang monsters? William Jameson of the Explorers, who claims to have visited the most Syrne ruins in the Atabean, claims that the gods of the New World are descendants of or servitors of the Syrneth (he's not sure which), and that the sea monsters were a combination food source and defense system for them. They were bred in the Atabean to feed the New World gods, whom Jameson claims had some apocalyptic power to defend the New World from Sidhe invasion. Most other Explorers think he's a crackpot whose theory is all down to a bad experience with the Sidhe in his native Inismore. Whatever the case, Jameson refuses to return to the Glamour Islands and is obsessed with finding a Syrneth ruin he calls the Focus.

Giant Squid are a must. They are themselves quite large, as you well known. Strength 12, Aquatic, Destructive, Powerful, and Tentacled, with 10 Tentacles. The Kraken - there may be just one, but some say there are more - is more than that. Kraken don't attack ships from hunger, but out of hate for sailors and territoriality. They're immense squid-beasts, pink and white and blotchy red, and there are thankfully not many of them, if there's even more than the one. A Kraken is Strength 20, Aquatic, Colossal, Destructive, Powerful and Tentacled. It has many, many Tentacles, and each is Strength 10 and can survive 2 Dramatic Wounds due to their sheer size.

Mama Tortue is out there, though she's extremely unlikely to attack you. She tends to look like an island when you're at a distance, but as you get close, you realize she's moving. She's a gigantic turtle with plants on her back, and she's as smart as anyone, with deep, green eyes. If for some reason you want to fight her, she is Strength 20, Aquatic, Colossal, Teleporting and Elemental (Sea). Don't do that!

Tiburon is real, too. Pretty much all monsters serve him, if you believe the Rahuri legends, except for the Maw That Consumes, the Wu'a. He's out there and he's not near as nice as Mama Tortue. He is Strength 20, Aquatic, Colossal, Horrifying, Powerful, Relentless and Slippery. He also has Shapeshifting, though any form he takes has many rows of vicious teeth.

The Wu'a, the Great Whirlpool, is said to be like a giant anglerfish, but so large that it can't just lure creatures in. Instead, it comes up to the surface, dangling its lights over the water and opening its mouth to create a whirlpool so big it can suck down an entire ship into its maw. Wu'a is Strength 20, and has Aquatic, Colossal, Horrifying and Suffocating. It is one of the most dangerous creatures in existence.

New Monster Qualities
Colossal: It's ufcking huge. It can take 8 Dramatic Wounds before it is Helpless.
Destructive: The GM may spend a Danger Point to have the Monster destroy an item or non-vital body part on a PC automatically.
Slippery: The GM may spend a Danger Point to have the monster automatically escape the scene at any point. This can be used only once per session.
Suffocating: The monster can somehow choke you or drag you under. The GM can spend a Danger Point to pick one PC and deal double damage to them for the rest of the round.

We then get a chapter that is basically just advice for how to run games set on ships, and how to do sailing travel in interesting ways that don't just boil down to pointless and boring dice rolls. It's pretty well-written and good advice, but not really easy for me to summarize. It also gives suggestions on what maritime campaigns might focus on and useful things to watch or read to learn more about ships.

The End!

Next up, pick:
Heroes & Villains
Nations of Theah, Vol. 1
Nations of Theah, Vol. 2
The Crescent Empire
The New World
Lands of Gold & Fire

Lands of Gold and Fire - John Wick Is Not A Writer For This Book

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - John Wick Is Not A Writer For This Book



Well, besides a paragraph or so on the dedication. This book was largely in the hands of Jonaya Kemper, whose other works mostly involve Nordic Larp, from what I can see, but has done stuff for #feminism (a nano-game anthology) and Undying (a LARP). She seems cool and big on intersectionality. So that's fun. The book focuses on the five great Kingdoms of Ifri, which the griots say were gifted great power by spirits known as the Jok, long ago, by giving them mystical thrones. However, Ifri now faces a terrible, terrible darkness. The Bonsam, a timeless force of evil imprisoned by the Jok, are escaping their cage to twist and corrupt Ifri. Ancient protections fail, and the Bonsam twist the people towards darkness. Ignorant Theans may paint Ifri as a land of heathens and savages, all alike, a place of jungle and desert. They are wrong - Ifri is a diverse land, its people as various and different as anything.

The lands we will cover here:
Aksum, the land of peace, whose people follow the Orthodox Anidi Hibiri Tefet'iro Church oF Theus, a religion as old as the Vaticine itself. Its people are renowned for their wisdom, and while Theans may differ in perspective, they can find no fault in the priests' ecumenical knowledge.
Khemet, the land of night, which has fallen into a dark malaise. It is a learned and ancient kingdom, but it turns now from the light, and threatens to bring the continent with it.
Maghreb, the land of the desert, which is mysterious and wealthy, ruled over by the Blue Queen. It has many foes, but she fights them all.
Manden Kurufaba, the crown of Ifri, which believes itself the center of the world because of its great wealth.
Mbey, the land of culture...and of death. Once, it was an example of what could happen when many different people came together, but now, it is the heart of Bonsam corruption.

Ifri is a land of ancient secrets, great empires, mysterious artifacts and epic conflict - both supernatural and political. The Kingdoms are full of conspiracy and deceit, and heroes that can strike for truth and justice are deeply needed.

Now, some basic Thean misconceptions. Many Theans think Ifri is a country; it is not. It is a continent. Indeed, it's big enough to contain the entire landmass of the New World plus the entire landmass of Theah. The continent has every known type of biome, and you could spend a lifetime traveling it and not be done. Ifri isn't even the agreed-on name of the continent, just the most commonly used one. Maghreb knows it as Ifriqiya, Mandenkaw as Ifran. Ifri's nations are all diverse and tend to have numerous tribal groups within them.

Ifri is not technologically or culturally inferior to Theah. Its cultures and customs are different, but they are not backwards or naive or stupid. While an Ifrian may prefer a low stool or the floor to a chair, or may eat from a communal plate with their hands, that doesn't make them primitive. Just different. The Ifrians are also not just dark-skinned analogues to Theans, and often have very different ambitions and goals. Technology is different, but not worse. Cities often share the same challenges and features, but are arranged on different political lines, with different goals. They are, however, no less developed or less able to support their people. Different is not inferior.

Most Ifrians have the luxury of knowing, with terrible certainty, that their gods exist. For most Ifrians, a Thean is more mythical than the Jok or the Ori, and often more alien. An Ifrian can see the spirits' work just by going outside. Life after death exists - the Ifrians know this because several have communed with their ancestors. The workings of the Jok and the Bonsam are part of everyday life, and blasphemy or disrespect can be deadly. In Ifri, there isn't superstition - just wise caution. Likewise, many Ifrians see no conflict in there being multiple faiths. All have the same weight for most Ifrians, who can believe in the al-Din faith, the Ori, the Jok and Ashe at once. There is no contradiction in believing in al-Musawwir side-by-side with Olodumare, King of Heaven and creator of the Ori and the world. Possibly they are the same being, but if not, best to hedge your bets. There is no competition between gods. While the Vaticine has spread to some degree due to the work of missionaries, it's likely to just become another member of the great tapestry of Ifrian faiths.

The Bonsam are a force so evil, so terrible, that they can rightly be called the Devil, ruling over the weak king of Mbey and his once great kingdom. The Bonsam seek to steal the pride, culture and strength of Ifri and replace it with death and suffering. Their servants are the abonsam, who sow distrust and corruption like a disease and come in many forms. The Bonsam are resisted by the Jok, who seek and assist those with great destinies. The Jok never act overtly, but nudge things from behind the scenes to bring benevolent change and inspire. The Jok might be something similar to the Sidhe, but probably are not the remnants of the Syrneth. Some say they are spirits given power by Theus, but whatever they are, they encourage the best in humanity, guiding them to greatness. However, their power alone is not enough to stop the Bonsam. They can only be guides and helpers - it is the heroes themselves that must awaken Ifri from the darkness and bring the kingdoms together against evil.

The ATC is another of the plagues on Ifri - they've done more in a single decade than the Bonsam have in a century. They spread fear and mistrust, and the Bonsam fully support the ATC in their actions as a perfect vector for the spread of corruption. Slavery has not been invented by the ATC in Ifri - they've just brought it to new lows. Most common Ifrian slavery has, historically, been of captured or defeated enemies and civilians in war, forced to work for a time as bonded slaves. Others become slaves to pay off debts or atone for crimes. Once a set period passes, the bonded slave is then freed, or when their contract ends. A bonded slave in Ifri usually enjoys all the rights given a citizen of their nation and is not mere property. They can seek reparation for wrongs done to them and can rise to high status when their service ends. This is the most common form of Ifrian slavery. This isn't to say this form of slavery is good - it's not. But it's not nearly as bad as some kinds.

However, there is also chattel slavery. These slaves are mere property, to be used as you like. Chattel slaves have no hope for freedom, and their status is inherited by their children. Chattel slaves are treated as subhuman commodities, broken and discarded when no longer useful. They have no rights, no way to ease their suffering and exist only to serve. Mbey and the ATC practice chattel slavery; no other place in Ifri does.

Next time: History and geography

Lands of Gold and Fire - The Great Rivers

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - The Great Rivers

One of the common creation myths of Ifri speaks of Olodumare, also called the Oba-Orun, the King of Heaven, who lived in the sky above Omi, a world of endless water. One day, he felt the urge to make the earth, and for this task he reached into his heart and pulled forth the spirit Aniyikaye. Olodumare commanded Aniyikaye to do the work, giving him the materials he would need - a bag of primordial Ashe, an Iworo'Won (or gold chain) and a five-toed hen. Aniyikaye climbed down the chain for days until he could see the water, opening the bag and sprinkling some Ashe onto it, making it roil and steam and push forth a pile of rich, black earth. Then, he loosed the hen on the land, instructing her to grab the loose earth and scatter it across Omi.

Satisfied, Aniyikaye climbed back up to Heaven. Next, Olodumare sent his trusted pet, the chameleon, to inspect the work. After days of inspection, the chameleon reported that all was good, and Olodumare named this land Ajaka-Katunga, the sacred house. He decided then to retire to a higher heaven, but before he did, he distributed the holy Ashe among other Ori he had made. The Ori set out to build other elemental forces and build on Aniyikaye's work. Once this was done, Olodumare called the Ori back to heaven and gave Ashe to Aniyikaye to make humanity with. From this primordial creation, all are descended from the most potent of the Ori - Olodumare, King of the Sky.

Ifri's most important geographic feature is its rivers. Myths speak of the Jok cutting the four Great Rivers as they sought passage to the world beyond, and these rivers are what bring life to the people of Ifri. The Iteru River is said to have been made when the Ennead flooded Khemet, carving a huge gorge. The waters rushed in after it, flowing south until they had to turn back due to the power of the mountains of Iu-Neserer. The Khemeti say the Iteru's current still flowers north just because those waters are still flowing back to the sea all these centuries later. Khemet depends on the Iteru to survive, but also suffers for it. Seasonal flooding dislodges families from their homes, destroys crops and unburies the dead, and it is also often used by river bandits. It also sometimes turns red as blood and boils for no clear reason. This is believed to be due to some fleeting curse from the underworld source of the ancient river.

Travelers are often awed by the Iteru's great bay, the Timsah al-Iter. It is full of crocodiles that feed on the unwary, most notably an ancient crocodile called Sobki by the locals. Sobki is both worshipped and feared, as she is the most ancient and possibly the largest of all beasts in Ifri. She lived in the Timsah for centuries, and many of its crocodiles are her descendants. Deep in her back is a spearhead made of Orun Irin, the sky metal. The shaft of the spear has long since rotted, and her scales have started to grow over the spearhead itself. Some griot claim the spear is a potent artifact, but none have ever been able to retrieve it. Sobki's scales are greatly valued by alchemists and sorcerers. Iteru's banks are also home to Apis, a mighty warrior who was once a mercenary for the Crescent Empire. He retired to Iteru and is known to be very strong and very generous, building many temples and shrines - most of which get destroyed in the seasonal floods.

The Kwara River is the widest of the Great Rivers, winding west through the Manden Empire. It is so wide that one cannot see its far bank, and is home to many spirits, monsters and river goddesses. Many of these are quite dangerous, such as the Great River Serpents called the Mkole-Mbembe or the elephant-slaying Emela Ntouka. Great mists known as umphefumlo sometimes rise from the river, obscuring sight, and are occasionally believed to be caused by the river goddesses. People often pray to them for safe travel or good harvests or fishing. However, the mists also can hide dangers like hippopotami, crocodiles or other terrible beasts. The goddesses are said to drink in the waters of all other rivers in the world to feed the Kwara.

Somewhere along the Kwara you can find the Pool of Twins, though it is always covered in mist. It is home to the Twins, a pair of spirits that are generally friendly but mischevious. One is believed to be male, the other female, and one lives below the water and the other above. Often, only one Twin will appear to you, giving a task such as stealing water from a Mokele-Mbembe or a precious stone from a royal treasury. Failure to complete this task often makes travel on the Kwara quite difficult. The Kwara's most famous human inhabitant is Aminata, a Mandenka woman of virtue that travels between villages, interceding in spiritual disputes. She doesn't like to travel on the north side of the river, however. She has a long scar on her neck, and if asked about it, all she says is 'Mbey.'

The Berbera River flows through the Aksum Kingdom, and is broad and deep enough for sailing - like most of the Great Rivers. However, its many tributaries are known for frequent sandbars, some of which extend in the Berbera proper. Thus, few sailors brave the rivor without an Aksumite guide. In some places, it also flows into deep gorges, which tend to have minor gold veins. The river also feeds the fertile croplands of Aksum. The Serpent Canyons are the worst of these forges. In most places, the Berbera is deep and slow, but in the mountains where the Serpent Canyons are found, it becomes fast and deadly, splitting into many passages, some underground. There are safe ship routes through the area, but it takes great skill and knowledge to navigate them. The Hattua Laga river pirates prey on ships in the area and plunder the many wrecks, traveling even as far as Khemet. They sometimes disguise themselves as merchants, and their leader Abbebe is a threat to all travelers on the river.

The Joliba River heads south, to the relatively uncharted wilds of southern Ifri. It passes through many jungles and impressive waterfalls before spreading into a massive wetland fed by many tributaries. The marshes, bogs and backwaters are often impossible for outsiders to navigate, and the river grasses and small hills stretch above the river, making even the landscape fluctuate with the tides. Several times in the year, parts of the Joliba turn black and smell foul. The people that live nearby call this the Vomit of Bonsam, but it typically goes away after reaching the waterfalls, even if the scent can carry for miles. The jungle marshes between Aksum and Manden are nearly impassible, despite the Joliba's flow. These swampy lands, called Dambo, seem to be shrinking, however. Abonsam often emerge from the swampy jungles in increasing numbers, raiding nearby settlements. A figure known as the Ranivorus haunts the area. They always wear a wooden and ivory mask of great size, and some believe they are an abonsam who fled its master. The locals refuse to refer to it as anything but Mankholi-kholi - the name Ranivorus came from Thean explorers, though no one is sure exactly who coined it. Whatever they are, they actively attempt to prevent ships from traversing the Joliba from the river of the Mokele-Mbembe, and they will enlist others to help enforce that.

The Tamanrasset are a bunch of underground rivers beneath northern Ifri, also called the Ghost Rivers. They are frequently populated by bandits, abonsam, ancestral spirits and monsters. The greatest of these is the Lulungwa Mangakatsi, which is said to travel the entire length of Ifri, carrying the land's soul. The Jok once patrolled the waters, carving the floors and ceilings with strange forms and teaching early humans to decorate the entrances with tile and sacred sites. Legends told by the griot claim the Timbavati river once flowed in the sky, full of starlight, then plunged under the surface to the underworld, to bring light to the ancestors. However, when the Ennead draw the waters of the world over Ifri, the Timbavati dimmed and vanished from the sky. Now, the ancestors crave light. Ancient maps in the libraries of Manden also show a river flowing from Khemet's heart which no longer exists. Many scholars believe this is an error, perhaps a mis-drawing of the Iteru, but in truth it maps the course of one of the Tamanrasset, under the Great Pyramids, which serves as a route (full of traps and tests) to the ancient home of the Ennead.

The nomadic people that travel and live along the rivers are known as the Nommo, the river people. They sail barges and canoes up and down the rivers with expert skill, often lashing several barges together into a kind of boat-town that floats on the waters and barely moves faster than a walking pace. These settlements are used to trade with villages they pass, bringing items from far-off lands and receiving goods the rivers cannot provide. It is said that most Nommo live out their lives having never touched dry land. The Mandenkaw claim the Nommo are born from water spirits in the depths of the Kwara, while the Aksumites see them as heaven thieves tolerated only for their trade. The Khemeti claim a Nommo is cursed never to touch dry land, and that if one does, all the sacred rivers will flee and the underworld will rise. When dealing with outsiders, the Nommo typically wear face-concealing wooden masks, wide-brimmed hats or simple veils, and they frequently adopt outcasts and criminals found along the rivers.

All of the Great Rivers originate from the same source: Iu-Neserer, the Island of Flame, home of the Jok. It is a mythic land, and to reach it requires heavy rowing and pulling upriver. The fog becomes so thick that you can see barely ten yards from the bank, and some say you cross into a dream-like world. The waters around the isle are known as Mokele-Mbembe after the great serpent (or serpents) that swims in them. A thick sulfur mist covers the water at all times, hiding reefs and logs. Periodically, the waters erupt into columns of fire fed by underwater gas deposits, and the flames are hot enough to burn anything, boil the waters and make it hard to even breathe. The waters are said to be born of the first Jok, or perhaps an Ori that came east and became too big even for the Kwara. The Mkole-Mbembe is practically an inland sea, always whirling and making deadly hazards. Only the Nommo know how to navigate its waters, and they guard that secret as a sacred promise to the Jok. Many of the peaks that rise from the water give off fumes and vapors that surround them in acrid clouds, and the rapids prevent boats from reaching the island itself. The griots say that a boat containing one of the sacred Sika'Dwa can cross the water and dock at the Island of Flame, whose docks are visible if the mists lift. Some say it takes not just a Sika'Dwa but also the stool's rightful ruler to make the journey.

Next time: The mountains and monsters of Ifri.

Lands of Gold and Fire - Giant Asshole Baboons

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Giant Asshole Baboons

The mountains that surround the Mokele-Mbembe are full of baboons. They are called, collectively, the Guardians of Babi, and the forests in those mountains have never been disturbed by the Ifrian peoples because everyone is terrified of the baboons. Some consider them to be mere animals, but others know that these gold-and-crimson beasts guard the shores of the Island of Fire and attack those who do not belong. Deep in the mountains is Babi himself, a gigantic baboon king who is commanded by the Jok and takes counsel from the Wiseones. There is an enormous statue of Babi that marks where his lands begin, standing over a hundred feet tall and carved from basalt. It stares endlessly towards the waters.

The Fire Island's caldera hides the last great city of the Jok, Khemenu, the City of Eight. Its walls are the color of polished ivory, and its strange geometry makes it resemble solid cloud. It is a beautiful if disturbing city, made for giants rather than any human. The doors are too big, the stairs hard to climb, the passages end abruptly, the bridges connect balconies too narrow to support them. Each wall is covered in pictographs, runes and images, sometimes inlaid with jewels, gold or Orun Irin. You can see the history of the world in the walls, written in story...if you only knew how to read it in the right order. Only a few Jok yet remain in Khemenu and know its full story, and the city structure makes it nearly impossible to read in any coherent sense.

Above the city is a massive sun disc made from Orun Irin, steel, gold and silver. Sunlight reflects off it, shining through the walls and casting shadows on the streets, which reveals even more stories, many of them prophetic. At night, the disc shines still, through gouts of fire into the sky. The city is far larger than its inhabitants need, and most empty homes seem only recently vacated, each of them able to hold many humans indeed. Occupied buildings are marked by Orun Irin braziers that never extinguish, despite the water that surrounds them, unless they are taken off the island. The Jok are apparently able to read the smoke from the braziers to tell how many Jok remain in the city and where they are. The city has many libraries, often vistied by Wiseones to return Orun Irin or to find information. The Jok, though their numbers are much diminished, remain formidable and beautiful to behold. Their leader is an old Jok woman whose name is so potent that it cannot be spoken or even written, or else a tragedy will occur. She Who Must Not Be Named often wanders the city streets wearing her Orun Irin ceremonial mask.

The most common monster of Ifri is the abonsam, the Bonsam's answer to the Jok's Wiseones. They are servants of the Bonsam in all kind of forms, from spirits to giant monsters to human witches. Abonsam seek nothing but to please their masters, and so they work to gain power and destroy the Jok and their servants. Wiseones name five orders of abonsam: Voice, Monster, Trader, Witch and Thrall. Each has a purpose. Not all abonsam are of these orders, however - those that come from the Stones of Bonsam and rule over Mbey often defy categorization.

Voices are the most insidious abonsam, who whisper in the ears of people and tell them lies and nightmares. The smarter ones mix in the truth sometimes, to gain trust, before they go for a big lie. They corrupt, bring mistrust and recruit new Witches. It is very hard for most people to drive off Voices, once their victim is chosen. The power of a Voice is all in deception and their immaterial form, which lets them move and spy easily. They can also broker trades for power.

Monsters are fairly simple. They're mortals or animals warped and tortured by magic until they know only hate and rage, and they exist to destroy and spread terror. No two are alike, but they all embody the very worst of Ifri. This includes a deformed child full of pestilent scarabs, a pack of skinned wolves connected by their intestines, or giant goats whose breath makes land and animals barren. Other types of abonsam often create Monsters by their actions.

Traders are those abonsam that channel the Bonsam's power into new servants. They answer the call for vengeance and fury, offering the power to make it right. They listen to the dreams of avarice and offer a new path. They give power to the weak, the might to change things, but their price is always far too high. They never give more than they get, and the wishes they grant are always twisted horribly. Traders usually appear human, but can change their form as they please. They have a limited ability of telepathy that allows them to know what shape their victim would find comforting. However, no matter what, a Trader has one monstrous physical trait they cannot change, and must be careful to hide. Many Witches began as those who made a pact with a Trader.

