It is an article of absolute faith, everywhere in the world, that riding astride makes men impotent. Horses were first tamed on the plains of what would become the Heluso Confederacy, and the belief about damage to virility started there. As the use of the animals spread, so did the belief. Unless a man is castrated, he doesn’t ride astride. Not horses, not other animals, not anything. It’s completely beyond the pale, socially – about as bad as a man wearing lipstick and a bra and nothing else running down the street in our modern world. Furthermore, that business about impotence is true. From our superior 21st century vantage point we may dismiss it as psychology making a prophecy fulfill itself, but to the people of Heluso and Milonda this is as iron a fact as the immobility of the sky.
With the advent of the stirrup making mounted combat far more dangerous,
the gender politics of horseback riding and military might have done much
to make sexism on Heluso and Milonda a different matter than the gender
biases of our own cultures. Well, that and politics and magic.
Welcome to REIGN, a game of excitement, intrigue, mass battles, tough choices and dramatic personal responsibility. It’s a fantasy game, so you can expect bizarre creatures and glint-eyed barbarians with battle-notched swords. It’s also a political game, so you can expect deceitful ambassadors, wretched betrayers, cunning spies - but also loyal governors, heroic generals and stern, implacable kings. Moreover, REIGN is designed from the ground up to let you be one of the movers and shakers. Your character can become the High Priestess, the general or even the ruler of a nation.
You do this with a Company. Most roleplaying games pit a small mismatched band against the evil cult or the brainwashed army or the mindless hordes of twisted Servitors of the Dark Ones. In REIGN, you get some servitors of your own. Your Company is larger and more influential than a few oddball adventurers, and you can use it to work your will on the world at large. There’s a price, of course: The power your followers give you is balanced by your responsibility to them.
Okay, after a ridiculous delay, it's time for more...
So I know, waaaay back in my last post , I promised Chargen. I am...not going to keep that promise. Instead we are going to go into the next section instead, as it explains some things you might need to know before we do Chargen. Namely:
The idea behind these is essentially, special techniques for non-combat skills. They are, by their nature, unusual and, well, esoteric. Anyone can give a speech, but someone trained at a fancy elocution school can make that speech really well, with fancy breathing tricks and speaking from the diaphragm and so on. It mentions that while these are all specific to Heluso and Milonda, they're pretty easily reskinned. They're purchased in order, in ranks from 1-5, with one or two exceptions.
So let's go down the list, shall we?
Pure Breath Techniques are used with your vigor skill; it improves your ability to heal shock damage with vigor, and ignore penalties, lets you use Vigor instead of Endurance to perform effortful tasks, and add your vigor to an athletics roll for a non-combat burst of strength.
The Divine Regimen started out as special training techniques for a not-Olympics event to honor the gods- it gave the side who developed it a great advantage until everyone else stole it. Oops. This is all about Athletics. Better lifting, jumping, resisting knockback, improving the results of athletics sets. At the top level, you ignore Fatigue or injury penalties for any body skill.
Svrana Run Special running techniques used by couriers. This is notably not a parkour thing- it's all about running faster and for longer distances without penalty.
[B}Proper Climbing [/B] The first and last ability in this both have to do with taking less damage when you fall, with the pinnacle technique basically not having a height limit at all. In between lets you climb anything with no equipment, climb incredibly fast, and instantly stand up if you're knocked down.
Truil Bodywork Weirdly, some of the best non-magical healers in the game are cannibal mammoth riding werewolf barbarians. (Okay, not all of them are werewolves- only those who practice their special werewolf magic, but you know, that's what most people think. It's very much a 'hurt them to heal' set up, letting you do shock damage to allow recovery from poison or disease, add your body score to knowledge+medicine rolls (MUSCLE MAGIC? Try MUSCLE MEDICINE), convert killing damage to shock even if the character has had no time to rest, and treat each hit location as its own thing when healing shock damage.
The School of Professional Readiness is the imperial tactical handbook, and is mostly centered around making unworthy opponent followers better; giving them clever instructions so they can keep larger sets, giving them the threat bonus for being armed even if they're naked, and treating one of their dice as a master die if you trained them.
The Tyrant's Command Another 'make followers better' school, but it uses Command+Intimidate instead of Knowledge+Tactics. It improves morale attacks you make on other people's followers, scare your followers into performing at higher threat, free your followers from the effects of someone else's morale attacks, or at the top end, make them completely immune to them as long as they can see you, because you're worse than anything on the other side.
The General's Visage. The first path we get that interacts with the yet-to-be-seen Company rules. It at least points you at them at the start of the writeup. It's all about inspiring your troops for high level actions instead of just at the squad level, like the last two.
Troubadour's Fortune This is all about playing to the crowd. Use your perform skill instead of graces to be suave, reduce penalties for romantic interactions, subtly warping the mood of a crowd, failing with style so people think you meant to do that all along, and escape consequences of your breaches of trust. This is basically the school for complete jerk musicians.
Relentless Pursuit All about being crazy-good at tracking, to the point where you can see through tricks to throw you off and track from even the tiniest signs.
Inner Senses All about being better at detecting magic, this was developed by the Maemeck Matriarchy, and is about sensing magic so you can counter it later- it's the first one to break the pattern and has only 3 techniques, all about giving you more info from your Eerie skill.
Political Whispers Another company-based technique: This one is all about whispering campaigns and detecting and affecting their Influence score. Find out how strong it is relative to yours, find out what they're doing with it, adding your jest to your fascinate score to affect their influence, or even lowering it for a month- which they get a roll to detect, but no roll to resist.
Respectful Clarity of Speech Diplomacy! This is less about sabotaging other companies and instead is about bolstering your own's territory, including a top end technique to