Witches come in two types - living and dead. If you kill a Witch without proper ritual, they return as an undead Witch, far more dangerous. Witches are the Bonsam's elites, the most obvious show of their power. They wield dark magic, commanding groups of Thralls. Traders corrupt and bargain, Monsters destroy, Voices lie and manipulate - but the Witch infiltrates and directs people. They walk among humans, learn their weaknesses and abuse them. Witches are potent enough while alive, but in death, their magic only grows stronger. Either type tends to form cults to serve them, and most were once Thralls, though some are recruited directly for their talent and their malice. A Witch, male or female, can also give birth to Monsters by mating with the Bonsam directly, but this is rare, as it is very draining. Witches are the most intelligent of the abonsam, and their power is the most obvious when in use. They tend to wield their power on a grand scale, plotting to bring down entire regions. They gather every few months to share information with each other.

Thralls are the lowest form of abonsam and by far the most common. They are those who pledge to serve evil in exchange for worldly power, wealth or other such things. They typically serve under command of Witches. Their heart is replaced with a nest of thorns in a horrific ceremony, and if they disobey, these thorns explode out, killing them. Thralls are rarely mere minions, however - they are influential merchants, cult leaders or chiefs. There is no such thing as an innocent Thrall, either. Each is a malicious, dangerous person, the very worst of humanity. A significant number are actually evil spirits in human form, and some retain a measure of spirit power. They all hope for the day when they are elevated to another form of abonsam, usually Witch or Trader. Each Thrall focuses on a particular sin or vice, which tends to make them somewhat predictable and is usually what drew them to the Bonsam in the first place. They typically have two goals - indulge themselves at the expense of others, and gain power to rise in the abonsam hierarchy.

Bonsam is the main source of evil in Ifri, perhaps even the world. The Bonsam are twisted, trapped between the spirit world and the mortal one. They feel no mercy, no love, no positive emotions whatsoever. They are pure hatred, rage and evil, fueled by misery and suffering. Unlike the Jok, the Bonsam has a true physical form and cannot dissolve into the spirit plane. The Bonsam can, however, see and communicate with spirits at will, and have apparently infinite power to corrupt. Like the Jok, they are subtle, preferring to work through agents rather than directly, and often grant their minions powers. The abonsam are their favorites, but not their only servants - evil humans, monsters and demons all serve them, knowingly or not. What Bonsam wants is an Ifri destroyed and rebuilt in its image, with pain and despair ruling all. They want no mortal to live without agony. They know that others stand against them, so they plan and plan, to weaken and destroy their foes. Few humans have survived seeing Bonsam, and each that has describes them differently. A three-headed, firebreathing goat, a handsome warrior with honeyed voice...it doesn't matter. It has no true shape. Bonsam is whatever they choose to be at any time. None can say where Bonsam came from, except the Jok, who refuse to. Bonsam has made many claims - it was a renegade Jok, the last of the Syrne, a renegade god, a mortal sorcerer, the last of a race wronged by the Jok. The truth is probably unknowable. As for why Bonsam wants to do what it does? No one knows. No one can know. It's just an evil, immortal thing monster, hobbled only by its endless rage and tendency to wreck its own plans in tantrum.

The Black Ship is a xebec ship with both sails and oars. It is made of bone and sinew, its sails are flesh and its flag is blood red, with a black half-skull burned on. It has crab legs for walking on land, between rivers, and can also crawl along the sea floor to ambush ships. Its captain is Inkosazana, a fierce woman with a flayed face. Every ship they take down is replaced by an evil ship from the depths, crewed by the corrupted souls of the dead crew. Right now, two other ships fly its banner. The Black Ship is crewed by the dead, twisted and corrupted by Bonsam. Inkosazama has a standing bargain with all abaord - if they bring her nine souls, she will release their own back to them and return them to life. She does not tell them it will be as undead zombies. However, they do occasionally take prisoners, as the crew hungers for living flesh. One of these at least has escaped, telling that the Black Ship holds the missing Sika'Dwa of Mbey and several other treasures, such as the Heart of Bonsam, the last Pages of the Second Prophet, and waters of the Mokele-Mbembe. The ship has been sighted at sea and on each of the Great Rivers.

Next time: Snakes, Kishi, the Jok and Scorpion Belly

Lands of Gold and Fire - SNAKES

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - SNAKES

Ifri has countless underground caverns, which are not the work of either rivers or the Jok. Rather, they are caused by Dan Ida Hwedo. This is a godlike serpent that exists to bring fertility and change. Where she goes, flowers bloom and the land is fertile. When she is sick, the land fails and people starve. The peoples of Ifri often travel to the underworld to make offerings of food or medicine in hopes of gaining the snake's blessing and passage. On very rare occasions, she will give a very brave healer or hero one of her scales. These are colored like a rainbow and the size of a dinner plate, and they contain a tiny part of her power. These scales can cure even the worst disease and heal even the nastiest wound. Bonsam desperately wants to capture or kill Dan Ida Hwedo, but has so far failed. Even now, their minions work to trap her. Legends are unclear on her origins. Some say she was born of Jok, others that she is a primal god from before time, others that she is the physical form of the spirit of the continent. The Jok do not speak of it, but have forbidden their Wiseones from interacting with her or using her scales. She rarely speaks to mortals, and when she does, she uses a wordless empathic sense that makes it impossible to question her. Her sole agenda is to spread fertility and life.

When a traveler sees a stranger approaching their fire at night, they always ask to see their back. In Theah, this might be expected to be an invitation to get murdered; in Ifri, it proves you're not a Kishi come to devour. The Kishi appear as beautiful people who speak in wonderful tones that can charm anyone. However, this is only from the front. Their rear reveals the head and body of a hyena, with the head resting on the buttocks and the paws draped over the shoulders and down the legs. When the Kishi feeds, they pass the best morsels to the hyena behind. Kishi see humans only as food, and rarely interact with them except to hunt. Kishi are shapeshifters, able to turn into a hyena with a human face on its back, which lures the gullible off the path. Some Kishi can eat a victim's eyes, nose, tongue, ears or skin to become invisible to the associated sense for a time. They only ever take one sense, and such victims usually get left alive. No one knows why, or if it's required by the magic. These kinds of Kishi will stalk villages for months, leaving a trail of mutilation in their wake. Kishi are fear and hunger spirits, and while most hunt alone, they sometimes form packs. Pack Kishi will occasionally work with evil humans if it helps them to spread fear and suffering.

The Jok are holy spirit-beings that live in the mountain heart of Iu-Neserer, the Island of Fire. It was they who taught humans the skills to be more than animals and to claim the land. They are not inherently good or bad, but they certainly are benevolent to humans. No one knows where they came from. Long ago, there were many more Jok than there are today. They knew many sciences and technologies, which they shared with humans. However, centuries ago, most of the Jok left this world for another place. They gathered in boats and set off in the four directions, creating the Great Rivers as they sailed. No one knows why they left, or to where. They never returned, and some time later, Bonsam first appeared.

The Jok choose and teach the Wiseones. Each Wiseone is taken to the Island of Fire, where they spend 20 days in direct tutelage from a Jok mentor wearing an ornate mask. The mentor tells them the truths of the world until, at last, they are satisfied and remove their mask, to show the final truth. When this happened, the Wiseone is either enlightened or dies on the spot. If they survive, they receive the mask and travel the world to protect the innocent and gain knowledge. Before their death, each Wiseone sees a vision, traveling home to recite all they know to the Jok. No Jok has ever left their holy mountain since Bonsam appeared. They still act as teachers, but they do not walk the world. Their goal appears to be to mentor humans into a new age of enlightenment, primarily by using the Wiseones to spread knowledge and fight Bonsam. No one knows why they do this, or why they like humans so much.

Scorpion Belly is an Mbey bogeyman, a cautionary tale of those who would stray from virtue. In life he was Sidya, an Nder boy nearing manhood along the Mbey River. Sidya betrayed Mbey for gold, sneaking across the river and showing Maghrebi warriors the best place to cross unseen and raid his village. When the slaughter was over, Sidya asked for his reward, but they seized him and carved his belly open, pouring in gold and scorpions. Then they let him go home, and each step he had a painful choice - hold his belly closed and keep the gold, or open it and let out the scorpions. No one alive remained to say if he ever made it home. He might have, dying at last when he got there, or he might not, succumbing to poison and falling into the river. Or perhaps he survived, forever grasping at his squirming belly. The story changes based on who tells it and what they want to teach.

Many claim they have met Scorpion Belly in the forest or scrub or river. These are lies. Those who have truly seen Scorpion Belly do not speak. This is because, ever since the Bonsam Stones were broken, he appears at times to the weak, offering them a handful of gold to betray others. Those who take it, he grabs. The scorpions crawl from his belly, stinging his victim as they scream, then die. Scorpion Belly is part abonsam monster, part child, forever locked in a cycle of suffering. He is both victim and villain, insofar as he is a person at all any more.

There are a lot of kinds of zombies, too. Kap Sevi zombification involves ritual burial of the living, then exhuming them. These creatures are very pliable and very difficult to harm, and have been used as liaisons to the Ori. Bonsam also has zombies - but these are reanimated corpses, long dead, given life by dark sorcery. They are entirely mindless shock troops and servants. Fortunately, they are rare - Bonsam prefers living minions. The lastk ind of zombie isn't really a zombie - it is something like a ghost, but corporeal. These are free-willed monsters, sprouting from diseased soil in Mbey. They pursue their own twisted goals, and it is unclear if they are truly restless souls or husks animated by fiendish intellect. All that is clear is they have no love of the living, even their own families.

Next time: The Manden Kurufaba

Lands of Gold and Fire - Yeah These Guys Are Apparently Not Mali

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Yeah These Guys Are Apparently Not Mali

In Manden, your family and clan identity are everything. Almost all important decisions are made with family input, because bad decisions lose face. Manden is a difficult place for free spirits, who tend to go into academia, the Dinist priesthood or trade to get away from family obligation. Society is polygynous - that is to say, multiple husbands and multiple wives, and it's considered an important way to balance both familial and personal needs in marriage. Occasionally a family may accept a single spouse, however. There's generally a large public party or festival over public or familial affairs once every few weeks, and everyone is expected to sing and dance, typically in honor of history. Some dances, especially those in honor of Mari-Djata, are explicitly designed for the physically disabled, too. Some music and dance belongs to one caste or another, and only the griots learn the most demanding pieces, but most songs are pretty simple and easy to pick up. Mandenkaw will become quite confused if visitors don't try to sing and dance along, especially since they'll happily show you how quite patiently.

One of the most distinct features of a Mandenka gathering is the possession of partiers by the Ori or ancestral spirits, typically at religious festivals. They typically select those who grow up in the Assanyi tradition, but sometimes they grab visitors. No one knows why. When this happens, it's as if time just skips forward for the person involved, and they also probably got much drunker for no clear reason. Possession is real - a girl being possessed by a king is the king, not the girl pretending. Everyone will be quite confused and offended if you do not accept this and treat the person as who they claim to be. It is etiquette, not faith. Faith is for the al-Din, not the Assanyi.

Mandenka clothing is extremely ornate, and the nation's wealth means that most citizens can have very fine clothes indeed. All genders wear long, caftan-like clothes called grandmuba, which are billowy and graceful and come in many bright colors and patterns, often threaded with gold. Braids and special hair shapes are common, often adorned with jewels or shells, and most also wear elaborate headscarfs matched to their grandmuba. Long skirts are popular right now, typically white with a colored scarf or pleat. Foreign fabric is imported for the wealthy, and so the richest wear silk and velvet. However, the people of Manden are very cosmopolitan, and foreign outfits will not have them staring very long. Indeed, the city-dwellers are often quite aware of foreign fashion and can even recognize if it's out of date. The primary language of Manden is Mande, and there are also the Awkari and Xweda languages, all belonging to the Mande branch of the Kwara language family. Dialect varies geographically, especially between urban and rural areas.

Understanding Manden society and religion means understanding nyama. The word refers to a life energy that is in absolutely everything. It can be good or bad, light or dark, active or passive. It is sometimes spoken of as a physical substance, but it is an abstraction. Any interaction can be spoken of in terms of nyama. The artisans interact with nyama by crafts, for example. Sorcerers are feared, however, for their power to interact with nyama directly and literally. Mandenka sorcerers typically hide their powers from all but their immediate family and others of their sorcerous society, as a result. The Mandenkaw also believe that each human has two souls - the ni and the dya. The ni is from Heaven, and on death it returns to the sky. The dya, which can leave your body and wander as you sleep, can remain near your place of death until someone goes out of their way to propitiate it with sacrifice. It then turns into an ancestral spirit.

Manden ideas have mixed with the al-Din religion of the Crescent (IE, Not Islam) and the Assanyi beliefs of Igodomigodo, and the ideas of ni and dya have taken on new significance. Typically, Mandenkaw who practice both al-Din and Assanyi say the ni comes from al-Musawwir and returns to the Creator on death, while the dya is made by the Ori, and represents the part of you claimed at birth by your three patron Ori. Most Mandenkaw will tell you they are Dinist, if asked, though Dinist practice is only really consistent in urban areas. Rural Dinists tend to have idiosyncratic ritual practice, drawn from fune tradition. However, some practices are widespread. Public drunkenness is essentially unknown, and there are regular prayers in the direction of the Second Prophet's place of death, and most do aspire to perform a pilgrimage to the Crescent. However, the typical Dinist disapproval of excessive magic is rare in Manden.

The native faith of the Manden Kurufaba is service to the Ori. The oldest Ifrian traditions hold that the world began at Ajaka-Katunga in Igodomigodo, where Aniyikaye descended on the gold chain to spread the surface of the land, and ruled over Ori and human alike. The Ori who came after dispersed to live in the sea, rivers and everywhere in the land, from inside the cola nut to inside diseases. When a human is born, three Ori claim their dya, committing to watch over and influence their life. If they don't show up in person, a diviner throws cola nuts to determine which they are. If they do, it is always three and in order. The Ori remain present in that person's life via festivals and possession. When propitiated regularly with sacrifices of food and drink, they and the ancestral spirits will appear at festivals in response to sacred music and dance, to give out wisdom and have fun. The Ori are often deeply interested in human lives, and some do more than just possess and talk to you. They may have children, too, leaving demigods spread through Manden - particularly in Igodomigodo. It's rare, but it does happen, often leaving the confused child to grow up full of divine ase. The royal families of Ajaka and Katunga claim direct descent from the Ori, each claiming to be the 401st of the 401 Ori. (The Igodomigodo Secession happened largely because of one very powerful royal asserting divine right not over only his own nation but the world as a whole.)

However, the state religion is al-Din, the faith of the Second Prophet as taught in the Crescent. Awkar was the first West Ifrian state to assume al-Din as a state religion, and at first it isolated the Awkari, but their privileged trading position and the fact that Dinist clergy didn't give a shit what else you did as long as you were a good Dinist on top of it convinced their neighbors to accept them. Manden and the Khemet once had important ties based on pilgrimage routes, as Mandenka pilgrimages must either sail northeast along the coast or travel overland through Maghreb and Khemet. The sea pilgrimage is more expensive and risks pirates, and right now pilgrimage ships are the ATC's favorite target. Thus, overland is the safe route. It's long, hot and not very fun, but worth it for the faithful. Mandenka pilgrimages tend to carry a lot of wealth, so they bolster the economies they pass through, and the Nomma often earn a good living helping to guide them.

Many Mandenkaw see the Crescent Empire as the pinnacle of culture and learning. It's honestly fairly unrealistic and unfair to their own local traditions - their governance, martial arts, music and art are all locally derived. However, anything Crescent is associated with wealth, education and status. Foreigners, especially Theans and Crescents, often find the parallel beliefs of Manden confusing, but for the average Mandenka, the Ori and al-Musawwir occupy different spiritual and lifestyle spaces. Al-Din is the faith of government, public ceremony and high education. The Ori are the gods of home, family, medicine and magic. They don't contradict each other because they address completely different parts of life. However, there is still some conflict, primarily over sorcery. A small but vocal group of Dinist elites have shifted to a new, hardline form of al-Din that treats any and all other religious practices as witchcraft. Many of these hardliners occupy high, influential positions in society or government, and some have the ear of the Mansa himself. They may insist they can overlook or cooperate with many practices, but that active support of sorcery encourages people to ignore Dinist beliefs about moderation. It doesn't help that witchcraft scares a lot of people, either.

Next time: The Mansa and the International Kurufaba

Lands of Gold and Fire - Mansa, Mansa

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Mansa, Mansa

The Manden Kurufaba requires a very elaborate bureaucracy to maintain its vast holdings, derived from Igodomigodo's original government. Critics say it is paternalistic and stifling, but it works. The highest authority is the Mansa, a hereditary office that dates back to Mari-Djata. The Mansa rules from the Federal Palace in Nianiba, supreme king by divine right, both as descendant of al-Musawwir's champion Mari-Djata and by intermarriage into the Alaafin of Igodomigodo, who descend from the Ori. Their throne is one of the sacred stools which the Jok gave to humanity. However, while the Mansa has absolute authority, they rely heavily on delegation to get anything done. The personal staff of the Mansa includes the Captain of the Alagbato Iya (the Royal Guard), the castellan of the Federal Palace (who keeps the place running and entertains dignitaries and the Mansa), the palace treasurer, the palace imam, the palace Assanyi diviner (babalawo if male or iyalawo if female), the Mansa's spouses and consorts (who, unlike all other Mandenkaw, may have only one spouse - the Mansa) and the palace griot.

The Mansa is also served by a cabinet of advisors. This consists of the Field Marshal, who commands the Kurufaba forces, the Commerce Minister, the Secretary of State, who is in charge of foreign affairs, the Secretary of Education, the Minister of Agriculture, who also serves as the voice of the horonw, the Minister of Artisans, who also serves as the voice of the nyamakalaw, and the Jonow Tribune. The Mansa rules the cabinet, but laws allow a cabinet minister to overrule the Mansa in their area of expertise. This veto can, of course, be very contentious. The four state rulers are considered of equal rank to the cabinet, but have different responsibilities. The Mansa typically appoints a baale (viceroy) to rule over the state of Manden, a custom adopted from the Igodomigodo rulers. The baale is technically appointed, but it is typically dominated by certain dynasties. The other three rulers are the Xweda Ahosu, the Igodomigodo Alaafin and the Awkar Sultan, each of whom manages their domain's government.

The Ahosu rules Xweda's relatively small population fairly directly, with little bureaucracy. All Xwedans are legally the direct vassals of the Ahosu. The Alaafin has a huge bureaucracy and delegation system that is basically the Kurufaba's in miniature, as it was the basis for the Kurufaba government. Before Sumanguru Kante conquered Awkar, the Sultan was technically a vassal of the Caliph of the Crescent Empire, though in practice they had very little if any contact with the Crescent government formally. Since then, the Sultanate has been relatively weak and heavily dependant on Manden to operate. The Sultan may be the most important cog in the Awkar machine, but is still merely a cog. The Mansa appoints a vizier to advise each ruler, keep an eye on things and report any trouble or pressure the rulers to make choices that benefit the federation as a whole or the Mansa specifically.

The Kurufaba holds a meeting of chieftains each year during the winter. Clan and tribe chieftains in every state, small or large, must either attend or send their griot on their behalf. The state rulers and caste elders are also represented at the meeting. This is, it should be noted, a very complex system. Mandenkaw love specializing, and the government reflects that tendency to divide tasks to teams of experts to ensure they are all done right. Efficiency isn't the issue - the government is probably actually the most efficient way to handle its sprawling and extremely ethnically diverse federation. The issue is that there's no real checks and balances. An incompetent governor's not a problem - there's enough above and below to advise and cover for them. But a corrupt or evil governor? That's a problem. Except where the law limits their power, which it often does not, a governor has absolute authority over all below them. It doesn't happen often, but a governor can even order summary execution by firing squad if you fail them or they can pin a crime on you.

By most current standards on Terra, the Manden Kurufaba is still a great place to live. It is extremely wealthy, so even the poorest slave won't starve. However, the conflicts in Mbey and Khemet have displaced thousands, who have flooded into Manden. These refugees are not well-liked by the Mandenkaw, and by default most end up in the Jonow caste. There is money and food, but they are third-class citizens. Even those with advanced training or education struggle for acceptance among the Nyamakalaw and Horonw, as despite what they may be do for a living, they are still considered Jonow. The Horonw food providers tend to see the refugees as freeloaders, extra mouths to feed for no benefit.

Mansa Kankan has started Manden's grand experiment, the International Kurufaba, situating it in the legendary origin of the world, Ajaka-Katunga. It is essentially a Not African UN, with the goal of uniting world governments to avoid future wars. It's a lofty goal, but Kankan is an idealist. The Kurufaba meets in a great compound on the Kongola River, a tributary of the Kwara, which divides Ajaka and Katunga. The walls actually form the adinkra symbol bi-nka-bi, which represents an end to infighting. All adinkra symbols represent abstract truths, and this symbol is also found on the Mandenka flag. The walls are heavily defended by guards and guns, but behind them are gardens and miniature villages and plazas to house delegates. The central meeting hall is an ampitheater large enough for all currently represented nations.

Mandenka custom allows a griot or similar champion to speak on behalf of a dignitary, and this custom is key to the International Kurufaba. It's how a personable hero could easily get into a dignitary's cloud of aides, sycophants and advisors. Charisma and competence? Those are valuable. Aksum is represented by Lord Isaiah Iskander, a member of the Skia secret police. He has exactly one job: ensure peace between Aksum and Manden by any means necessary. Isaiah is entirely loyal, and he maintains a spy network keeping tabs on the Manden military. If Manden plans to attack, this is crucial information. If not...well, it could well start the war he's trying to avoid. Aksum considers a permanent end to war to be their most important issue. While Mandenka invasion has always failed so far, the idea terrifies most of Aksum, and so they are champions of the Kurufaba's goal.

Maghreb is represented by Lady Lunja al-Barqahi. She is cousin to the Blue Queen of Maghreb, Tasa Noumidia. The Blue Queen has not yet decided if the International Kurufaba is an ineffectual mob of diplomatic figureheads or a trap, so she's set Lunja to be her olive branch...or possibly her figurehead. Lunja is barely 18, from a coastal cadet family, and she's very enthusiastic about this, her first job. (And also fancy parties.) Neither she nor the Blue Queen put much stock in the idea of nonviolence, but they'll happily listen as long as no one asks the Maghrebi to put down their swords. It doesn't help that Lunja idolizes the pirate captain Mar Veraci and has spent much of her youth reading tales of swashbuckling derring-do about the captain. Veraci has heard about this and begun correspondence in the hopes of manipulating the girl...not out of any ill feeling, but because, well, politics. Lunja is not a fool, however. She's heavily trained and educated, and she won't be easy for Governess Veraci to manipulate. Maghreb's key issue at the moment is getting Ifri to present a united front to Theah, in the hopes of avoiding another Mbey. They fear Montaigne and Vodacce will work together to divide them up and conquer them.

The Manden representative is Prince Adegoke, Kankan's adopted brother. Adegoke has professed allegiance to his brother's goals, but his real goal is to reestablish the empire of Igodomigodo using the Kurufaba's resources. The key to his plan, and thus what he pushes most for, is the formation of an international peacekeeping force under the control of the International Kurufaba. Adegoke's intentions may be bad, but he has good arguments - until such time as all nations lay down their arms, the Kurufaba must have a way to strike back at unrepentant evil. Manden, which'd end up supplying about half the troops at least, is the most vocal both in support and opposition of this idea.

Mbey is represented by Mandagan, a demon disguised in human form. She devoured the original delegate sent by Bour Ba Ighodalo and has taken her place via shapeshifting. Her powers have gotten her into every delegate's office, and she knows everyone's secrets, weaknesses and scandals. She has yet to use any of them, however - she's very old and hasn't had this much fun in centuries. It shouldn't end so soon. Mbey has not pushed hard on any issue whatsoever. Rather, Mandagan plays at being a power broker, currying favor to gain debts. It has yet to be seen if her hunger for human flesh and therefore constant need to replace workers will expose her true nature.

Next time: The Khemet, Sho'noh'kah'ta'neh'ta, Jaragua, Montaigne & Crescent reps.

Lands of Gold and Fire - The Swashbuckling UN

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - The Swashbuckling UN

Khemet is represented by Mayaneta of the House of Talthos, a former priestess of the lion goddess Seknephet. She was third daughter of a noble family, but her charisma was such that they forced her to join the Eubayd, the priesthood, to avoid her being a political threat to her siblings. When her siblings to assassinated, though, they bribed her superiors to pull her out of the priesthood and have her made delegate, thus getting in good with the queen. She is at heart an artist, and her charm is legendary. She is excellent at her job; she also hates it. She knows all about Queen Twosret's forays into slaving and doesn't approve or trust her. Indeed, she spends much of her free time planning escape routes in case it all comes crashing down. Her primary issues are international food trade and humanitarian relief, counteracting the famines brought on by lack of sunlight in Khemet right now.

The Sho'noh'kah'ta'neh'ta of Quanahlotye were brough into the Kurufaba by Mansa Kankan's extreme efforts. Quanahlotye is a land across the western sea, and the organization called Sho'noh'kah'ta'neh'ta ('Great Peace') is several hundred years old and has a similar mission to the International Kurufaba. The delegate is an elderly veteran of their house of debate, Sagoyewatha. He's a ruthless negotiator with 50 years of experience in the most sophisticated, cutthroat forum in the world. He's moved to Manden and joined the International Kurufaba as a way to keep busy in retirement. (This says something about how intense his old job was.) The Sho'noh'kah'ta'neh'ta have no major issues at present - they're content to get rich selling fur coats and hats to the Mandenka. Sagoyewatha serves as a mentor to the other delegates, and his teenage children bring his reports on their visits home, bringing them to the longhouse of the Sho'noh'kah'ta'neh'ta.

Jaragua is represented by Lieutenant Colonel Anaica Proulx. Many Jaraguan slaves come from Manden and Mbey, and they have come home to find the ATC watching for their ships. Proulx is a decorated Mawon veteran, but the Company has dogged her every step as she has hunted for a place to convince people that Jaragua was a true nation. She knows that danger could come from even her own retinue, and she suspects everyone. Her primary issue is simple: international recognition of Jaragua as a sovereign nation. The Company's propagandists have tried to hide all evidence Jaragua even exists on this side of the ocean, let alone revolted, and she needs a lot of help.

Montaigne's delegate is Lucien de Forbin, the fourth son of a noble, who works as a double agent for l'Empereur and the ATC, though the Company pays much better and so gets most of his loyalty. He started out running an Atabean prison colony, but his interest in occultism led him to promise a demon regular payment in souls in exchange for career advancement. He is a sociopath who until recently answered to Flemming Rudd and convinced Ifrian leaders to sell slaves. The Company has yet to discover that he skims on slaves to sacrifice them for his demon, but he's not especially worried that they'll be upset if they find out. They'll probably just want to be cut in, right? Montaigne has him talking a big game about trans-oceanic unity, but what they really want is unrestricted access to the Ifrian coast, and some suspect his rhetoric is an excuse to set up l'Empereur to colonize.

The Crescent Empire representative is Noa bat Elisheva M'Shevet Yedha, an elder businesswoman from the Yachidi homeland of Sarmion. (Yachidi are Not Jews.) She has succeeded in a number of industries, and she sees this as her chance to give back to the Crescent Empire, which has always treated her family well. She enjoys the prestige she has in Manden, and she's used to having her orders obeyed. The main Crescent priority is maintaining pilgrimage routes. One of the Dinist Five Sacred Duties is isra, the pilgrimage to visit far-off Dinists. Mandenkaw typically head for the Prophet Khalil's martyrdom site in the small state of Thaj, and these pilgrimages stimulate the economy of everyone nearby. However, the number of pilgrims has dropped off heavily thanks to the ATC, the recent war between Aksum and Manden and the Khemet crisis.

Very recently, the chief of the wealthy Fayomi Clan, Olu Fayomi, came to the Kurufaba to claim that Atabean slavers were operating in Manden with Mbeyan aid. Olu and his sister Lola were renowned warriors, and they claimed to be attacked while traveling to a wedding near the border. They slew their attackers, but some of their fellows, including Lola's husband, died in the fight. When accused of lying, Lola threw two sacks down - sacks full of the heads of their attackers, and a shard of black Bonsam stone. This has sent the Kurufaba into an uproar, but they have stood their ground. Now, the Kurufaba debates within itself, and may tear itself apart - or perhaps save itself.

The Manden Kurufaba is the richest nation in the world. They've exhausted the gold mines and salt fields, but centuries of good investment and careful trade keep the treasury growing even faster than inflation. This means no citizen ever has to go uneducated, without healthcare, hungry or unsheltered. They are also the world's largest market for luxury goods. Manden public education is excellent, but it's entirely voluntary, and outside Awkar, literacy is rare. Most villages just rely on the local griot, funew and families to teach important information. The family is responsible for taking the time to teach caste traditions of all kinds, as well as knowledge of how to make basic clothes. Until university level, math, religion and other things are taught entirely verbally and somatically, using song, dance and mnemonic techniques rather than books. Mandenka who go on to higher education generally do learn to read and write, attending Dinist universities. Manden written language is typically transcribed into Katabic script with Awkari adinkra glyphs interspersed.

the Manden currency is a square gold coin that represents the states bound together. One side bears the Boa Me Na Me Mmoa Wo adinkra, meaning cooperation and independence, and the other has the Mansa's head in profile. All casting, manufacture and regulation of the coin is centralized to the fortified river island Traore, 20 miles from the capital Nianiba. Its sole purpose is the minting of these coins, and its population is highly restricted and controlled. Other kingdoms in Ifri may reject bank notes or foreign coin, but Manden welcomes them. Villagers will take gold and silver coins for the value of the metal, while bank notes and paper currency can be cashed with nobles and wealthy merchants in large cities. Master craftspeople tend to appreciate this easily, as it makes export of their wares quite easy. Visitors expecting barter are quickly corrected and told that Manden didn't become the richest nation in the world on barter.

While professional standing troops are growing in popularity, traditionally every caste contributes to the Manden army. Before the Kurufaba, each region handled its own military, but now, engaging in regular training and supplying the nation with troops gets a caste tax breaks. Mounted officers are typically Horonw, musketeers and heavy infantry usually numuw, communications officers usually griot and noncombat support usually Jonow. Hunters form elite scout units with poisoned arrows and javelins, while the main mass of archer troops use simple, easily fixed bows. While the Mandenkaw have access to elite infantry and cavalry, their strategies rarely rely on them except for extremely specific tasks. Instead, they traditionally rely on superior logistics and force of numbers, given their vast wealth and population. Logistics have been made simple with centuries of practice. This makes the Manden army better at some things than others - they're extremely good at siege, for example.

The Xwedans and Igodomigodoese share both culture and grudges with each other and the Mbeyans, having raided each other since time immemorial over just about anything except religion. Xweda has proven the defensively strongest, thanks to its swamps, jungles and bad attitude, whole Igodomigodo has been most offensively successful due its extremely good cavalry and excellent administration. The ATC has changed this old conflict, however. Now, all border skirmishes are over slaves, and Manden is losing. For all the martial strength of Xwedan and Igodomigodoese tradition, the raiders are explicitly drawing the Manden army out to capture soldiers for slavery, which plays into the aggressive and proactive doctrine of Mandenka strategy. Many Manden soldiers have fallen into slaver holds.

Manden's military research division is attached to the Imperial University in Nianiba, using information gained by scouts and spies across the world. They have studied Avalon longbows and Anatol Ayh composite bows to improve their archers, Cathayan and Castillian siege designs, Nahuacan infantry tactics and Quanahlotye guerillas. Their most important frontier is sea power, however. Manden has immense land forces, but their merchant marine is limited, especially compared to northern Amazigh and other naval titans. Most Thean goods do not attain high prices in Manden save for curiosities like metal armor (which is considered interesting but not very useful in the Mandenka weather), but goods from Aztlan have stoked their curiosity about what lies across the sea. The Mansa has hired Odisean shipwrights to construct a treasure fleet of galleons, and also wants to buy large numbers of cheap (if outdated) galleys and galleasses. Unfortunately, new ships must still get through the Company blockades off the cost of Mbey. The Vendel League is fighting the ATC forces, but only as long as they consider it profitable to keep doing. Still, building their own fleet will take even longer, no matter how much they pay the workers, especially with the Company controlling the modern port facilities of Mbey.

Next time: Places in Manden.

Lands of Gold and Fire - Book City

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Book City

Awkar is a landlocked region south of the Ubari Desert and west of Aksum. It is the gateway to the markets and ideas of northern and eastern Ifri and the Crescent Empire. It is local tradition that the Dinist missionary Zinat bint Ziya, companion to the Prophet Khalil, came from far Katab to found al-Ghaba, the first and greatest of Awkar's cities, also called the Citadel of Letters for its ancient university complex. The Awkwari Dominion were the first power to conquer the region, until the Ziyaid Dynasty squandered their resources and failed to protect against the Kel Tagelmust raiders of the north. It was then that sorcerer-king Sumanguru Kante, leader of one of their vassals' powerful blacksmith clans, rose up and took the capital city from the Ziyaids in a bloody coup that ruined many grand mosques and schools. The final battle of Mari-Djata's war on the sorcerer was the siege of al-Ghaba, ended when the Xwedan gbeto ('elephant hunters') infiltrated the city and assassinated Sumanguru's leadership.

In the aftermath, Mari-Djata reinvigorated Awkar's trade, rebuilding al-Ghaba and inviting the Kel Tagelmust leaders for a show of Manden force, then negotiating a deal with them that let them into the gold and salt trades as long as they protected the Manden caravans. Now, Awkar is a tributary rather than a capital, but it has far more influence than it ever had in its own empire. It is the gateway from Manden to the northeast, spreading Manden culture across the desert. Al-Ghaba and Nianiba are eternal rivals for which city is most cosmopolitan, and al-Ghaba has the advantage of many foreign visitors to balance out the massive wealth of Nianiba.

Of all Mandenkaw, the Awkari are easily the best educated, and their ancient temple-library complex is the oldest and largest on the planet. Al-Ghaba has a one hundred percent literacy rate, more books per capita than any other city, and free education for all through university level. The Awkari have a reputation in Manden as haughty and elitist, disdaining service to the Ori and belittling those who study under village griot rather than at Dinist schools. They also are known to seal deals with written contracts rather than verbal agreements in the presence of a griot, which makes other Mandenkaw distrust them and become confused.

The Mad Library of al-Ghaba rises from the city center, covered in minarets, domes and towers. However, grime clouds the windows. Its gardens are overgrown and full of wild animals. Adinkra glyphs glow on the walls to ward against the power within. The Mad Library is a testament to the power and danger of the written word and what happens if you let librarians experiment unchecked. About a century ago, one of their library science experiments went wrong. The head librarians attempted to transcribe a storybook about a mischevious spider spirit into adinkra glyphs, and they focused far too much power into one tome, which the spirit decided to mess with. The resulting explosion turned simple words into magical spells, magical information into energy, and written ideas into reality. Some of the librarians immediately ascended to the afterlife, leaving their dya to become bookwraiths. The books reshape the library around them into exaggerated crossover versions of their stories. All kinds of strange creatures from the books infest the religion and mythology wing, while the romance section is full of courtesans, succubae and sex. The philosophy section is home to extremely improbable debates between various historic figures...well, it's best to just obey the rules if you go visit.

quote:

1. Do not speak above a whisper. It is the quickest way to attract monsters, rogue books, bookwyrms or worst of all, librarians.
2. No running. See rule 1.
3. No food or drink near the books. Many sharp-jawed books have snapped shut on an arm after smelling food or, when fed, have revealed that they incubate dangerous spirits.
4. No open flames. The magical energy suffusing the Library transforms flames into jinn, tiny mischevious beings of smokeless fire.
5. No unattended children or pets, except in the designated Children's Area. A child who wanders into the Library's darkness becomes a protagonist in some story deadly to parents.
6. Return any book you take out before the due date. Removing a book creates a loophole in the Library's magical wards, allowing a bookwraith to escape and pursue you until you return the book and pay a late fee. This fee is a Story with a number of Steps based on how late your book is, usually hunting some enemy or donating a dangerously rare book. Destroy a Mad Library book, and a bookwyrm drags you back to the Library to become a bookwraith yourself.

The bookwraiths wear robes stitched from torn out pages. They are very strong, unstoppable and practically indestructible. When wounded, they knit themselves together from nearby books, then get mad at you for making them destroy books. Every bookwraith innately knows the location of every library book. Somewhere in the mezzanine, you can find a twisted tree that grows out of a rug up towards the ceiling. When starlight shines through, the clockwork sparrows and chameleons come to life, and the plush hares and wildcats in the pillows wake up and talk. The tree itself grows a face, and wind-up soldiers patrol the perimeter against dangerous adults. This is the Children's Corner, which calls out to poor and neglected children in the city. If a child makes it through the Library's dangers, which often they have a better chance of than adults, they will be safe and comfortable in the Corner, where a story of food nourishes them as well as a real meal. No child over 12 may remain - the toy soldiers escort them out. Last are the stacks, honeycombs of tesselated reading rooms lit by glowing fungi or air-swimming fish. Some of their books are comprehensible, while others appear to be random series of words or phrases, or evening letters and real or imagined symbols. Every combination of possible characters exists somewhere in the stacks, and they connect to a number of entirely different libraries throughout the world.

Xweda, meanwhile, is the smallest and least populated state. It covers much of the Kurufaba's coastline, and is full of salt marshes and crocodile-laden lagoons. Rivers head inland through sacred forests full of unique plants that can handle the flooding and draining of the wetlands. The rainforests are home to some of the fiercest beasts in Ifri, including the side-striped jackal, the warthoga, the leoparda, hippos, bush elephants and honey badgers. The Xwedans have little farmland, so they rely a lot on hunting and fishing. Mbeyan slavers and Igodomigodoese invadersh ave often attacked them, but the Xwedans are tough people, some of the best scouts and stealth infantry in the world and experts in using cover and amphibious assaults. They adopted the musket quickly, and take pride in needing only the minimum of shots to make a kill. The best of these are the gbeto. They were originally the personal guard and hunting entourage of the Xwedan king, and now the all-female corps of elephant hunters shows up whenever the Kurufaba most needs them, often unexpectedly.

The Xweden economy is rarely as good as the rest of Manden's. Their ports see a lot of business, but most of it is ATC business. The king tries to limit their influence, but President Rourke has been using secretly contracted, unmarked ships to avoid notice. Besides, what bounty does come to the coast rarely stays with the local hunters, fishers and farmers. Xweda relies a lot on imported food and economic aid, and the other provinces dislike having to send so much money to support such a poor people. Mansa Kankan has suggested, gently, that they clearcut some forests for farming and grazing land, but the Ahosu hates the idea - that's sacred forest, and besides, Kankan probably wants the wood for his treasure fleet. It remains to be seen if the Mansa's new shipyards will help the Xwedan economy or just make the rich richer elsewhere.

The Xwedan capital and largest port is Arrada, in the north. The mangroves climb from the salt marshes, with the wooden buildings built in and around their trunks. Ahosu Mazidath lives on an island in the city center. Her royal compound is heavily walled with acacia thorns, mounted guns and barracks, plus a reception hall for diplomats and her own home - an ancient but well maintained stone, mud and wood structure covered in bas-reliefs but far less modern and refined than its surroundings. For many centuries, the area was just a historical curiosity while the Ahosu lived and received people elsewhere, but Mazidath enjoys them and says the surroundings keep her humble and make people underestimate her. There is also a large Odisean factory closer to the sea, home to many Thean visitors. The Explorers and Vendel League each have properties within this fortified compound, which adjoins to a modern shipyard built on the Odisean model. Here, thousands work around the clock for excellent pay, working under the Thean shipwrights hired by Captain Kunto de Rosa.

Next time: Igodomigodo and Manden State

Lands of Gold and Fire - Children of Gods

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Children of Gods

Igodomigodo could, had history gone just a little differently, been the rulers of Manden. They sit in the north-center, landlocked, between Xweda and Awkar. Before Mari-Djata came, they had good reason to believe their destiny was to rule all of Ifri. Their capital was built on the very spot, it is said, that the Ori first descended from the sky. The locals actually believe that conflict was their curse from day one, as the second Ori to come down fought over who would rule the world and who would make humans and so on. The other Ori were forced to begin choosing sides, but before the fight could start, one of the two first Ori left to found his own city somewhere else. That was the start of time. Ever since, the cities of Ajaka and Katunga have coexisted in tense equilibrium. Each has a line of Alaafin who claim divine mandate of al-Musawwir, and each has grown strong and wealthy. Each has controlled a large network of vassals and tribes using an elaborately detailed and defined bureaucracy...and, in many ways, each did it to spite the other. The royal governments are famous for the efficiency of the elaborate system of bureaucracy they use, which eventually became the basis for the current Kurufaba government.

At the first council of chiefs for Mari-Djata, the Katunga Alaafin swore service to Mari-Djata for all Igodomigodoese tribes. The Ajaka Alaafin, who also claimed that right, disputed the decision. While the throne traces their participation in Manden back to this point, for all practical purposes they've only been a full member of the Kurufaba for 130 years, after the end of the Igodomigodo Secession, in which a god-king seized control of both Ajaka and Katunga combined, making them into a single metropolis of Ajaka-Katunga. He then militarized the nation and attacked the surrounding parts of Manden and Mbey. The Kurufaba only regained control when internal strife ended his rule in a magical accident.

The Igodomigodoese have a reputation for being overbearing, overly aggressive political wonks. Even now, in times of peace, their smug and superior attitude as they pacify bandits for you or fight on the border doesn't often make friends. They are, howeve,r quite famous for their thousands-year-old tradition of sculpture. They make stylized sculptures of religious subjects out of wood and extremely realistic bronze sculptures of heroes and kings. The bronzes are made using lost-wax casting for precise detail.

The Manden State itself is arid and hard to farm. The river valleys are fertile, but they aren't the real source of Manden State's power. See, they have gold. The richest gold fields in the world, even centuries after their peak. Whether you mined the hills or panned the river, they had the most gold. They also have rich veins of diamonds, copper, bauxite, iron, limestone, silver and salt. This has made them spectactularly profitable. A single unbroken (if rather complex) dynasty has always ruled as the Mansas of Manden, the high monarchs that own all land and natural resources. The Mansa apportions out shares in the resources to chieftains of the horonw.

Mari-Djata's joining of the four states pushed the Kurufaba to the forefront of trade in West Ifri. Gold and salt went out on the trade routes, enriching all nearby. They implemented a gold and salt standard to try and standardize wealth, reorganizing themselves on the governmental model of Igodomigodo. Over time, however, the Kurufaba has grown less like a federation and more like an empire. Power has centralized around the Mansa, as seen in the city of Nianiba. It sits in the far south, amongst the gold fields. It is full of stone and gold statues, it's laid out in a perfectly square grid, building new concentric square walls as it grows and filling the new space with ever richer and more lavish monuments. The center square is home to the Mansa's palace, along with his personal guard: the Guardian Mothers. The Guardian Mothers are an elite section of Xweden gbeto who were redirected to Nianiba in the reign of a male Mansa who liked the idea of a personal guard of highly trained wives. He immediately found that he couldn't be quite so free with them as he wanted, as he was dealing with an entire troop of women trained to kill since the age of ten.

So, international relations! While the Mansa was on pilgrimage, his brother Prince Adegoke spent five years pointlessly attacking Aksum for the sake of glory. Mansa Kankan then returned from the Crescent, singing the praises of nonviolence and mercy. He immediately sued for peace, arranging a marriage between his son, Maghan Kon Fatta, and the Aksumite princess Le'elt Mehret. It seems peace has come, but some say that hte princess is less eager for the match than she appears, and war may come again. The Manden trade network relies heavily on Maghrebi participation, and the Mandenkaw love Maghreb goods - particularly their fashion and their swords. Many Mansas have wanted to absorb the Maghreb as a member state, but the Maghrebi have always refused, and conquest would hurt the economy, so it's out of the question. Kankan sees the International Kurufaba as a chance to revive that dream of unity. Khemet...well, modern Khemet is a quite literally dark and dangerous place, and many pilgrims do not return on their journeys through the Black Land. Many, particularly devcout Dinists, see Khemet as a threat someone will have to deal with, sooner or later.

For many Mandenkaw concerned with Mbeyan aggression, now is the worst possible time for a Mansa to declare war no longer a political tool in the toolbox. Mbeyan intrusion onto Manden lands means slave taking, which has been hiting the Xwedan and Igodomigodoese border regions hard. They'd normally take the fight into their own hands, but can no longer do so to the same extent without the Mansa's approval. The locals want war with Mbey, turning all of Manden's power to crushing the slavers. The Crescent has historically been a vital trade and pilgrimage partner for Manden, who sailed ships north around Mbey and Amazigh, past Khemet, to land on Crescent shores and head for pilgrimage sites, as well as treasure ships heading that way for trade, despite piracy. Over the past 20 years, however, the North Coast Route has grown more profitable and less dangerous.

On the ATC posted:

"The guy from Avalon? Yeah, he sent a lot of letters asking to meet and talk guinea fowl - didn't even send a griot, can you believe that? We told him, via griot like civilized human beings, that he'd have to get in line and there were a lot of people ahead of him, but maybe he didn't like that. Does he think we don't know he enslaves Ifrians? Mbey is right next to us. We're also pretty sure he pays pirates to attack our waters. This is not the foundation of a successful business relationship." - anonymous source within Mansa Kankan's household.

The Vendel are not strangers to far-off trade, and their first delegation arrived in Xweda 150 years ago. They bought a lot of fancy clothes and spent a lot of time touring Arrada before heading to meet the Mansa. Their skald's skill and versatility was considered especially impressive. The War of the Cross, however, set back trade quite a bit, as it threatened southbound vessels in the Widow's Sea. As soon as the war ended, trade resumed, but the ATC has kept it from reaching its prior levels. The Company and the Vendel have been in a trade war since 1648, and it's turned hot in West Ifrian waters, as the Vendel merchant navy and the Company's hired pirates clash repeatedly. Dozens of ships have sunk, dozens of crews have been enslave. Manden favors the Vendel but has no fleet to support them with.

People! Mansa Kankan is the current ruler, a devout Dinist, a devoted father and husband, an excellent businessman and the richest human on the planet. His recent pilgrimage to the site of Prophet Khalil's death sent economic shocks through every settlement he traveled through, as his charitable donations often exceeded the net worth of entire small countries. Kankan was also changed by it. As he traveled, and he and his Dinist teachers explored the ideas of love and nonviolence that are central to the al-Din faith. When Kankan returned, he made a shocking proclamation: offensive war was no longer a viable diplomatic tool or solution of the Manden Kurufaba. The army was now a purely defensive force. While Manden State and Awkar have enjoyed this change, the more martial Xweda and Igodomigodo are less confident. They see the face of Mbeyan aggression and lose people to Atabean slavery a lot. Both Ahosu Mazidath and the Regent Enitan have voiced their doubts, but Kankan is adamant. If Xweda and Igodomigodo want financial support, they must obey the mandate.

Youssou Sende is the most beloved and well-known griot in Manden, with the most beautiful voice. She is favored by Mansa Kankan and the Ori, and it is said the Ori gave her the power to remember anything and everything she hears perfectly, that she is so beloved that she has four Ori watching her, not three. As a griot, she can tell the history of her people in an unbroken chain through her grandmothers. She wanders the land, collecting stories and teaching younger griots. She learns the tales of individuals, turning them into legends that give hope to the nation. Like many Mandenkaw who live near Mbey, however, she knows loss. She was sent tos ing at the birth of the Aksumite princess Merhet, and the Ori bid her to wait one day before going home. She did...and returned to find her entire village captured or killed by Mbeyan slavers. She is alive, but she fears her family is not. She knows she is old, though, and so she hopes and prays all the time that her work will be repaid by the return of her daughter or the arrival of an apprentice to carry on her lineage.

Prince Adegoke is Kankan's younger brother, and technically a hostage, 'adopted' from a cadet branch of Ajaka-Katunga's royal family in the aftermath of the Igodomigodo Secession. Even now, he is dissatisfied. He knows he's always going to be, at best, second to Kankan - and at worst, a bargaining chip. He spent his childhood never trusting anyone but his best friend, Omobolanle. Omobolanle only appears to Adegoke, and has always been there. Adegoke knows he's not human - a wraith, perhaps, or maybe a jinn - but he's the only one sympathetic to Adegoke's plan to overthrow Kankan and usurp the Sika'Dwa stool for Igodomigodo. During Kankan's long pilgrimage, he attacked Aksum in hopes of gaining the military and public support needed to steal the throne. It was supposed to be quick and easy, but the Manden generals refused to send troops off the Mbey border, so Adegoke was forced to match wits with Aksum directly, using his brillian military skill. However, the mathemagicians of Aksum foretold all of his ambushes and traps, and with the Mandanka forces lacking their usual overwhelming numbers advantage, he struggled for five years to gain any ground. Despite all this, Mansa Kankan trusts Adegoke utterly, and trusts his military as well, unaware that the Alagbato Iya's leader has been sduced by Adegoke, who has been given the tongue of a serpent by Omobolanle. Adegoke is currently working to conver the rest of the Iya, so he can perform a palace coup or a takeover of the International Kurufaba - whichever proves easiest. Adegoke is Strength 3, Influence 9.

Kunto de Rosa is a Thean shipwright of Xwedan ancestry, hired by Mansa Kankan and Queen Mazideath to oversee the Xwedan shipyards. She is the daughter of an Odisean shipwright and Xweda sailor, and she's had decades of experience working for the Castillian royals. She was offered a large salary for exclusive work in Arrada, but the Kurufaba didn't know she was already on the Atabean Trading Company's payroll. Originally, the Company wanted a mole in the Castillian shipyards to update them on the status of Castille's rebuilding of the Armada. However, the Company offered to raise her salary if she'd serve as a double agent in Manden. She's a good shipwright, but far greedier than she is proud of her job. She originally started out doing her best to build quality craft for the Kurufaba, but now she has been given the order to sabotage them. The supervisors directly under her are also on Company payroll, and they build in tiny flaws in the ships that the Company can exploit. Someone, however, is working against her. The Jonow and Nyamakalaw working under her have started to catch and correct her 'mistakes,' and she suspects that she has a mole within her own moles. She is Strength 4, Influence 10.

Next time: Mbey

Lands of Gold and Fire - Where the Darkness Is

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Where the Darkness Is

Mbey has, of all the five nations of Ifri, the best claim at being a true empire, for it controls not one land, but six. Mbey technically refers only to the empire's most central kingdom, full of thick rainforests in a shallow basin, where the Bour Ba rules and oversees the western vassals. The Bour Bas have always ruled Mbey, as one of the five kings blessed by the Jok with a Sika'Dwa stool. The kingdoms of Nder, Mboul, Diourbel, Gelwaar and Kahone saw the mandate in this and pledged themselves to Mbey, and the unity has never been broken. At its greatest height, the Mbey Empire cast a shadow over all of Ifri. None could match its wealth, glory or spirit. Each kingdom retained a fierce and independent identity - the cavalry of Diourbel, who raise horses unlike any others in Ifri, the Second People of Kahone, whose wrestler-warriors are known as simb, the false lions, the sailors of Mboul whose craft is unrivaled, the wise border people of Nder who use ancient magic and careful diplomacy to guard the land, and the Gelwaar who kept watch over the Fields of Bonsam, protecting the world from evil. All, however, were loyal to the Bour Ba. Mbey was the kingdom of kingdoms, bound together by common cause. It is because of the tolerant attitude of the Bour Ba and the way he was chosen that allowed for this.

In Mbey, the Bour Ba must always embody the empire's three great virtues of thiossane: gracious mien, generous spirit and steady temperament. Traditionally, the Bour Ba must be of Mbey birth, but the appointment was not hereditary - he is chosen by the kangam, the lead notables of the five kingdoms. It may, at its height, have been the truest meritocracy there has ever been. It was not perfect, but it was grand beyond anything before or since. The first Bour Ba did not even limit his vision to his own lands. In Khemet, he saw great buildings. In the Crescent Empire, he learned of science and medicine, and in both he saw the great ships of Theah. He seduced all with the tales of gold and wonders in Ifri, bringing them to his court and making Lougua a metropolis beyond its time. This progressiveness was seen as normal in Mbey, where the blending of cultures brought about philosophy and art unseen anywhere else.

Perhaps, then, there is no greater crime than the corruption of Mbey. If it had lasted, what wonders might have existed, what evil avoided. But the Bonsam Stones were disturbed, and blame must be laid at the feet of the Atabean Trading Company, the nation of Montaigne...and Bour Ba Ighodalo, the mad king, broken by his own shame. The ATC did in months what had been impossible for centuries - they fostered greed and animosity between the vassals of Mbey and their ruler. It was not easy, involving high duplicity, impersonation and careful sowing of suspicion. They first raided in the disguise of Mboulan pirates, whom they shared an interest with - boats - and had bought ships from. They raided the Mbey coast, and Nder was the first to ask the Bour Ba for aid. Diplomacy was tried, but the raids only increased as Mboul protested its innocence and the ambassadors sought truth. Diourbel's soldiers chose a more decisive path - they assassinated their brak, official governor for the Bour Ba, and sent their cavalry to Mboul, massacring innocent villages in retribution. The ATC had set the fire, and now only needed to stoke it.

Civil war erupted, with only Nder remaining neutral in the hostilities - and they were suddenly crushed between Maghreb raiders and southern battlefront, which often spilled over into their villages. They were dying, and fast. Mbey tore itself apart as the Company exploited the chaos. They profited from weapons deals, yes, but they saw more profit from an Mbey united under their control. A weak Mbey would just be a target for Maghreb and Manden, no good to the Company - especially if they wanted to get to the gold fields of Manden. An Mbey under their control, however, would be a staging ground and an army. Thus, they offered their mercenary army to the Bour Ba in exchange for his Sika'Dwa stool. The Bour Ba, of course, refused.

And so, the ATC laid siege to Lougua. Under normal circumstances, a small Thean army and their slaves would never have stood a chance in Mbey...but with the kingdom in chaos, no help could be expected. While Bour Ba Ighodalo remained resolute, the foreign merchants who were over half of Lougua's population were less so, and the Company knew it. After four weeks of siege, when hunger and disease began to set in, they offered free passage home to any man, woman or child who delivered to them the Sika'Dwa. At that time, Ighodalo saw that he no longer had control over his city. He had, like his predecessors, allowed foreigners free travel, and they had betrayed him. He saw that doing nothing would lose Mbey - and so, he gathered the Ninth Guard, his most loyal soldiers, and while it pained him greatly, he ordered them to murder every foreigner in their beds that night, save for the teachers at university and the children, both of whom he threw in the dungeons. It was the greatest violation of thiossane ever enacted by a sitting Bour Ba and the bloodiest night in Lougua's entire history.

When they learned of his atrocities, Ighodalo's twin sons were overcome with shame. He had violated ancient custom and murdered his welcomed guests, his friends. One son sought to punish his father for this crime, while the other, full of guilt, wanted only to spare him more humiliation. Together, they stole the Sika'Dwa stool from the square it sat in, presenting it to the Company commander, who thanked them politely and then took them prisoner. Before Ighodalo knew what happened, his sons were off to Bellete to be sold as slaves and shipped out of IFri. However, the Company did lift the siege and ended all hostilities. Even the civil war faded, as the provocateurs ended their work. However, to call Mbey unified now was correct only in a truly legalist sense. Thousands lay dead, and the Company had taken all of their pride. And yet, this was not the worst.

Without the Sika'Dwa, Bour Ba Ighodalo had no right to rule. His armies were depleted, so he could not expel the Company, nor ever recover what he'd lost. Mbey could never be whole, and without his sons, neither could he. The greatest empire in the world was broken under his watch. His doubt and shame were too much. It would be nice to say that Ighodalo did what he did next due to prophecy, and by his decree, his griot tells it so, though she knows it is a lie. Even madness would be better. But the truth is simply that he fell to temptation. It took three days of consideration, and on the fourth, he summoned the Ninth Guard and sent them into Gelwaar by night, attacking the guards on the Fields of Bonsam and, by sunrise, finding the first of the Stones of Bonsam. Most of the Guard were slain by the wardens, but the survivors did as they'd been ordered. They took the black monolith from the ground and returned it to Lougua, fighting the wardens and exorcists the whole way. They were nothing if not devoted. Only one survived - but he did so carrying the stone.

The next morning, Ighodalo summoned the five bours of the vassal kingdoms. When they arrived, they were greeted by a strange, fragile woman of indeterminate age and oily complexion unlike that of Ifrians. Her spindly limbs were like a spider's, her belly distended. She called herself Chitendu, a name with no meaning in any of their languages, and she told them they must pledge again to the Bour Ba - a precaution due to the siege, she said. What happened that day, only those five, Bour Ba Ighodalo and Chitendu can say, but in the days after, the Bour Ba took to wearing a long thong around his neck, from which hung five still-beating hearts.

After that, Mbey was united again, but its spirit was gone, replaced by sadness or cruelty. Gelwaar reluctantly gave the Fields of Bonsam to the Bour Ba, who began excavating them and moving the stones to Lougua. He began to enslave Maghreb and Manden citizens to do the labor, with the help of the Company. Even now, the excavation continues and new Stones of Bonsam are sent to his palace. Those who return from such deliveries, which is not all, speak of mad things - an ever-burning jungle, a throne of shattered Bonsam Stone, men and women in the market with dead eyes, and Chitendu, followed by flies at all times, watching. And, of course, the hearts. The beating hearts around Ighodalo's throat.

If there is any good to this, it is that Mbey's relationship with the ATC is now, subtly, in Ighodalo's favor. For a second, he was under their thumb, and now they can't really tell why he isn't. He trades with them enthusiastically, selling slaves for gold and guns. It's strange. He doesn't act like a man deprived of his sons or his sovereignty, but like a man possessed. His motives and ambitions are unclear, but the Company...well, they'll claim they're in the superior position, but they know it's a lie.

Mbey rules over 300 miles of land, 200 miles wie. It is half the size of its nearest rivals, yet has traditionally been stronger than both. Until now, it has always ruled supreme in the western coast, its enemies unable to pierce its border. Now...well, now the border is a battlefield for slavers. Nder is the northmost kingdom, nestled in the Mbey River Valley. It is the smallest yet most vital vassal. The river floods twice a year, irrigating its fields and feeding the entire nation of Mbey. Unfortunately, Nder appears to have almost vanished. The day the Bonsam Fields were excavated, a thick fog covered the entire area. You can go towards it, but you'll just end up where you started. Rumors abound, but some say that the recent resistance to the Bour Ba is from the invisible people of Nder, that vanishing was their last, desperate act, that they were tied to the land and that their magic made it leave. No matter how it was done, Nder's vanishing puts great pressure on the other kingdoms to provide.

Mboul is near Nder, or where it once was, the border lying where the savannah gave way to forest. The trees are the key to Mbey, and while Nder was the heart of commerce in the nation, Mboul was its richest kingdom due to the easy lumber that could be used for ships. For over a century, Mboul (and so Mbey) was the maritime power of Ifri, whose hsips connected the coast and made empire possible. Their presence was common even as far away as Khemet, and it was Mboul that first met the ATC. Heading further south you hit Gelwaar, the least hospitable kingdom. Only its shores, where the oncean rains hit, are green. Inland is just a sandy expanse, mostly notable for the Stones of Bonsam interspersed throughout. IT was here, in ages past, that the Jok defeated Bonsam and imprisoned them in the black obelisks, some clustered thick, others left alone.

Head east until you can no longer see the Stones, and you will reach Diourbel. It is like Gelwaar, but grassy, good for grazing its famous horses. These ae ulike any horses in Ifri, except perhaps the few that the northern kingdoms have gained from Crescent trade. Keep going and you reach Kahone, a land of rivers and lakes but similar climate. Both are full of dense rainforest, and the main difference, according to the locals, is that Kahone is home of the Second People. The two lands were once almost one, shared by the First and Second, but that was in times past, before the ATC came and founded their colony on the Kahone River's mouth. Before they began preying on the Second People as slaves and sent them as refugees, much as they once had been from Maghreb. Now, Kahone is increasingly abandoned by its people, barely a kingdom. At the heart of it all, though, is Mbey, shielded by the Mbey Mountains. Once, it was a land of fog and mist, but now, the jungle burns, forever on fire, and there is only steam and vents where mist once lay. Only beasts that can survive the flames live there now, and many strange and terrible monsters. The natives have fled to the capital, where the Bour Ba shields them from fiery death. Some say death would be preferable, but never loudly. Something might be listening.

Next time: Life in the land of devils.

Lands of Gold and Fire - Mbey Before Dark

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Mbey Before Dark

The most fundamental social division in Mbey is between commoner and kangam. Most people are commoners, though obviously there are subtle distinctions between those who labor and those who craft. In principle, a kangam is the same - they do the same work and live in the same place as commoners. What distinguishes them is the respect given to them. 'Kangam' translates to 'most notable'. In theory they are the nobles of Mbey, though no Thean would recognize it that way. The kangam live among the commoners and do not necessarily have more wealth. Their status is not inherited and it is not elected. Rather, being kangam is about trust. When people turn to you for guidance and recognize your wisdom and skill, that is when you are kangam. It is an informal process, so much so that a kangam may not know they are one until thy are called on to perform a formal function of the job, such as selecting a new bour.

There is no reward for being kangam - just more responsibilitiy, driven by civic duty. That's not to say there is no reward - being kangam is about being respected, so people will care for you and treat you well, as they respect you. Above the kangam are the bour and the brak. In theory, a bour and brak are equal. In other lands, a bour might be called a king, but 'ambassador' is probably a better term. They are native to the land they rule, and each of the five vassal kingdoms has their own title. Bour was the Nder title, while in Diourbel it is Teny, in Mboul it is Damel, in Gelwaar it is Balam and in Kahone, Laman. They are semipermanent members of the Bour Ba's court, and spend as much time in Lougua as at home. The five brak are chosen by the Bour Ba from among the kangam, sent to live in the vassal kingdoms to represent his interests. Once, they were chosen from among their people, but today, all of the brak have been replaced by abonsam who wear their faces.

The bour advise the Bour Ba on the customs and needs of the people, while the brak assist the Bour Ba's holdings in matters of defense and state interest. Thus, each vassal kingdom is represented in the court of the Bour Ba, and the Bour Ba is represented in their far off lands, though obviously current events have shifted the balance quite a bit. There is one other class to note in Mbey: slave. Slavery, according to the griots, has existed in one form or other for as far back as any can remember. Captured enemies were pressed into service in labor or battle, and Mbey had many enemies. However, with the coming of the ATC, slavery is now a business. It's not just Mbey's enemies - the Second People of Mbey are often sold in the flesh markets, and even the First People can be found on the block as punishment for increasingly petty crimes.

Mbey ideas of gender and gender roles are distinct and important. Women are considered to be, by and large, dependant on men. Tradition prevents a woman from becoming a bour or the Bour Ba, but women are also seen as essential to the prosperity of a village, and are equally able to be kangam. Gender roles are usually less srict in villages that have more pressing day to day concerns, and especially among the Second People, who came from Maghreb and recognize a matrilineal queen as well as a patrilineal king. There is also a strong tradition inb Mbey of gender nonconformance. A man with no sons might designate one daughter as a 'male daughter' and raise her as a man, or might take on the role of a 'male wife' to another man. A woman could take wives of her own. These changes happen both because a person takes on a role they feel comfortable doing, and because of the social need for them to occupy a position that traditionally would belong to another gender. This is seen as necessary to make society function, and those who take on other gender roles often have a rise in status - a wife who takes other wives, for example, is seen as a wealthy provider and family head. However, the influence of Bonsam has meant these people are increasingly suffering from distrust and persecution, which isn't helping Mbeyan social stability.

There are two main ethnic groups in Mbey, the First People and the Second People. The First People descend from the original inhabitants of the land, often peacefully absorbing the other tribes that lived there and taking up their skills and even their magic in the case of the northern Nder. They saw themselves as one people, but adopted names to distinguish their regional differences: Nder, Gelwaar, Diourbel and Mboul. All are of the First People. In time, they found the great basin in the heart of the rainforests, shielded by the mountains. The local tribes called it Mbey, and they built the village of Lougua there. It was, at the time, a provincial village of minor importance. This changed when the Jok gifted Mbey the Sika'Dwa stool and Lougua became the seat of the Mbeyan empire.

The Second People came to Mbey as refugees driven from their ancestral homes in Maghreb. They tend to be shorter, with lighter skin, and they came with their own religion. The First People worshipped a thousand gods and spirit, but the Second People had only one, who had Prophets. (The Crescent culture and Dinist faith were quite prevalent in Maghreb at the time, and still are.) Their diapsora brought them to the south of Mbey, and they may have gone on to Manden had the Bour Ba's emissaries not offered them sanctuary. And so, they claimed the land of Kahone. For the entire history of Mbey, the Second People and First People have been equals - the names are just about who arrived when, with no implication of class.

This changed when the ATC came, and got worse with the breaking of the Bonsam Stones. Most know that Mbey's raids into Manden and Maghreb for slaves have tarnished relations, but little is said about Ighodalo's surrender of the Second People to the Company. It has turned them into true second-class citizens. They remember the persecutions of Maghreb, centuries ago, and so they took little time to flee again, heading south as easily as they did when they first arrived.

Most Mbeyans wear a boubou, a loose, wide-sleeved cotton tunic, which may be embroidered in any number of colors and patterns. Women usually wear a matching headscarf or turban, and shoes are primarily either open leather sandals or closed and pointed sandals, often decorated to display wealth. Clothing is generally quite colorful, even among the poor. There are no gender distinctions for color, and men and women both wear a wide range of colors.

The cultural identity of Mbey, historically, has been tied to thiossane, which is a word that means history, tradition and culture. It is the Bour Ba's breaking of thiossane that betrayed Mbey as much as the content of his actions, though the people still try to maintain the tradition. The first and biggest part of thiossane is the family. Among the First People, the nominal head of household is the father-husband, but he is both lord and servant. His word is law, but any wife may counsel him, and failure to heed their wise counsel often has dire social consequences. Among the Second People, the father-husband and mother-wife are equal in this role, with each having final authority over matters particular to their gender - daughters, household and fields for the women, sons, politics, hunting and trade for the men.

A large family is a sign of wealth, as only a rich person can provide for so many. However, this overlaps with the next element of thiossane: the village. Villages are an extension of family. A large community is prosperous only if its members are well-cared for. Thus, villages often share the duties of childcare, fieldwork and trade as part of thiossane. The leaders of the village are its kangams. Of course, when someone not kangam is wise enough and trusted by the people, they become kangam, so leadership is, in practice, done by those who lead. Most villages are strongly tied to nearby villages via intermarriage. Marriages are usually arranged, and while the bride and groom may express opinions, the final decision lies with their parents. The groom's family makes the proposal via an offer of food, usually kola nuts. Acceptance begins the period of courtship, which can last days or months, ending in a marriage ceremony slash moving day as the bride moves into her new husband's home. Goods are then transferred between families, completing the marriage trade.

A typical Mbeyan workday begins with the people of a village gathering to greet each other and pray thanks to the Ori, and to find anyone missing. Anyone who will need help is assigned it, and the villagers go about their duties. At midday, a meal is taken with the family, and any chores left are done in the afternoon. The evening meal is a social affair for the whole village, with any who wish to join taking part in song and dance before the large communal meal, then more song and dance and storytelling, and any conflict resolution that may be required. Ancestor spirits are invited in and given a bowl of water. The evening ends with a final prayer to the Ori, usually asking to be watched over in slumber. The primary language of Mbey is Njaay, with Nder and Gelwaar as secondary. They all belong to the Njaayan branch of the Kwara language family.

The Mbeyan diet is primarily fish and chicken, or goat and sheep in wealthier homes, paired with millet, fonio, rice, peanuts, kola nuts, bambara beans, cabbage, onions, peppers and carrots. Sauces are popular, particularly spicy ones and red tomato sauces. The baoba tree is also a staple food for most villages using its leaves, fruit and seeds in many foods, as is the wild dika, which produces a sweet fruit whose seeds can be eaten or turned to oil. Soprghum is common in the inland regions as a sweetener, cereal and livestock feed. Sorghum is the only real export the company will buy fairly except for slaves and gold. Mbey's extensive trade, however, means you can find Thean foods anywhere if you look, especially in larger towns or ports.

Stories, music and dance are the cornerstones of social life in Mbey. Every village has storytellers, usually elders whose bodies can no longer do menial labor. They spend their mornings teaching the children history and tradition, and in the evenings, they have a prominent social role in retelling legends and myths for amusement and giving historical advice to the kangam on matters of politics. They are at once teachers, entertainers and historians. Music and dance, however, belong to all. Every child learns the traditional village songs and dances, even before they can speak, and most learn to play instruments, too, especially the popular tam-tam drum. Every village has at least one tam-tam master and one apprentice. Traveling storytellers and musicians are probably the only travelers still given much trust these days, as they have the power to shame people into rejecting evil and to inspire them to greatness. Legend has it that the best storytellers can drive back the abonsam with their tales of hope and passion - and certainly, it is possible for a skilled musician or storyteller to convince an abonsam this is possible, which is just as good.

Next time: Religion

Lands of Gold and Fire - Gods and Spirits

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Gods and Spirits

Mbey religion is, like its people, a mix of overlapping practices and beliefs. The eldest of these beliefs is animism. Like many early Ifrians, the Mbeyan people saw spirits in all things. It wasn't about reverence - the spirits were fierce as well as beautiful, and little could be done to placate them if angered, but you could learn to coexist with them. These animist beliefs rarely gave way when new faiths came and even now, it is considered simply fact that we are surrounded by spirits and only a fool would ignore them. However, the most formal practitioners of animism were the Nder people. Others just wanted to coexist, but Nder was allied to the spirits. Legends speak of Nder shamans who could bring floods to destroy enemy armies - their lands were even called the Drowning Lands. It is said that they forged ancient pacts with the spirits of a hundred rivers. Som wonder, then, why they never conquered Mbey, and others say that it is this power that let them seal off their entire land from the world.

Ancestor cults are also quite common. If all things have a spirit, then surely the spirits of the beloved dead are going to look kindly upon their descendants. These beliefs are rarely organized into worship, but rather assume that the ancestors are always near and must be treated with the same respect as anyone else. This is done primarily by sharing food and especially water. In the Mbey traidtion, death is apparently dehydrating. Assanyi came when Mbey was unified, and it in most ways resembles the practice of Assanyi in Manden. The locals depend on the thousand gods of the Ori, offering supplication to them and asking them to bring messages to the Great God on their behalf. However, this has changed since Bonsam escaped. Mbeyans are often reluctant to speak directly to the Ori now, fearing evil spirits will overhear and twist their payers. Thus, most no longer pray except in times of desperate need - or not even then. Others have sought to commune with the dead instead, though this is also desperate. Dead spirits are believed to be quite unpredictable...but hey, in war against the devil, you take what you can get.

The Second People came from Maghreb and typically shared their gods, particularly the goddess Cyre. They are easily the most egalitarian of Mbeyans as a result, and also consider the beasts of the savannah, especially the lion and gazelle, as symbols of life, death and renewal. The warrior-sect called the simb, the false lions, are both warriors and religious figures. Typically, the Second People weren't very much into Dinist practice, though Maghreb can be.

There were once several magical traditions in Mbey. Most have now been eradicated. The animist Nder have vanished along with their kingdom. The Gelwaar exorcists, who protected the Bonsam Stones and fought the abonsam, have been hunted down and eliminated one by one. The Kahone had little sorcery and in any case have mostly headed south, into Manden.l What fills the void of magic now is largely abonsam worship. The abonsam are that which shouldn't be. They do not play by any rules. They are spirits and also flesh, simultaneously. They exist and don't exist simultaneously. They have their own forms, yet can possess mortals, and can do so without giving up their own bodies.

This possession is the backbone of abonsam magic. Mortals can try to resist, but it rarely helps. They remain, suppressed yet alive, until the possessor leaves. Often, the body of a possessed person takes on aspects of the abonsam, sometimes retaining these even after the spirit leaves. Bestial traits are not uncommon among the possessed, and rumors of them abound. Most assume that anyone who is possessed is impure and did something to allow the abonsam into their flesh. They are often driven from their village, to die in the wilds. Bitterness or even just survival make them ideal candidates for further indoctrination by Bonsam's agents as a result.

The Gelwaar exorcists were the only ones who knew the secret of forcing an abonsam out of their victim, and were also skilled at fighting the abonsam. Little wonder, then, that they were the first targets of Bour Ba Ighodalo's secret police once the decision to free Bonsam was made. However, rumor persists that some exorcists survived, hidden away. In their absence, a new form of sorcerer has risen to take their place - the rooi heks, those who have the Red Touch. These sorcerers are contacted in dreams by the Jok, who temporarily possess them in the name of the greater good. In exchange, they gain the power of sorcery. The Jok are infallible, it seems...but the people they choose are not, and aren't always up to the job of using these gifts properly.

When someone is contacted by the Jok, the world twists around them in unnatural ways that stress the soul. This bending and twisting is the source of both their power and their temptation. Rooi heks often see this power as a gift, but some see it as a path to corruption. The Jok always choose righteous people, but not every soul can handle the stress, and some become tempted to evil. The Red Touch removes corruption from the world by absorbing it into the rooi heks bodily, using the stress on their soul to command the world to obey them as the Jok do. They must, in a land overcome by abonsam, be willing to use anything they can to cleanse the land, after all.

Most Mbeyans see the Red Touch as direct opposition to the abonsam. Some, however, feel it is a power mortals should not have, that its use is evil. It's true that overuse of the Red Touch can lead one to villainy, but most rooi heks are able to walk the fine line of cleansing the world without overusing the power. They hope to do more good than bad, and accept the consequences of their choice. Beyond this, there is only one other magical tradition that remains in Mbey: Assanyi priests using sympathetic magic to call for the spirits of the dead. This offers the people a medium to communicate with the Ori using the dead as messengers. In many villages, the people gather around fires to pray to the spirits of the dead, then release them into the night. Travelers may run into several of these spirits, which can be dangerous. Spirits are driven by their primitive instincts, after all. However, killing a spirit is an act of terrible blasphemy, and will bring down the retaliation of anyone who learns of it...especially those who sent the spirit out bearing their prayers.

A generation ago, the Mbeyan government was very different than it is now. In both, the Bour Ba is the political and spiritual leader...but things have changed. When he had the Sika'Dwa stool, he had the Jok divine mandate, and none needed to question his authoirty. He ruled with grace and wisdom, and the kangam of the kingdoms selected the new Bour Ba when he stepped down. The kangam of the five tributary kingdoms could freely choose any man from the kingdom of Mbey to be Bour Ba, and regarded it as a solemn yet joyful duty, a sacred honor. This is the system that placed Ighodalo on the throne. Of course, no one could know what the ATC would do, at the time, or the stress Ighodalo would suffer with the loss of his sons. Ighodalo believed that it was wisdom, not weakness, that drove him to break the Bonsam Stones. He knew that without the Jok's gift, Mbey would fall - it could not be like the other kingdoms, nor stand against them. And so, he turned to the only other power he knew of: Bonsam. That might allow him to rival the power of the Jok-granted thrones.

No one is sure how Ighodalo intends to choose his next successor, but it is assumed that he and his advisors - especially Chitendu - will be the ones to select the next bour ba, despite tradition. In the meantime, Ighodalo spends his time hunting for his sons by many agents. The lesser kingdoms each have their own bour, elected by their own kangam. In the past, these bour had much authority, near equal to the Bour Ba, and were trusted with near autonomy in all except defense and trade. Now, they rule only at the convenience of Ighodalo, who wears their hearts around his neck. Four still beat; the heart of the bour of Nder is silent. No one knows why. Beneath the bour were the kangam, who had perhaps the greatest burden of responsibility. They are the ones the people come to with troubles, and while they could seek guidance from the bour, who could seek the Bour Ba's guidance, they tended not to, seeking practical solutions instead. This is why the kangam chose the Bour Ba.

In Nder, each village had its own leader, called a brak, who served as chief of the kangam and led the village as essentially an autonomous entity. Brak negotiated everything from trade to war on a village by village basis, with the bour not interfering much...which makes the sudden and unified vanishing of all Nder even more mysterious. In Kahone, the laman was the official representative to Mbey, but was considered equal to the Lingeer, the queen, as the Second People were equally patriarchal and matriarchal. They saw no need to give up their queen when they came to Mbey, and this has proved lucky for them - Ighodalo ignored the Lingeer when summoning the bour to his palace and stealing the hearts. The Laman now rules a kingdom of none, for the Lindeer as led the Second People south, away from Mbey.

The women of Mbey tend to be better educated than the men. The capital has a Dinist university, allowed to operate only if it would teach Mbey's children, and to have a child attend was a great honor. Most boys could not be spared to attend, however, as they were needed to hunt. Girls also did vital tasks, but second or third daughters might be planned specifically as students and scholars. This is far less common thee days, of course. Many families grieve over the daughters trapped in Lougua, behind the barriers of the fiery forests, forced to endure who knows what.

Mbey's economy, culture and politics were dominated by trade, and the key to this, in the past, was the naval power of Mboul, which let Mbey trade even as far as Khemet and Aksum easily. In exchange for generous trade of Diourbel horses and various goods, they always had allies. That is done now. Their ships are forbidden in nearly every port in Ifri, and their allies have been replaced by the Company, which has built markets and plantations across the Mbeyan coast and nearby islands. Their main interests are gold, slaves and land, in exchange for guns, ships and mercenaries. MBey has little precious metal in its borders, however, and in the past, they largely used barter over hard currency. They raid Manden more often now, however, both for slaves and gold to trade to the Company, which likes currency. For a while, they minted official MBeyan coins, but the Company found these coins rejected in every market in Ifri, so now they deal in raw ore. Castel del Elmina, a former plantation off the Mboul coast, has been turned into a foundry to extract gold from ore constantly.

The Company rarely trades goods directly for slaves, instead buying with gold coin, which the Mbeyan slavers can then spend at their markets. This gold becomes tainted with Bonsam's energies, and when spent, they grant a taste of bad luck. A single coin is only a little unlucky, but an entire coffer? That could leave you in ruin. These curses are never so blatant as to be deadly, though - the coins want each other to be spent, and the dead cannot spend. Anything else is possible, however. The Company laughs at this idea, though, and certainly their employees do not seem to have suffered many arbitrary tragedies. However, those who do believe are reluctant to take Company coin originated in Mbey, and so the Company has had tyo create elaborate laundering rackets to get their coins into circulation, and Mbeyan gold can be found all over Theah as a result.

Next time: The Stones

Lands of Gold and Fire - Dead Sons

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Dead Sons

The Sons of the Ninth Dead Guard are the new military serving Bour Ba Ighodalo. They are also the secret police, and also a cult. Ighodalo has no magical power over them; he doesn't need any. They have faith, pride and near-suicidal devotion. That's all he needs. Nearly all of them are volunteers, young men and (fewer) young women, younger than the old Ninth Guard were. They believe Ighodalo is divine sovereign, that he is the only thing keeping the empire together in tough times. Yes, they say, the Bour Ba is not without sympathy for you - the hard times test us all - but if you lack faith, well, you are not to be forgiven. The average Sons patrol is around a dozen people, some of whom have Mboul mounts dating before the destruction of their herds. Most don't. They tend to be excellent fighters and killers by virtue of their amazing endurance and dedication, and their armor, studded with glittering basalt, is meant to be scary. Many of the larger settlements in Mbey have been turned into fortresses for the Sons and the Company.

Places! The [bStones of Bonsam[/b] are the soruce of Mbey's troubles and its current power. They are immense stone monoliths in the Gelwaar plains. Each stone imprisons a single abonsam, the greatest of whom is Bonsam themself. The Gelwaar were the wardens of these prisons, until Ighodalo's forces caome in the night and stole the first stone. The being inside was Chitendu, and that began the excavation of the Bonsam Stones. The nature of these stones is a mystery. They are crystalline, but are neither jet nor onyx, nor any other known gem. They are darker than a black, starless sky, and reflect no light. They cool the air around them, and if you get too close, you can feel something within moving. If you stay too close, you can commune with what is inside, and the abonsam will make you an offer. The details vary, but it's always power for its freedom.

A Bonsam Stone cannot be harmed by accident. However, it is as easy for a deliberate action to break one as it is to break an egg. The only exception is the prison-stone of Bonsam itself, which requires the touch of all five rulers of Ifri, though the legend doesn't say they need to be willing. Noting this, Bour Ba Ighodalo has begun a secret plan to cut off one hand from each of the others. Most believe, given his obsession, that he has opened dozens or even hundreds of the Stones for power. In truth, he has unleashed less than a dozen. One was Chitendu, then the five fiendish braks that attend his kingdoms, and a few others to go abroad. He has, however, stockpiled hundreds of Bonsam Stones, to deny them to his enemies and as a contigency in case he needs more demonic power.

The Burning Jungle around Lougua was once a misty, humid one. Dangerous, yes, but not on fire. Now, it burns with an emerald flame that seems to be alive. The fires rage, but never consume the native plants and animals. Few humans, however, ever return from the green inferno. It now serves as a vital defense of Mbey, for only the will of the Bour Ba can grant safe passage through it. The city Lougua is safely protected in its darkest reaches, all but cut off from the world and forever safe from foreign siege.

Lougua is actually older than Mbey itself. It was a tiny village when the Mbeyans arrived, carved from the heart of the rainforest. It remained small until the Jok came and placed the Sika'Dwa stool there. Over centuries, it grew into a mass of huts and buildings interwoven into the trees, with the Sika'Dwa always at the center. Each day, the Bour Ba sat in the stool in view of all. It thrived despite its isolation, and while it was not perhaps as cosmopolitan as the grand ports of Khemet, it was immense nad very diverse. It had over 50,000 permanent residents, and half that in visitors. It was built from many materials, in many architectural styles. The farmers livedi n huts of wood and mudbrick, while the Crescent merchants were fixtures there for at least two generations before the ATC arrived, bringing architects to make mansions of wood, marble and gold. They then built a palace for the Bour Ba, towering over the trees, and a university staffed by Crescent teachers.

Now, the city is more a prison. New arrivals are few, and those who leave are fewer. Walls of fire ensure only those the Bour Ba allows can come or go. The university remains, but is staffed largely by prisoners, who seem more dead than alive. The merchants' mansions lie empty, overgrown and looted. The drumming of the tam-tam can be heard across the city, and following it will lead you to Ighodalo, either in his palace of black spires or sitting on the Bonsam Throne in the center of the city. The Bonsam Throne sits where the Sika'Dwa once did, a mound of broken black stone. No one dares touch it, for it is made of Bonsam Stone shards, though the Bour Ba treats it as in the way his predecessors did the Sika'Dwa.

The Slave Fields of Bonsam were once just home to the Bonsam Stones in Gelwaar. Once, they were inviolate to all trespassers, guarded by warriors. Now, they are the worst and most hopeless place in Ifri. The Gelwaar have been replaced by taskmasters, who oversee the slave camps, many of them full of Mbeyans, who work to excavate the Bonsam Stones for transport to Lougua along a ruinous ditch called the Bonsam Road. It was carved by the passage of donkeys and elephants moving the stones to Mbey, and is the most reliable road left in the nation. The nearest town is Kabi, which serves the needs of the taskmasters and slaves. The tents cluster around a massive obelisk, 20 feet wide and buried to a depth none can guess. A dozen elephants have died trying to uproot it, but so far, it has not moved. Ighodalo's servants now study it, hoping to discover its secrets.

Bellete was one of the two great Company colonies on the coast; the other, Mosina, was lost with the rest of Nder, so Bellete is now the Company capital in Ifri, and its ruler, Governor Binchet, is quite pleased. It was made from the Kahone rainforest and is now the staging ground for raids into Manden, in an effort to get to the nation's gold fields. It was not much of a settlement at first - just a waypoint for foreigners traveling. The only place of interest was the place the locals called Nandi Nundi, a fertile delta at the river mouth. Binchet established a plantation there and kept the local name because he thought it was funny. In the early days, he used it as a safe place for Company conspirators but that's about it. Only when the plot against Mbey went full bore did it become important, as Binchet used it for his own ambitions. He enslaved local villagers, all of them of the Second People, and kept many as labor slaves to expand Bellete and his plantation, selling the rest on the blocks. His plantation expanded hugely, worked by over 200 slaves, and the Great Auction House became a gigantic flesh market, the largest in Ifri.

By then Bellete was so influential that despite Mosina having the larger slave market, it was the southern colony that was used as the base for the Company's major operations, including the seizing and sale of Ihodalo's twin sons. They were held at Nand Nundi, to take advantage of Buchet's evil reptution, and when the Sika'Dwa stool came to them, Binchet personally sat on it at the auctioneer's stage, in view of the two boys, then sold it off. How the place prospers, let alone stands, is a bit of a mystery. By rights, Ighodalo should have burned it down for the crimes against his family. Some believe he is just biding his time, knowing Binchet is the most able to find his sons. Most, however, believe Chitendu convinced him to spare the colony, and she is often seen among the slave markets.

Castel del Elmina is the coastal foundry-fortress where the Company processes raw ore into gold for trade. It was once a plantation, but now, it is far more important. Is nominal purpose as a smelter also hides that the Company uses it to mint their own coins, more than often forgeries of various Thean currencies. Two dozen goldsmiths run the place, with the air of nearly 20 slaves, about half of whom are children. A half dozen warships and a hundred mercenaries keep the place secure.

Between these two company strongholds is the island Sono. Here there is a small Vaticine church, built by the Company. It is one of the few in all Mbey, because it does one sacred job that even the Company needs: it has a graveyard. The entire hillside around the church is covered in wooden grave markers and empty graves, dug weekly to receive new Company casualties. Bother Rodrigo tends to the place along with two men, three women and a child, all slaves, plus a staff of three free people. Rodrigo is man in his 50s, just starting to go gray. He is kind and generous, but he goes to the slave markets of Beleete almost monthyl, to replace one or another of his slaves. Many speculate on why he is so far from his native Castille and why he works for the ATC. No one knows why Sono has such rapid turnover, either, and the Company doesn't especially care as long as he does his job. He is apparently a skilled practitioner of Hexenwork, which he uses to keep the dead on Sono at rest.

Then we have some of the most famous monsters. The Village the Walks lies in Kahone. Most of the villages of the Second People are now empty, their people either taken as slaves or fled, or died in the process of either one. The Village That Walks refuses to let the jungle take it, however. It stalks the rainforest on strange and improbably legs, its huts pressed into a vaguely human silhouette. It is 30 feet tall, and none know how it stays animate or why it exists. It is angry, they know, and kills anyone it meets. Some claim they have seen bloody, broken people pour from its huts, like maggots from a rotting wound. It leaves no tracks or trail in the jungle, save for corpses strung up in the trees.

In Diourbel, many of the horse breeders released theirh erds to the wild. It wasn't easy, and the horses were certainly no match for the wild beasts, much less the horrrors swarming from the Bonsam Fields. However, it was preferable to send the horses to die than be forced to ride them to war for the Bour Ba. However, one woman, a story says, asked the gods to pretect her herd. Her name is forgotten. The gods sent the spirits of the simb, the lions, into the bodies of her horses, creating the Pride of Diourbel. Others say these horses are possessed by devils, perhaps from drinking the brackish water in Gelwaar. Whatever the case, they are shaggy, savage beasts with none of a horse's usual fear. They strike by night, trampling huts and seizing people to drag across the savannah for unknown purpose. They don't eat them, being horses like any other, but no one has any idea what they do with those people. If they could be tamed as mounts, no cavalry could hope to stand against them.

Next time: The major players of Mbey

Lands of Gold and Fire - The Last Simb?

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - The Last Simb?

Foreign Relations, from two perspectives posted:

The Kingdom of Aksum: The Aksumites act high and mighty. Perhaps they are. But they are also sneaky, gold-loving spies. They claim tradition and unbroken lineages to the past but their people neglect the spirits of their families for the spirit of a king.
The People of Aksum send their spies into our borders, but for once they do not do it to overthrow us. We know they fund the various rebel groups that have formed since the disappearance of Nder.
The Kingdom of Khemet: Others claim that we are like the Khemeti with their veneration of the ancestors but we share little in common. They have long been dismissive of our people. The Company say that there is land to build bridges upon, that we can work together, that their queen could be our ally. But we still harbor doubts.
The Queen of Khemet is as troubled as our Bour Ba. If the Khemeti people were wise, they would do away with her before they fall to the same darkness that has plagued us. Their past haughtiness towards our people has led to folly. We wish we did not share so much in common.
The Kingdom of Maghreb: It seems as if war looms. The spirits of the dead howl injustices and peaceful words are in short supply. Though there have long been connections between our Kingdoms, kindness has died in the desert and the seas provide no haven.
The Company has ruined our long-standing relationship with Maghreb by harrying their ships with vicious pirates, and now they control the rhythm of the drums of war. Whose bodies do you think will be the first in line? Certainly not the soldiers of the ATC.
The Manden Empire: For ages, we have warred with the Mandenkaw. They have preyed upon our communities and we have retaliated in kind. Much was at a standstill with neither side giving way nor finding advantage. Many of our ancestors cry for revenge. Our new allies have tipped the balance and it seems that we have an advantage over them. Soon, their end will come and our ancestors will be pleased.
Our feud with Manden has lasted for as long as we can remember. We would take pleasure in gaining the upper hand, if it did not come due to the ATC and Bonsam evil. Once our ancestors may have cried for revenge, but we fear soon they will weep alongside Manden's if the poison of Bonsam spreads.
The Nation Montaigne: Through our contacts with the Atabean Trading Company, we have become partners with Montaigne. We harbor their ships, and trade with ease and pleasure. Their nobles find excellent respite here and soon we will grow wealthy due to their wealth and our connections. Together with the ATC, we might bring a new day to dawn upon all of Theah...one where Mbey is in control.
Day? You mean everlasting night... The greed of the Montaigne nobles knows no bounds. They plunder our land and resources, and consider us good for merely carrying their carriages. May the gold they wear be a heavy stone around their necks.
The Atabean Trading Company: We will never forget what they wrought upon us with words and lies. We keep our enemies close in Mbey. The Company believes they have the upper hand because we allow them to trade and lavish praise upon us, but we hold ourselves to a higher power than they do. Sure, they are good for making inroads into other Nations, but we merely bide our time for revenge.
We will never forget what they wrought upon us with words and lies. Our people lay under a cloud due to their greed and cruelty. They sell us into bondage indiscriminately, and we know they would do anything to see themselves in power. For now, we are silent, and waiting, but soon enough we will rise against them. Hopefully we can unite before it is too late.

People! Bour Ba Ighodalo was not weak or unwise. He was a man pushed to the brink who made a wrong choice in a moment of weakness. His defenders claim he is the strongest of kings. It is only Company treachery that parted him from the Sika'Dwa, they say, and he knew his kingdom would fail if so deprived, so he took the only power he could. Shattering the Bonsam Stones freed their evil prisoners, yes, and he made their shards into a throne of power. The other Ifrian kings sit on thrones they were given - but Ighodalo made his, and does that not make him greatest? Chitendu whispers these words of poison into his ears each day. He is a gaunt man a shell of his old, fat self, with sunken eyes, who sags under the weight of the hearts around his neck. His voice retains authority, but none of his old mirth or joy. He only ever speaks to his people once each day, when he sits upon the black throne. No citizen of Lougua may refuse to attend this event.

Jaineba, the Last Simb, is of the Second People. The Second People have suffered most, of all Mbeyans, since the Stones were broken. Jaineba lost their siblings in the early resistance to Ighodalo, and they led their remaining family south, to Manden, as refugees. Jaineba has a natural talent for njom, the wrestling techniques of the Second People, and as a child they yearned to practice njom with their brothers. There are provisions in the culture of the Second People for casting aside the roles of one's birth gender for a preferred one. However, Jaineba realized they could not do this, could not cast aside either gender, for they felt equally at home in all expressions. As their mother's last child alive, they have taken up the ceremonial duties of both genders, including wearing their eldest brother's njom regalia as tribute and intimidation, becoming one of the simb, the false lions. This choice to be both roles was not easy, but Jaineba has seen opportunities now not possible before the flight south. They have learned to use the mannerisms of either gender, and can easily present as male, female or a blend of the two depending on what feels most comfortable and useful for a given encounter.

Chitendu is the ever-present advisor of the Bour Ba. Everyone can tell that she was once a resident of the Bonsam Fields, though few dare say it aloud. She is a pot-bellied woman with spindly limbs, oily skin and mere nubs for teeth. She smiles often, laughing at everything, including herself. If it were not for the cloud of flies and gnats that constantly swarm around her, she might even be pleasant to deal with. Some few, however, speak of another Chitendu, a braying woman with a hyena's head and elephant tusks and tail, whose tail forever swats and flies to no purpose. Bour Ba Ighodalo is never seen without Chitendu, but she often wanders Lougua on her own, gossiping with and interrogating the people. Some claim to have met her in far off places, but she could not possibly have been there, given the distances. Clearly they must lie. She is Strength 6, Influence 8.

Shanga, the Eternal Captain, was one of the best sea captains of Mboul. Now, they call her a pirate though that isn't quite right. She is a woman trying to assuage her guilt the only way she can - by harrying the Company fleet wherever she can. In the days of first contact with the ATC, Shanga was their most outspoken advocate. She sailed for them and transported goods, even to Montaigne. The first night she looked into her cargo hold and saw familiar faces, however, something broke within her. Something she didn't even realize she had. She waited until land was out of sight, then seized the ship, slew her own crew and freed all the slaves. For months, she exploited her unique knowledge of ATC secrets to disrupt their trade, but no captain, no matter how good, is a match for the Company alone. She eventually was sunk off the coast of Nder, or so the Company claimed. However, while at least six Company crews testify to the sinking of the caravel St. Marie, someone continues to harass their shipping lanes. Witnesses say it is the St. Marie, its barnacle-encrusted prow covered in rotting corpses of slavers. Shanga is technically still a Villain, presumably for being possibly undead and still quite nasty and indiscriminate in her fury, with Strength 8 and Influence 3. She's trying to be better, at least.

Next time: Maghreb

Lands of Gold and Fire - Not Morocco, I Think?

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Not Morocco, I Think?

The Kingdom of Maghreb is caught between two seas - one of water, one of sand. Its ports are like jewels, cosmopolitan and wealthy. The grasslands and scrub forests are full of grazing beasts and farms, with purple indigo fields spread through. And in the south there are the wide deserts, with occasional oases. At the center is the Heart of the Desert, the great volcano that rises above all of the land and hides many secrets. The land is broadly split into three regions - the coast, full of ports that now answer to the ex-pirate Mar Veraci, the grasslands which hide the indigo fields and many goats, ruled by Hennu Noumidia, aunt of the Blue Queen, and the Ubari Desert of vast sand. Over all of it rules Blue Queen Tasa Noumidia, prophet and sorceress, who sings of what was and what will be. Recently, she has retreated to the Heart of the Desert, thanks to the strange visions and voices that trouble her. A prophecy speaks of a great war in the south, which will end only with blood flowing from the throne - but she cannot say which throne or whose blood.

Around her are possible allies or dangers - the Thean Duke Francois de Toille, who offers armies in exchange for trade and mining, or the eastenr sultan, who wants trade and to help fight the Devil. The Blue Queen works towards an old vision, in which Maghreb is a shining light for trav4elers, full of magic and wealth and joy, but there is a great battle ahead, and the news she hears of evil spirits and dying oases stokes her fears of the Devil of Mbey coming for her land. Mar Veraci's pirates strike at Montaigne ships, weakening them, as intrigue brews in the courts. Naravas Narvan leads the fight in the south, facing evil spirits that encroach on Maghreb, but soon, the Blue Queen fears she will be surrounded by evil, and seeks the counsel of the spirits in the Heart of the Desert.

Legend says the Golden Sea of sand was once lush pasture, with grass like emerald and fields of yellow flowers. The people of the south grew envious of the riches of this land, its fat cows and happy people, and so they attacked. The pasture people, who were not warriors, fled with their herds. One great wizard alone stayed behind, to ensure their safety. As the first soldiers came on him, they struck him down, and he cried out. As his blood spread through the soil, the grass withered and the dirt became sand. The waters rose to the sky, forming a cloud that shielded the pasture people from the warriors, and the desert stretched out. The trees turned to sand, the wind whipped up the grit. Where the wizard fell became the Heart of the Desert, and for the Maghrebi, the desert is a blessing.

The full title of Mahgreb's ruler is the Keeper of the Cool Water. She must care for the people and ensure they use water and farmland wisely. The land can only give so much. There are times when the water is low and the trees bear no fruit. The ruler must ensure that there is enough for everyone, sometimes rationing or seeking foreign aid to get enough food or water. Sometimes, the Keeper of the Cool Water must also be a spiritual leader, providing the insights that the past rulers may grant them in dreams.

The majority of Maghrebi people are Amazigh, who divide up into a number of clans. These clans are led by a matrilineal chieftain, who belongs to the noble caste claled Imajaghan. Most warriors are Imajaghan, as they have access to weapons and camels. Below them are the clerics and sorcerers known as Ineslemen, who deal with what is unseen and mysterious. They are considered semi-noble, but anyone can become one, provided they put in the large amounts of intellectual work to get there. Under them are the Imghad, the free vassals that support the noble castes by herding sheep, goats, oxen and camels. An Imghad must support any noble that passes through their lands. They are considered equal to the Inadan, the crafters and artisans, and the Agguta, the singers, musicians and storytellers as well as historians. The Agguta often work directly for a noble, which provides them some security.

The Amazigh, who form the ethnic majority of Maghreb, consider hospitality to be vital. No one is fool enough to travel Maghreb without water, and the nomads and villagers will notice travelers and send children to ask if they have enough water or food, inviting them in. Often, the children also provide a bowl of water to wash face and hands. If the traveler does, the invitation is accepted and they should follow the children back to their village or caravan. Turning down the invitation is only slightly rude if you're pressed for time. For most Amazigh, building community is the most important thing, after all. They will care for any animals the traveler has, and not ask they remove their weapons. The desert is dangerous, and the Amazigh know that battle is where friendships are often born. Travelers will be offered food, water and salt, and they are expected to give reports of weather, road conditions and strange events.

Foreigners are welcome among the Amazigh as much as other Maghrebi, but they often must live with quickly assembled tents. The Maghrebi acknowledge that everyone should be brought in from under the sun, but family bonds and those of familiarity must be respected. If a traveler has an Amazigh relative present, the group may be invited into that relative's home, but the related traveler will be considered responsible for their foreign friends and expected to translate and ensure no traditions or taboos are broken. This tradition of housing foreigners outside family tents but in the encampment avoids awkward or violent misunderstandings. The Amazigh also worry about travelers that are secretly jinn, and foreigners are often wise to learn the warning signs of an evil spirit, so they can avoid being seen as them and also avoid them while traveling. A traveler that spends the night can expect water and food in the morning as well as further animal care. Leaving before being blessed five times is considered bad manners.

On the coast, Maghebi clothing varies quite a bit. However, they tend to favor long, light-colored robes that protect from the sun and sand, often of cotten, or linen for the rich. Wool cloaks are made for the rare cold evening, typically of the wool of sheep and goats. Maghrebi also wear head coverings to protect against the elements. The poor are often barefoot, while the rich favor reed or leather sandals. Indigo is the favored dye, with the deepest hues reserved for the Maghrebi rulers and the Amazigh. Leather belts of traditional and beautiful design are common, often using a motif of the number five, which is also found in Maghrebi art and charms. Gold is present, but the Maghrebi prefer silver as a decorative metal, with coin headdresses, earrings, rings and bangles being common. Smooth stones are favored over faceted jewels, and everyone wears jewelry regardless of gender.

There are many dialects among the Amazigh tribes, but all can understand each other with a bit of work, even if thick accents or local idioms can confuse. Beyond the many Maghrebi dialects, the coastal Maghrebi tend to be familiar with other languages, especially those of Aksum. Thean languages tend to be rarer, but most port cities have translators, even if they're expensive. Maghrebi food is primarily millet porridge, goat and camel milk and cheese, and flat bread. Thick yogurts, beers and tea are also common, as is couscous, often with stew or vegetables. A popular tea in the region is ashahi, a green tea mixed with sugar. After steeping, it is poured over mint and sugar three separate times into a new pot. Once this is done, it is served in small glasses from a height of a foot or more, so it frothes. Ashahi tea is imported from Cathay, so it is most often seen in wealthy households. Foreign food is sometimes imported on the coast, but rarely elsewhere. Maghrebi also tend to dislike strong wines from Theah, preferring buttermilk, tea, orange juice or water.

Most Amazigh art is jewelry, leather or metal saddle decorations, along with finely made weapons. Pilgrimage boxes with intricate locks are used to secure items for travel, often with keys being sent ahead by messenger. The favored instruments are tambour, monochord violins, drums and flutes, often used to accompany poetry or songs. All musicians, in past times, were women, but this has changed in recent centuries. However, many men still four the mourning chants of Amazigh women, who call out high wails and pound their feet. Amazigh women are also known to decorate themselves with henna designs in geometric patterns, both for beauty and to ward off evil. Men sometimes also wear henna in protective sigils.

The Maghrebi have several faiths. The spirits have dwelled in the land forever, and some demand worship or instruct humans in how to survive, or give gifts. Some of these spirits and gods were brought from other lands as people migrated, along trade routes or through ports. The Maghrebi are quick to accept and welcome new gods as long as their worshippers are friendly. The chief and eldest of their gods is Cyre, the goddess of war. Some say she was the first queen of Maghreb, who allied with the first king because she knew he could raise a potent army. Certainly, the First Queen's tomb is empty, bearing only a crown and lion skin in her memory. Cyre is typically depicted as a tall, muscular woman who pins a lion down with a spear or holds a bow and arrow. She wears traditional Amagizh garb and a crown with five jewels, carrying a waterskin at her belt and with a crescent moon over her head. It is unclear if she was a deified warrior or a spirit, and that's a common debate among Maghrebi scholars. All agree, however, that her arm was unbreakable, that she defeated every lion she ever faced, and that hte people pray to her for bravery, safety and victory in battle. Ger greatest temple is in Cyrene, where she has a giant statue. There is a secret society of Cyre-dedicated warrior women that travels the land. They claim to predate the royal family itself, and they right wrongs, track criminals and hunt down dangerous animals. To join, a woman must track them down and vow to prove herself, taking an oath on her longest-dead direct female relative. She must then hunt a lion and kill it, returning with its hide. Only then will the Women of Cyrene accept her. Women of Cyrene never touch money - the only metal they will touch is the sword or the charm against evil. They may never marry, as Maghreb is their true love.

Ancestor worship is also common among the Maghrebi. Help, the Amazigh say, comes not just from gods, but from the beloved dead, who become gods in death. They are buried in mountain tombs, rubbed in ochre and dressed in fine clothes, with the tools and food for the afterlife left for them. Those in high esteem are buried close to the Heart of the Desert, with rulers buried on the mountain itself. The living swear oaths by the dead, and speak of them often. A person seeking guidance will go to the tombs, praying and sleeping there to receive dreams from them, giving answers in the form of symbols and impressions. Dreams are trusted deeply, as the Amazigh trust the dead and rarely question their answers. They remember the dead for their great qualities, such as patience or bravery. Tales of ancestors are told often, and charms bear their names in the hopes of being more like them. The Vodacce missionaries to Ifri caught Amazigh attention with their saints rather than Theus, and Amazigh art now sometimes uses Thean iconography and refers to the ancestors as saints. However, while this has the veneer of Vaticine worship, it's pretty much the old Amazigh ancestral veneration with new names.

Fun fact: the name of the continent as 'Ifri' dates back to when the Theans first arrived in Maghreb, during a festival for Ifri, goddess of fortune and fertility. When asked what the land was called, a mistranslation led to the phrase 'the land of Ifri.' As a fertility deity, the land is her domain, but the misunderstanding led to it being applied to the entire continent. DEspite this, Ifri remains a vital Maghrebi goddess. Fields are plowed in her name, and her epithets are written on seed jars. Couples that seek children pray and sacrifice to her, and all good that comes from the land is her blessing, brought forth by the sacrifice of the sweat of farmers. Her idols are typically portrayed as weeping, with garments bearing the image of indigo flowers and other lucky symbols. Maghrebi believe it is good luck to pour water over the face of her statues and their own faces when passing said statues. Beside fertility, she also controls fortune, so merchants pray to her to make the way clear for their goods. Gamblers invoke her for luck, and putting seedpods with her name carved in is said to ensure the growth of finances or safe births.

Neith was originally a goddess of Khemet, and she is the goddess of war, weaving, hunting and wisdom. She has no consorts, and she alone, among all that exists, may create things without need for male energy. She is depicted as bearing two arrows, and serves as a protector, especially of fallen soldiers. Her crossed arrows are drawn on tombs, and dying soldiers pray to her for their souls to be protected. Weavers pray to her as they weave, using the prayers to keep time on the loom. Because she is one of the oldest gods, Neith is also often invoked in legal disputes, not only for her wisdom but her ability to carry out judgment. Some say she holds up the sky, so sometimes she is prayed to for strength.

Next time: The Vaticine and al-Din in Maghreb

Lands of Gold and Fire - In Which The Barbary Pirates Are Cited As An Inspiration

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - In Which The Barbary Pirates Are Cited As An Inspiration

The Vaticine missionaries of Vodacce are very eager to go convert some Ifrians, though they've noticed that the worst sinners of the coastal cities tend to be Theans rahter than native Ifrians. Missionaries are typically pressured to be on their best behavior and serve as perfect examples of the beliefs of the Church, usually feeling a need to correct the wrongs that other Theans do as part of their work in Maghreb. However, it has proven quite easy for most to convince the coastal cities to build churches, treating them as havens for the faithful. Most of these offer free room and board to any traveler that is willing to attend a service. Their metaphors, in a land of shepherds, tend to speak about the Prophets as keeping people safe from the beasts of fear and despair, wielding a rod and staff to defeat the Devil that preys on the hopeless. The Maghrebi tend to actually like these missionaries, as they offer food and charity to those in need and have adapted to the fact that saints tend to be most popular as an idea. Art of the saints and their symbols are frequently commissioned form local artists, using Vodacce iconography with a Maghrebi aesthetic. The Vaticine churches grow less frequent the further south you go, away from the coast. However, the occasional priest can be found wandering the desert roads, and there's always at least one at the Half-Sunk Library, working to translate and transcribe its works.

Al-Din is significantly more established in the heart of Maghreb, having been brought to the land not by priests but by its everyday believers, who came with the trading caravans. This has led many Maghrebi people to adapt the al-Din belief system into their own local religion in a syncretic blend. It is not rare to hear Maghrebi arguing the nature of the Second Prophet over a campfire, wondering if his attempt to hold on to life spoke to his doubt, as he didn't believe his spirit could serve after death, or if he was dead when his words were written, delivered by his spirit in dreams, or if his teachings are, in fact, his spirit. These debates are generally quite friendly - the Dinists of Maghreb tend to focus on their commonalities between themselves and among the native beliefs, accomodating and finding overlap, rather than finding reasons to fight. The rulers of Maghreb have also turned to Dinism in combination with their traditional faith, if a rather eclectic version of it.

The sorcery of Maghreb is tied to spirits and the need to defeat evil spirits. The land has long traditions of singing, storytelling and fencing, and these are woven together to form the magic of Maghreb: the sword which sings. The words for sword and song are the same in the Amazigh language, and this redundancy gives the magic more power. The common sword used for this is the flyssa, heavy-bladed longsword tapering to a blunted tip. The blade is inscribed with the lyric of a song, imbuing it with magic. The bearer then writes a song of battle, which is also a spell, which describes their desire to protect their home and its people from evil. The smith works the metal in the forge as the warrior sings over it, and the spell-song is worked into the metal itself. The color of the metal shifts from red to blue, as the lyrics write themselves within the blade. The blacksmith sings harmony, to bring balance, forging an edge that will match the will of its wielder. When the sword is forged, the warrior then takes it to the Blue Queen, whose kiss strengthens the magic and the metal against evil. Besides this tradition of mystically forged swords, Maghrebi culture also believes in the creation of beautiful talismans. Not all of these are magical, but some are, often inscribed with ancient Jok hymns. These talismans are always worn against the body and made of unpolished silver.

Every community in Maghreb is essentially autonomous, but when there is trouble, the local rulers turn to their neighbors for help, like family. A confederation, called an Amanokal, comes together to make decisions and appoint war leaders. These are most common in the plains and grasslands, and the word also describes clans working together as a group. The coastal regions tend to have groups with more trouble agreeing, and the desert dwellers rarely have time for deliberation. However, they are still able to convene an Amanokal when necessary. Above all this is the Keeper of Cool Water, who rules the land.

The young are well educated in Maghreb, by their family and their community. Most communities have small schools to teach reading, writing, math and whatever the local religious beliefs are, in most cases. This formal schooling tends to be short, though, as most children apprentice to an extended family member to learn a trade. While the Maghrebi cannot match, say, Aksum in terms of education, they value literacy, numeracy and knowledge of stories. Coastal Maghrebi tend to pick up bits and pieces of foreign tales as well as local ones, and some stories are actually designed as verbal maps, such that reciting them allows a traveler to remember routes and landmarks.

You can find practically any coin in the coastal cities of Maghreb, either among merchants or gamblers. Gold, silver, porcelain, shells - the main thing is to remember the exchange rates. The Amazigh royals mint their own coins - silver coins, hued with blue - and have several variants. Cyrene uses the silphium coin and the Goddess coin, for example. With the expanding influence of al-Din, though, there is talk of the queen decreeing a new, unified coin in the future, once she decides on a value and design for it. Within the interior, currency is accepted but barter is much preferred.

The military of Maghreb is the duty of the nobles, who defend their lands and vassals. Sometimes, they conscript armies from the coast, but these are generally paid mercenaries. In the grasslands and desert, the ruling families each lead bands of warriors on raids and assaults, either mounted on camels or on foot. The coast also has an irregular navy of corsairs and sometimes-pirates. The Blue Queen does not formally sanction privateers, but Mar Veraci, the governess of the coast, turns a blind eye to piracy that targets enemies of Maghreb or Vodacce merchants that try to exploit the people. These corsairs form a dangerous and useful defense against naval attacks, especially because they're quick to band together if threatened or if they spot a prime target. Stories abound of their courage and luck, and some claim that they have more tendency than most to run into supernatural events. Some even claim that Reis was once a Maghrebi corsair.

The Half-Sunk Library of Theletha emerges from the earth on the outskirts of the coastal city Theletha. Children often climb on the worn marble roof, and makeshift stairs lead down into the atrium, which is lit by olive oil lamps. Within, locals work to make and sell paper, wax and ink. The library has been exposed for only 50 years, when a merchant's camel tripped over the edge and the merchant found the building beneath his feet. He thought it was a tomb, and so he ran off to get people to help excavate it for treasure. Eventually, they found and secured the entrance, but discovered only scrolls, books and ancient tools, many of them written in Old Thean and dating back to the First Empire. The merchant's friends mostly got bored, but several were fascinated. Word of the library reached the local rulers, who negotiated its ownership and care to ensure the safety of the people as they investigated its ancient mysteries.

Several texts within the library serve as guides to help translate its works. Scholars and other knowledge-seekers now read, cross-reference, rewrite and translate books constantly. Care must be taken to avoid damaging them, and they can only be accessed with permission from the head librarian, Mula Arsinagh. The library is massive - while it's called Half-Sunk, the local architects believe that only a fifth of it has actually been exposed - around 9000 feet. A small town, called the City of Pages, has been established around the ruin, full of teachers and scholars. The population is always in some flux, as people do research, pass through and leave, and workers come to help the paper-makers sell their wares. No one knows how many texts lie within the library, and no one knows how it got buried under the sand. Several people have entered its depths and never returned, leading many to believe it is cursed or trapped. No weapons are allowed within, and books may be copied but not removed without special permission from the head librarian and the queen. The library sits at an angle, and the deeper you go, the worse the incline gets, as if it were snapped in half. Scorpions, snakes and other creatures live within, and a few skeletons have also been found in the deeper aisles. The murals on the walls use colors that cannot be reproduced using modern techniques, and most depict familiar local stories, though some are puzzling and leave much to speculation. One painting appears to be of the Blue Queen, but the writing around it has faded away entirely.

The Painted City is the capital of Maghreb, called this due to its ornate, blue-painted walls that are covered in azurite, lapis and other semiprecious stones in elaborate geometric mosaics. Guards patrol constantly to ensure the walls remain unlooted. The gates are of ironwood, carved with images of great leaders of the Amazigh past. The first leader of the Amazigh, who married the land brought forth sweet water for his people, is on the east gate. The west gate bears the image of Queen Tula, who opened trade with the neighboring countries and negotiated the treaty to get the ironwood for the gates. She also established the wayposts on the Tariq al-dhahab caravan route. The third gate shows King Hultan, who stopped raiders from conquering the city with his military skill and his magic. The fourth gate shows the Sea Queen, who belt the Maghrebi trade fleet and navy. Some residents wish to build a fifth gate to show the current queen, Tasa Noumidia, but she warns that the wall must not be compromised, certainly not in praise of her.

At the heart of the Painted City is the Palace, a great building in white and blue, with elegant, intricate mosaics of natural wonders, animals and plants. The former Queen Jayla, a great artist and ruler, designed it, using the architecture to teach her children the importance of all people, regardless of origin or rank. Each piece of stone or glass may be humble, she taught, but when put together by a skilled hand, beauty is achieved. The walls are enchanted so the mosaics shift, using an old magic, and sometimes the flowers give off a fine scent. The palace is three stories tall, with open walkways and many gardens. At its center is the Sovereign's Spring, where the first ruler buried his waterskin and called forth the sweet waters. Even in times of drought, its pool remains at the same level and always cool, so most believe it is a blessing from the gods to the royalty. The gardens are full of date palms, pistachio trees and pomegranate orchards, and the public may enter certain areas to gather fruit and nuts. Guests are given rich quarters outfitted with fine fabric and incense, while the royals themselves have quarters coated in the blue that marks their family. The grounds also include public parks and resting places for caravans and individuals. Surrounding the palace, the city is a sprawling urban maze with many places for nomads to settle temporarily. A large marketplace, always open, is set up in view of the palace, and goods from across Ifri are sold in its tents and stalls.

Two days travel from the capital will reach the Tedmiat Megaliths. They are visible from a kilometer away - a huge black stone circle rising from the dirt. Five pillars, not all the same size, covered in a written language that no living person understands. Books with the writing have been found in the Half-Sunk Lbirary, but no text usable for translation has been discovered yet. There are no breaks between the pillars and ground, meaning the entire formation was carved from one stone, and there is no other place in Maghreb that this type of stone is found. Local scientists name it the Formation Stone and consider it unique. At first glance, the stones look black, but as the day moves, they reveal transparencies. Portions within the pillars turn opaque or translucent, showing mysterious shapes within. Torches moved around the pillars also reveal these shapes, and some believe the ground itself contains more of them. The more well-known images are called the Weeping Woman, the Swallowing Toad and the Waiting Snake. Many scholars from across the world hope to translate and understand the megalith's pillars. Mystics sometimes claim it is the hand of a giant, and that unlocking its secrets will control that giant. More historically minded thinkers believe it is the religious site of an ancient people. Cartographers have noted that two of the pillars directly align with the Half-Sunk Library and the Heart of the Desert; it is unclear if the other three align with anything.

Tariq al-dhahab used to be a major caravan route. No longer. It is said that a message was brought along the road, but its recipient, a wise woman, didn't want it. She sent sandstorms, biting snakes and scorpions, then opened the sand to consume its travelers. No one knows now what was in the letter. Stone posts litter the ground around it - the old markers of the old trade route, which went from the Painted City into Manden. It hasn't been used in decades. Some posts have been swallowed by the dunes. Each post is carved with a greeting, and custom says that you must respond to each in kind. Stories tell of caravans lost in the desert, to bandits, ghosts or sandstorms. Treasure hunters sometimes go out in search of these abandoned caravans, though they are rarely found. It is not entirely clear why the trade route died out, but it certainly has one other danger along its route. When the first king came to Maghreb, he brought his wife from Khemet, and while these children grew up in Maghreb, some longed to return to Khemet and reclaim it as their kingdom. When Tula the Waymaker sat on her throne, her cousins tried to usurp her, and she pushed them back and banished them. After her death, a strange group of robbers began to harry the caravans, abandoning both goods and bodies. Those that survive said that their weapons did not sing like Maghrebi, and perhaps they are foreign criminals who destroyed the trade route deliberately. Or maybe they were just bandits. The legend lives on either way.

The Well of Timbu lies close to the halfway point of the Tariq al-dhahab, and it shines under the sun. It is a crystal clear oasis, full of gentle birds and small olives, figs and stone fruits. It is maintained by the Weel Keepers, mysterious veiled people who never speak, but offer refreshment to all travelers. The Well is said to be older than Maghreb itself, discovered by Cyre while she was hunting. She found a pack of lions there, which attacked her with claws like swords and teeth like sunlight, but she defeated them all over five days and nights. She did not, it is said, kill them. Rather, she transformed them into the Well Keepers, taking their hides and bidding them forever watch over the Well of Timbu for others to use. Because no blood may be spilled at the Well, those accused of crime often run for them. If they arrive safely, they have protection for five days, and many disputes have been solved there, as tempers cooled. There are many stories of the falsely accused taking refuge at the Well while new evidence was found each day, until they were proved innocent. However, the Well is not a home. A traveler may stay only five days before the Well Keepers pointedly gesture at them to leave. Somehow, they always know how long you've been there and never, ever miss your departure time by even a minute. Those who do not listen awaken on the sixth day in the middle of the desert, naked and without food or water. Few have ever seen the Wel Keepers take them, however, and it is said they just stand over the banished and growl, and the person vanishes. Fortunately, the banished are not banished forever - if they survive and return, they get the same hospitality as anyone else...for five days at a time.

Next time: More places.

Lands of Gold and Fire - A Volcano Whose Eruption Is Barely Mentioned As A Possibility

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - A Volcano Whose Eruption Is Barely Mentioned As A Possibility

The Heart of the Desert is a massive shield volcano in the middle of the Toubkal mountain chain. It has many caverns, and many tales about it. Some say it is where the first people's souls came from, with their bodies made from the earth and clay around it. The Heart has not erupted since anyone can remember, though its activity features in folklore. The Toubkals begin near the city of Cyrene, and the Heart lays pretty much in the middle of the chain, taller than the rest. This is the home of the tombs of Amazigh royalty, and some say that hundreds of tunnels go under the mountain. It is here that the first king was buried, and all rulers since have followed his tradition, with a funeral procession that passes through the scrub and desert for days. The longest tunnels are used to house the royal dead, and other Maghrebi bury their dead nearby, usually using family caves marked with white and blue writing.

The Blue Queen often ventures into the tunnels to get counsel from the dead, using their advice to guide Maghreb. Within the tunnels, the air can quickly change between hot and cold, and often the wind smells of sulfur. Some have said they can smell strange perfume or incense, or hear running water. The Queen has explored more of the tunnels than anyone else, and even she dares not go too deep even when she sleeps in the caves in search of dreams. There is, in fact, an underground river beneath the Heart, but its water is warm and steaming. Strange, eyeless fish swim in it, and armless lizards crawl on its rocks. The cave system is extremely convoluted, and few have ever dared to explore it. Some say a great devil is trapped under the mountain, and that going too far risks finding it. Some merchants claim one tunnel leads to Khemet, others say to Mbey. The Heart has always been a holy site for the Maghrebi, and almost all have an ancestor buried in the mountain chain, so occasionally someone makes a pilgrimage to the Heart for answers in dream, regardless of their religious beliefs. There are small oases around the curves and dips of the mountain, which offer refreshment for travelers. One of these is now the court of the Blue Queen, as she stays by the mountain frequently these days, and it is full of white and indigo tents that welcome travelers seeking the mountain's secrets.

Cyrene is the city where the mountains meet the sea, and it rings with bladesong and smithing sounds at all times. It is said that those who can hear the sound of blades before the mountains rise past the horizon is destined to be a great fencer. The great walls are so wide that two horses could walk atop them side by side, and they arem oade white stone rippled with red iron veins. The wall around the maingate is made of smaller blocks, replaced after the First Empire sieged the city long ago. The feet of the massive statue of Cyre still stand at the gate, one foot on each side. The head, twice as tall as a aman and finely detailed, lies in the marketplace, watching over the bazaar. A large, black sword is embedded in the top of its head. Legend says that if the sword turns red, evil comes from the south.

The greatest swords are made in Cyrene from the ore that produces red steel. The ground itself is a deep red-brown, and legend has that Cyre walked among the mountains and was attacked by a wind devil taller than a palm tree, which whipped sand and wind against her eyes. She sliced at the wind, calling on the names of the gods that came before her, but the wind stole her words. Thus, she held her sword overhead and then plunged it into the earth, calling on the oldest name she knew - some say Ifri, goddess of fertility, though none are sure. Blood pooled around the blade, red and hot, and Cyre drew it forth and struck down the wind spirit in one blow. The blood seeped into the lands around it, filling them with the unusual red iron ore, which is smelted and processed in a method known only to a few dozen people at most. This special metal is then given only to the swordmakers that know how to make metal sing, making strong and unbreakable yet flexible blades. This is the Guild of the Bleeding Earth, which swears to keep the secrets of metal and fire among only themselves. An apprentice to the Guild starts when old enoguh to carry a bucket, and only the most skilled and trustworthy are allowed. The head of the guild, a former miner, has been into the deep earth, and operates the Guild from a fortress within Cyrene, which guests may enter only by invitation and which most foreigners never get to see.

The smiths work on the blades at all times, often with the intended wielder beside them, praying and singing to strengthen the weapons. The blades are inscribed with lyrics, their hilts and scabbards inlaid with blessed goods and elaborately tooled leather and precious stones. There is no blade in the world that is their better, thanks to their excellent iron and the secret methods used to forge them. The redder the blade, the finer it is, with the best appearing to be made from blood itself, shining with mystic power. And yet, even rarer are the Sinifere Sarif swords, made from a mix of Cyrene ore and star metal, which is even rarer and harder to work. Only four of these blades have ever been made, and the smith who made the fourth is just barely still alive today. Their identity is kept a strict mystery by the Guild, which demands its members not forge for their own glory. The smiths are closely guarded, for their secrets are coveted. These secrets must be put before everything, even a smith's family. Even their life. They must swear before the queen herself that even should a blade be held to the neck of the sovereign, the secret will be kept. The Guild makes a new set of blades for each newly crowned ruler of Maghreb, and the sovereign never parts with these blades. This has been the tradition for over one thousand years.

Cyrene's coastal location makes it an excellent port for warriors from Theah or the Crescent empire that wish to study swordplay. There are fencing festivals and tournaments frequently, along with stadiums in which disputes may be resolved either with a blade or with the "mind's dagger" - that is, the tongue, arguing before an official court of Amazigh holy elders. Before any duel (word or blade), custom requires going to the head of Cyre in the market and touching it, swearing to fight in a manner worthy of the Goddess and to accept the verdict. The largest of the fighting festivals is the annual Naming Festival in spring, where all swords made in the prior year are blessed, their names declared for the crowd. The city is surrounded within and without with the plant silphium, which is similar to fennel. The grazing beasts are fed on it, to give their meat and milk a sweeter flavor, and many use its parts, seeds and resin for medicine. It is said to be unable to be gardened and only grows wild - and then only around Cyrene. Thus, many coins minted in Cyrene show the silphium stalk on one face and its heart-shaped seed on the other. Some say it only grows where Cyre pierced the earth, as a patch to the land's wound, and so compresses of it are often used on wounds to speed healing.

The Ubari Desert, called the Golden Sea of Sand, stretches from Maghreb to Mbey in the west and Khemet in the east. Its dunes are punctuated by wadi, the seasonal rivers, and small oases fed by deep-land aquifers. The wadi of Ubari are not regular as they are in other lands, and often come only once a year - sometimes once every few decades. Dust storms are common in spring, lasting for up to a week. Dune plateaus build up slowly, providing good vantages for nomads, but they shift with the wind. The Amazigh claim that deep in the Ubari is a haunted place, called Zerzura, the oasis of little birds. It is surrounded by white stone covered in tiny carvings, and is always found only by single travelers after spring storms. Some believe it is a Jok settlement, but this has never been confirmed. The Ubari is also sometimes a destination for those looking to avoid arrest or detection. Its shifting dunes and occasional ruins and oases are hospitable enough if you know how to survive them, and make it easy to avoid trackers. As long as they don't interfere with pilgrims or nomadic tribes, the Amazigh leave such people alone.

Current Relations posted:

The Kingdom of Aksum: Maghreb has respect for Aksum. The people of Aksum were the first to bend metal to their will and mint coins, and they seek peace and power for their own. Their adversity with Manden is troublesome, as the Manden Empire is one of Maghreb's greatest allies. Hopefully peace can be made between them.
The Kingdom of Khemet: Khemet and MAghreb have lived adjacent for centuries, with shared history tying these two countries together. However, issues relating to the recent drought and famine have soured relations between these two nations. The Blue Queen's father requested aid from Khemet for food and seed; his request went unanswered, neither a yes or no coming back from the Nation. Many have relatives who lived through the famine and the Blue Queen suspects Khemet is too concerned with Khemet to work alongside Maghreb for the common good.
The Kingdom of Mbey: Goods coming into the port cities are harried by pirates paid by the Atabean Trading Company. If not for Mar Veraci and her cunning leadership of her fleet of personal ships, the port cities would be desolate or controlled by Atabean interests. The Company has allied with Mbey, which has Queen Tasa on alert. Enemies to the north and south keep her anxious and reports of Mbey troops running maneuvers close to the camps of desert people has the populace concerned. People close to the border have been going missing lately and everyone fears that Mbey is the likely final resting place of these ill-fated people.
The Manden Empire: The Manden Empire has been a great ally to the Maghrebi, coming to their aid during the famine and currently the country it imports and exports with the most. Their common religion cements relationships between their general populations and their military prowess may come in handy if Maghreb finds itself besieged on all sides. While Maghreb remains significantly smaller than the Manden Empire, its ruler treats the Blue Queen with respect, when he could strong-arm the country for its iron and weaponry.
The Nation Montaigne: Maghreb tries not to be dazzled by Montaigne's new and interesting promises. Every sentence beginning with "give" ends with "take"; Montaigne obviously wants the ore in the mountains and takes advantage of the chaos of the coast when it can. Also, the idea of a duke being arrogant enough to think he can marry the queen is a source of irritation. Maghreb has its pride and does not tolerate one who thinks he can easily manipulate the Nation's desire for peace and plenty.
The Nation Vodacce: A strange, backward country that makes people like Mar and Fanfan. Great in magic, but it only sends priests to turn people away from the faith of their ancestors, and say they are wrong in their beliefs. Vodacce goods are beautiful and trade is beneficial...as long as the Maghrebi do not have to talk to them.

Mar Veraci is the self-appointed Governess of the coastal cities, beloved by her followers. She holds court in a restored ruin of the Numanari Empire, and has the respect of the sailors and merchants, as she was once a pirate herself. She was born to a Vodacce mother and Ifrian father in Vodacce, and she and her sister Farfan always looked south, to the land their father came from. At 16, she fled home to join the crew of the Gallant Breeze. It allowed to live as the woman she knew she was, rather than the man Vodacce had insisted she be. She lived as a corsair for several years, making a reputation before she appealed to the Blue Queen to be overseer for the coastal cities. The Blue Queen, who wanted to focus on the desert and the darkness coming from the south, gave her that sovereignty. Mar Veraci is an excellent fencer, dashing and beloved. Every child pretends to be her in play, facing pretend pirates and jinn. Veraci believes all have a role to play in Maghreb, and she listens to all, not just the rich and powerful. She wields dual foils, fencing in the Thean style, and sees herself as a helper to the Queen. She always insists, when others suggest otherwise, that the Blue Queen is the true ruler.

Naravas Naryan is the Ghost of the Desert, a man who has sworn his life and that of his people to keeping back Mbey's evils. He is the beloved hero of the desert, whom children seek to emulate, yet he hopes none ever have his lot in life. His twin sister was stolen by Mbeyans when they were both children, and it has led him not only to his quest for righteous vengeance, but given him the strange ability to occasionally see into MBey, to know exactly when the raiders will strike. N aravas is the fastest camel rider in the Ubari, and he wields a blade named Song of the Heart. Like all such blades, it is imbued with sorcery sung into its metal, and it is one of the rare, legendary blades of sky metal, forged in Cyrene. Naravas sees his first duty as protecting the people of Maghreb, and he isn't sure how to feel about the Queen moving her court into the desert. On the one hand, he can protect her more easily if she is close, and having the greatest magician in all of Maghreb nearby encourages people. On the other, it puts her in danger, and that makes Naravas nervous, mostly because wherever she goes, so does the Duke De Toille. He also finds it easier to mask his love for her when she is not close. When he can see her, all he wants to sing about is her...and he can't afford that. His first love must be Maghreb and its people, and his personal desires second. He puts off both his love and his quest to find his sister to fend off the southern raiders.

Duke Francois De Toille is a man that sees opportunity. He can't say for sure what he finds most intriguing - the wealth he could make or the secrets he could learn. Both would give power, so he plays politics to gain influence over both the local economy and those who have power already. He has ties to many companies and manufacturers in Theah, and hopes to make Maghreb reliant on his traded goods and foreign banking, wielding them as a weapon against Vodacce so he can start his own rival glassmaking industry and beat them at trade. However, he has become obsessed with the Blue Queen and her ties to the Heart of the Desert. The great power in the south churns in him as he reads stories of the Queen communing with spirits. He knows that learning the Heart's secrets means he must be close to the queen, and what lies there can give him more power than anything. De Toille knows he is always the smartest man in the room, and has learned many language so he need not rely on translators. Despite this, he knows he isn't manipulative - he just knows best. He wants a world in which he brings Ifri and Theah together in a way that profits him extremely, even though he knows that it'd disenfranchise many vulnerable people. His obsession with the Blue Queen has led him to believe that marrying her would bring this future about. He is Strength 9, Influence 9.

Farfan Veraci is Mar Veraci's younger sister, and she is very, very jealous. She was raised in Vodacce, brought to Ifri by her sister, and she was shocked to find how her sister's ambitions have succeeded. She will never admit her rank is simply a result of her sister's efforts, and is quick to list her own talents. The only one who can get away with talking of her faults is Mar, who hopes her sister will mature past her selfishness and petty self-righteousness, learning to love a land where she can be truly free. Farfan, however, wants to control all she can see, burning with envy and greed. She wants what her sister has, yet still looks up to Mar and wants to impress her. While Farfan is not the best sailor, she is an exceptionally skilled mathemtician, and also an excellent accountant, merchant and navigator. She is Strength 4, Influence 5.

Next time: Aksum

Lands of Gold and Fire - The First of Firsts

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - The First of Firsts

Aksum is believed to be where the first humans arose from, and the land is full of ancient Jok artifacts. Its emperor uses some to defend his land, but they are far from all that could be there. Aksum was the first land to have written language, the first trading empire of Ifri and the first to develop calculus and other advanced mathematics. It was the first kingdom to receive a Sika'Dwa stool, the first to mint its own coins, and developed many important innovations in agriculture, architecture and ceramics. It sits on a high plateau, which ranges from 4500 feet above sea level to two and a half miles, with its highest mountain getting nearly four miles above. It is temperate on the plateau, but warm in the south and cold in the highlands, generally sunny and with little rainfall.

In the beginning, it was a rival to the neighboring kingdom of Srek, fighting over land and food. Eventually, Aksum won, but rather than exterminate the Srek, the Aksumites adopted them into their culture, preserved their language and customs. This drew the attention of the Jok, who came down from Iu-Neserer to teach them advanced writing and math, which Aksum used to invent calendars, roads, literature and refined music. The best and brightest of their mathematicians were even able to predict the future with advanced mathematical analysis. This and the core belief in Aksum that unity is good has made them the greatest diplomats in Ifri, perhaps the world. Every court wants an Aksumite Monitor to negotiate deals via predictive analysis...though, as always happens with humans, their talents have also been turned towards war.

For 300 years after the stool was granted to them, Aksum grew rapidly in power, conquering and assimilating more land and tribes and customs. The tales of their wealth and their benevolence spread across the world, but they remained humble, and continued to offer mercy and friendship to the defeated. They never started wars, and lost only one of those they fought. They were a great naval power at that time, a rival to the Numanari First Empire. However, their fights with the Numanari and the Crescents overtaxed them, and they fell into decline, eventually losing at the end of a six century reign of greatness. As their bounty left them, the rulers of Aksum grew greedy. Negusa Nagast Wey and his three successors fell to immoral behavior in hopes of regaining lost wealth and power.

These rulers resurrected the worship of ancient, pelagic god-horrors that rested deep in the ocean and did not care for humanity at all. The Sika'Dwa's connection to the land eroded its bounty as the corruption of the Negusa Nagast spread. At last, with Aksum weakened, the Second Prophet and his family came to the once-great empire. Tafari, the Prophet's son, took control of Aksum as the first Orthodox Anidi Hibiri Tefet'iro Emperor. It is said that the ancient oceanic faiths brought forth monsters to test the Prophet Khalil, but all fell before him. The cultists swore he must die by their hand, and even today, remnants of these ancient cults remain in the shadows. Their gods are immortal and they are patient - after all, the Prophet and his family were only mortal. Vengeance can take time.

Every emperor or empress since can trace a direct line to Tafari, who converted the kingdom to worship of Theus. Each generation has slightly altered the Imperial crest to reflect their faith and the aspects of the Prophet they most admire. The only part never to change is the lion. In the following centuries, most worship of other faiths has weakened. Now, nearly 70 percent of Aksum are practitioners of the Orthodox Anidi Hibiri Tefet'iro Church. Some in rural areas still worship the god Ajuk, however. In the past, these religions coexisted peacefully, and Tafari never outlawed the old faiths or persecute them. Now, however, things have changed. The Church sends envoys out to assert dogma and get people to reject the old ways. At the same time, the Vodacce traders have turned from ancient partners to bitter rivals, cutting into Aksumite trade, breaking treaties and always blaming other Vodacce Princes. Emperor Makonnen has taken to using trade ships full of soldiers to ambush Vodacce pirates and capture their ships, and has sent diplomats to Castille, Ussura and Vesten to get them to pressure the Vodacce.

Within the last decade, Aksum has been fighting Manden over trade exports. While Aksum lacks Manden's rich resources, it has pressured them by using predictive analysis on troop and fleet movements, minimizing Aksumite losses and maximizing Mandenka casualties. Weary of war, one year ago both kingdoms agreed to a political marriage to bring peace. Crops continue to fail, and rumors speak of darkness encroaching on Aksum. Relic hunters have spoken of unholy horrors in ancient ruins, and in the south, the crops are wilting into gelatinous messes.

The Nebiyi Monitors of Aksum have had many names over the centuries. Logopolians, Chroniclers, Mathemagicians. They practice the art of advanced analysis via elevated math, analysing the universe and making it sing. To do this, they must dedicate their lives to the numbers, studying and enhancing their memory, perception and analytical skills so they can recognize important conjunctions between people and events. This is more than just logic and calculation, and Monitors describe it as akin to navigating a complex river with many paths, finding the one that leads back to the main course. Monitors study math in conjunction with strict mental exercises, using both book learning and special mnemonics to reinforce computations into muscle memory and deductive patterns. While most rely on written computations to some extent, the greatest are said to do their work in empty rooms, unaided.

The near-instant process of analytical calculation appears magical to many, but is actually based on decades of mundane practice handed down through Aksumite history. Even Aksumite children learn the basics of math using rhyming songs and number games. Aksumite culture prizes logic and predictability, and thus with proper focus (and luck) a trained Monitor can predict nearly anything based on sufficiently detailed initial conditions. This is more than a science - it is a spiritual art, involving meditation, prayer and ritual chants to aid in the predictions. Most credit the Jok with intervening to reveal truths, as making simple longhand equations results only in meaningless numbers. It is only by combining spiritual numerology with advanced math that the Monitors are able to predict. No outsider has ever become a Monitor - apparently, only Aksumites have the gift for it, possibly as a result of how they are raised and surrounded by mathematical determinism at all times, or perhaps because the Jok do not grant the gift to other peoples.

Aksum divides its people into five distinct economic classes. All of them are literate and even the most humble farmer understands basic mathematics. Everyone is given a chance to learn, but political and economic power are not shared evenly, though all classes maintain some control of their own destinies. Because the classes interact freely and regularly, it is not hard for a foreigner to accidentally insult a powerful person and get challenged to a duel of words and debate. (These duels are much more common in Aksum than martial ones.)

The Zfaxi are the peasant class. Their life is generally pleasant, with elementary-level education even in rural areas, run by the local churches. Every major town has a clergy-physician and a practicing Melbur sorcerer, who serve the public not only with work but also teaching. A typical zfaxi day is full of work, prayer, family time and pursuit of hobbies. The zfaxi are not typically beholden to landowners via debt, though they do often have restricted movement. They farm, raise animals and perform day labor to feed their families, and may try to raise in station by selling crafts or pursuing additional education. This is a process requiring time, lots of effort and some luck. The Vwie are the middle class - wealthy merchants and traders, but without religious or royal power. They control the export and import of goods and most of the internal trade of cities. This class also covers civil servants. The vwie receive a university-level education, unlike zfaxi, and may move freely if they can afford it. This class covers most architects, military officers and merchants, and their work days tend to be shorter and easier than those of the zfaxi.

The clergy are a third, vital class in Aksum, as important here as the Vaticine priests are in Castille. All clergy are given deep respect regardless of their rank in the Orthodox Anidi Hibiri Tefet'iro Church, and they can move freely through the land. They are subject to Church discipline rather than most criminal law, and their actions are unlikely to be questioned or reprimanded by civil authority regardless of what they are - certainly nothing worse than a slap on the wrist from a provincial negus. Historically this privilege has rarely been misused, but as Aksum falters under difficult times, corruption grows more common among the priesthood, and the abuse of their privilege grows more likely.

Next time: Nobles and Imperials

Lands of Gold and Fire - These Guys Are Not Ethiopia BTW

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - These Guys Are Not Ethiopia BTW

There are two distinct subclasses of noble royalty in Aksum. The first class of royalty, which includes the negus, live in stone palaces and take an active role in commanding their domains. A negus or niste night command troops in their region and ensure their readiness, especially given the recently ended war with Manden. Beyond this, they live a life of luxury, with little responsibility. The second class are nobles that have, due to various circumstances, lost their land, wealth and influence. Most of these are little more than zfaxi with a title, but they will not give that up. A displaced noble will often assume their loss of status is transitory and that they will return to wealth and power. Many, however, are forced to sell their lands and make bad deals with criminals just to retain their high lifestyle.

The imperials are the highest class, made up of the family of Negusa Nagast Makonnen and his queen, Zufan. The Negusa Nagast's word is divine and his orders unquestionable. The imperials are the smallest and highest class, with immense wealth and privilege. They are considered to be living examples for the rest of Aksum, and the great deeds of past rulers are often cited in proverbs. The burden of being exemplars does wear, however. The imperial family are held up to extremely high standards of behavior, and any ruler that cannot live up to that are pressured to abdicate, which is considered one of the greatest deeds they can do. The fame from acknowledging one's limitations and abdicating is usually sufficient motive for a weak or incapable ruler to step aside for a cousin. The Emperor Girma Solace proved to have poor temperament for leading, and on advice of his royals, he abdicated and headed south to advise the local negus, dedicating himself to a life of simplicity and religious study. He became acclaimed for his willingness to step down, and after his death, he was sainted.

There are many titles in Aksum. The Negusa Nagast is the King of Kings; the female version is the Nigiste Nigist, the Queen of Queens. This the shortened imperial title - the full version adds 'Iziabeher, Elect of God, who presides over the Kingdom of Aksum from the city of Aksum.' Each rules from the capital city, Aksum, ever since Tafari moved the capital there from the port Addis Addus. Traditionally, the Negusa Nagast is advised by a high council of royals, who have much influence despite not being imperial. There have four times in the past been a dual monarchy, which by law required both sovereigns to agree on actions while they ruled. No one remembers why the law to allow this exists, and most don't even know about it except historians.

The Itergit, or consorts, are the blessed and crowned concubines of the emperor or empress. The title is both male and female. Every ruler is permitted one itergit in addition to their spouse, a tradition dating back to the earliest days of Aksum. The Le'ul (Prince) and Le'elt (Princess) are the children and grandchildren of the Negusa Nagast, and is a title that grants imperial status. If the current ruler dies or abdicates, the title is lost and given to the family of the new ruler. The Nurgust are the general imperial family, those who are no longer le'ul and le'elt. Nurgust traditionally remain in the Imperial palace and are given a stipend for expenses. This, depending on the ruler, may mean a life of comfort or careful surveillence. Nurgust still retain quite a lot of political influence, as they have free interaction with the other imperials, but do not have nearly as many expectations placed on them.

For non-imperial titles, there's the Negus and Niste Night - the king and queen. This refers to the ruler of a province, granted by the Negusa Nagast. It is inherited, and can only be stripped by order of the Negusa Nagast. The negus or niste night serves as the emperor's hand, carrying out the letter and spirit of the law, and those who hold this title are carefully watched by the emperor and high council. Under them are the Ras, roughly equivalent to a duke or duchess. They control a section of land and gain income from all businesses and labor there. Their estates are greater than a single town but smaller than a negus' provincial kingdom. This title is often given to heads of cabinet positions, who retain their land while serving, but if they are dismissed, their lands revert to the emperor. Thus, they have great incentive to be good ministers. Under the ras are the Bitwoven, but only two at any time - one for the Right Hand, the other for the Left Hand. Each oversees a department of spies, informants and translators, both to protect Aksum's secrets and to stop the spies of other nobles. The Left and Right often compete with each other viciously to bring in the best intelligence. In theory, this fosters better information gathering, but it also leads to issues when the agents meet in the field and get into problems without realizing or remembering they both work for Aksum.

Lij is the title given to the children and grandchildren of a negus, to signify their status. The Dscah Ru, or court mystic, is a counselor to the Negusa Nagast, a skilled practitioner of Melbur. They summon and control abonsams - dangerous, yes, but done on behalf of the kingdom. Currently, the position is vacant, as the previous dscah ru fell under Bonsam's influence and fled the nation. The Negusa Nagast has decreed the position will not be filled. Under all these other ranks are the Abeto Hoy, the general nobles. If they have wealth or property, you stress the first syllable. If not, you don't, as they must work for a living. Many of these leave home to seek their fortune abroad. However, even those nobles are entitled to a few days hospitality at the estate of other nobles - even enemies. This is an ancient tradition.

Besides the noble ranks, there are also imperial court offices. The Ederase, or regent, acts in the stead of the Negusa Nagast when the Negusa Nagast is too young or sick to rule, gaining the power to appoint nobles. In theory, they work in the trust of the emperor; in practice, they are sharply limited by their popularity. An unpopular ederase's orders are not obeyed, as the nobles declare they will wait for the emperor's ruling. Thus, they often gather favors or blackmail in case they must use it. The Tsefazi Taesas, or scribe by command, is the most potent position in the court, for they always walk two steps behind the Negusa Nagast, listening to and writing down all edicts. They are also given trust over the Great Seal, keeping record of all appointments and laws made. They sign all documentation, not the emperor.

The Agge Neguses, or mouths of the king, serve as heralds to the emperor. Historically, there are two at any time, in case the emperor must send multiple messages or one of them gets captured. The agge negus speaks with the emperor's voice, and has much prestige but not much influence. Currently, both agge neguses are abroad, and a temporary third has been appointed just in case. The Lique Mekwas are the emperor's doubles. There are generally three or four of them, who serve to impersonate the emperor and follow him into battle. This is the most trusted position in the kingdom, and since the assassination of the Second Prophet, it is always kept fully staffed.

The Aqabe Sea't, or Keeper of Time, is a priest of the Church, always. They keep the emperor's schedule and have authority over all other clergy in the Imperial Court. This leads to conflicts when they leave the palace, often. Last, the Blattageta, or Lord of Pages, is the palace administrator and commander of the blatta, or pages, who serve the imperial family's needs and enforce palace protocol. While a page is not a warrior, they do have authority to evict anyone who causes problems, behaves vulgarly, or violates protocol.

Foreigners are often surprised at how easy it is to meet local nobles. In Aksum, the nobility rarely maintain social isolation or unapproachability, even royals, though it can be hard to tell when you're dealing with a noble if you aren't sure what to look for as a result, as they have no special regalia or iconography. The imperial family are a different matter, and security dictates that no visitor may enter their presence without thorough vetting and several guards. However, it is still possible for a sufficiently charming foreigner to get an imperial audience in Aksum more easily than in Theah.

Women of northern and central Aksum wear clothing made of smehha, a cotton cloth woven in long strips, then sewn together. Peasant smehha is usually rougher and less flexible, but easy to clean and fast to make. Noble smehha is usually silky and adapts to movements, but takes quite a while to make - several months, generally, with weeks of soaking in a special mixture to soften the cloth. Merchants typically wear a colored stripe on the bottom of the dress, while nobles have many bright colors in ornate patterns. Men prefer knee-length shirts, pants and collars of different colors. In the colder months, they add a hem-ki jacket made of animal skin, with the type of animal indicating status along with the colors. Pastoral animals are for peasants, while rarer ones are for nobles, and some imperials wear jackets said to be made of monster hides. In ceremonies, both men and women wear delicate shawls made of Church=provided fabric. Each family maintains a distinct pattern and look to show their history and standing, and the shawls end in beads hung from strands every three inches. Social class determines how many beads you get - peasants get one per strand, imperials five. Foreign clothes usually draw curious attention and mild mockery, especially heavy clothing in summers.

Next time: Life in Aksum

Lands of Gold and Fire - Many Crafts

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Many Crafts

Aksum has over 170 languages, about 70 of which are spoken locally. The official language is Ze'eg, and it is the only language used for official documents. It is entirely unrelated to most Thean languages, though it has borrowed some Numanari and Vodacce loanwords. Northern Aksumites are usually able to speak at least parts of Thean languages, however, especially in port towns. Now, food! Zfaxi eat what they can grow, fish or afford, mainly root vegetables, greens, sourdough flatbreads, eggs, eel, fish and milk. Typically, food is spiced with a local spice called woti, which adds a smoky heat and covers unpleasant tastes. Vwie and clergy also use woti, but have more varied diets, with more beef, chicken and lamb. Clergy receive a portion of all food grown in their territory as donations, and merchants can often afford wine. Nobles, of course, have the most and best food, importing various meats, cheeses, fruits and alcohol. This wealth is also shared by any military commander of more than 100 men.

Members of the Orthodox Church do not eat meat or dairy on Wednesday or Friday, except for during the 30 days before the first day of the Lingering of the Prophet. Aksumite spiritual doctrine holds that this fast represents humanity seeking forgiveness for the assassination of the Second Prophet, and so instead of meat and dairy, one performs rigorous prayer. The national drink is tej, a form of honey wine made with powdered leaves, gesho twigs, fermented berries and (naturally) honey. Vesten have compared it to mead with an earthy undertone, and the longer it ferments, the more potent it is. Its sweet flavor masks a very high alcohol content, and reputable tej houses will list fermentation times on the menu. Less reputable ones knock you out with it and take your stuff. A nonalcoholic variant, berz, has become quite popular recently, and now costs more than tej itself.

We get a sidebar on important nobles. Bitwoven Nebiat is head of the Skia, and while he appears to use his power for the good of the empire, his true motives are unclear. He feigns ignorance of anything unsavory, despite possessing vast amounts of secret information on many nobles. The emperor trusts him implicitly, but it is unsure whether he is loyal or instead has blackmail. Bitwoven Mazaa is a short, cheery woman who doesn't seem like a spy at all, though she is not nearly as naive as she appears. She is deeply loyal to the Negusa Nagast, and good friends with Princess Mehret. She does not trust Nebiat at all; he considers her unimportant. Habte, the current ederase, is older than the emperor and hasn't been able to find his own replacement yet. He spends much of his time napping in the garden, as he is not currently needed, though wilier nobles realize he knows the imperial family in great detail. One of the blatta, Atrua, has been possessed by a Jok spirit to monitor the imperials and judge if they are worthy to be given a new form of math. She is unlikely to be discovered unless a rogue abonsam gets involved, though that is possible at present, as there is no dscah ru. She could easily banish such a beast with her Jok powers, but would need to reveal herself to do it. Meanwhile, she just waits to find the right, worthy person to receive a new form of oracular math.

Aksumite music uses a modal system of sounds with long intervals between some notes, varying by region. They use the masenqo (a single-string bow lute), the krar (a six-string lyre) and the begena (a ten-string lyre). The highlands prefer the washiant (a bamboo flute), and in the south, they use the holdudaw (a hollow animal horn). Northern instruments are often metal where southern ones are bamboo. The Church uses the sistrum, a metal shaker that makes soft clanks, to keep rhythm in prayer. Dinists prefer the kebero, a large hand drum. Royal ceremonies require use of the nagarit, an eight-foot by fourteen-foot drum played with a large stick. The traditional dance Eskista is unique to Aksum and performed by both men and women. It is highly technical, and mastering it will draw praise even from the emperor. It focuses on unique bouncing and rolling of the shoulders and chest, and is performed to string music. Amrou is a similarly precise dance of the upper body, using neck movements rather than shoulder. It requires years to learn and a lifetime to master, incorporating moves in which the neck goes one way and the dancer steps another. Rural areas also perform the less-structured Gonbel dance, which involves spinning and moving the entire body with the music. It has no rigid choreography, instead being largely improvised, and is considered a dance of happiness and joy.

There are two distinct artistic categories in Aksum - pre-Anidi Hibiri Tefet'iro Church and post-Church. Pre-Church, there were many subjects. Post-Church, pretty much all Aksumite art of any kind reflects the religion. Even after that, there's two types of art - iconic and representational. Iconic uses an ancient style, with almost cartoonish figures and almond-shaped eyes. Typically, this art displays religious symbols, churches, manuscripts and usually just one person in profile. These drawings can be found on many cliff faces and statues, and pre-Church, the style was used to show hunters and meteors striking the earth. Churches are often painted this way with scenes of the land. Representational art mainly gets used on parchment and other flat and regular surfaces. It tends to use bright colors, distinct figures, and either a single subject or multiple panels telling a story. This is less stylized art, using more modern techniques, but still tends to follow rigid rules of presentation to a degree that Theans tend to feel they all look similar. The idea is to present a distinct story creatively while following a specific set of rules.

Aksum had the first Ifrian metalworkers, and they created many wonderful tools, swords and pieces of art. (Guns, however, were new to them and created only after outsiders brought them in.) They typically work in copper or brass, and the most common metallic art is the metal Prophet's Cross, which has slowly replaced wooden crosses. Older metal crosses occasionally use gold or silver, but modern ones usually just use a foil or plating. In Aksum, these crosses often have a curved base, like an upside down bowl, mounted onto a sphere to allow for easy turning in any direction. Crowns are also often made for the royals and imperials. Weaving is a common hobby among all classes, and it is said that some weavers can weave a basket so tight it can carry water or catch spirits.

Aksumites are very serious about sports, ever since Nigiste Nigist Zaduxis started the Decimal Games. Each area embraces a different game. Highlanders prefer javelin tossing, as it trains hunting skills, while the capital and coastal cities prefer Kest, a strategic board game similar to Go. Southerners often practice A'Nazaha Wa-Tahtib (Tahtib for short), a form of stick-fighting martial art. The central cities are known for their long-distance running. Every three years, each region has its own contest that lasts four days, to prepare for the Decimal Games. Representing your city at the Games is a high honor and recognition of skill. While to date no one has ever disrupted the Games with murder or sabotage, they grow increasingly cutthroat and have become a matter of strong regional pride.

Next time: The Church

Lands of Gold and Fire - The Other Orthodox Church

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - The Other Orthodox Church

The main religion of Aksum is the Aksum Orthodox Anidi Hibiri Tefet'iro Church, which means 'One Unified Nature' in Ze'eg. It was brought by the Second Prophet, Khalil. The locals, when not in earshot of a clergyman, tend to shorten it to the Hibiri Church. This is not technically disrespectful, but is seen as undignified. Several of its traditions date back to a small Khemeti sect codified during the Second Prophet's journey from the Crescent back to his homeland in Aksum. It is his return there that made the Church so potent in his homeland, and the old religions basically died out after Tafari's conversion. Some pockets remain in rural areas, but they grow smaller with each generation. The largest other religion, Ajuk, keeps a foothold only because Ajuk is the Sky God, prayed to for rain by farmers.

The core of the Hibiri Church is that the first two Prophets (and the eventually coming Third) are incarnations of the same soul with the same purpose. Each is a new aspect of the Prophet's awareness, and all are the same person. This unifier soul binds all Prophets, regardless of race, gender or origin, because this selfness is spiritual, not bodily. The Church maintains that only two Prophets have so far existed, and the Third is yet to come. They believe there will be a total of four incarnations of the Prophet, and that it is the Church's duty to pave the way for the Prophet's return. The holy book is the Aksum Orthodox Anidi Hibiri Tefet'iro Church Codex, also called the Yeberalachewini K'alati, and it is split into two sections. The first part is the teachings of the First Prophet, which is identical to the version taught by the Vaticine with only minor variation. The Hibiri Church claims their version is the oldest, of course. The latter (and much larger) portion is the teachings of the Second Prophet.

The Second Prophet apparently was even more prolific with his teachings during the Lingering, a seven day period in which he lay dying after being attacked by seven assassins. This period each year features a fast from dawn to sunset to show humility and forgiveness, and charity and acts of grace are common, in an attempt to counteract the evil of the killing. These teachings were collected into the Ameshashu Git'imochi, the Twilight Poems, which are a mix of teachings, prophecies and hidden messages ciphered to all but the most pious, with warnings meant for the Third Prophet. Many of these things appear as completely unintelligible mathematical formulas when decoded. Some have claimed to crack these formulas, but they've never been able to prove it.

The Hibiri Church is friendly with both the Vaticine and al-Din faiths, but believes in the doctrines of neither. They have their own saints and Hierophant, and many saints were lay folk that provided service to the people. Both the Hibiri and Vaticine have exchanged clergy to share information and rituals, and despite all differences, they are friendly. The Inquisition does not go to Aksum, and the Vaticine considers the Hibiri Church to be a necessary Ifrian adjunct. As for al-Din...well, they tell a very different story of the last days of the Second Prophet. They agree that Tafari was Khalil's son, that he was Emperor of Aksum, and that much of the Aksumite account is accurate and documented. However, Dinists hold that Khalil left Aksum before his death, and that the Tomb of the Betrayers holds cultists that Tafari found and held responsible for his father's death. This does not explain where the Twilight Poems came from at all. Hibiri priests believe the Dinist version is an attempt to reconcile the fact that the Dinists had no body to bury. It burning away was an easy explanation for them to say why none could locate his body. The two groups do not agree with each other, and historians studying the events have found evidence for both versions, which is very frustrating.

Ajuk, the Sky God, is the last indigenous god that remains in Aksum. He graces the fields with rain and brings growth. His worshippers claim that he remains while all other gods have faded because he is a very practical deity with a very useful job. This rather pragmatic approach to godhood works well in Aksum, and even some who belong to the Church have claimed that Ajuk may be one of Theus' riddles. Either way, he is not forgotten. They cele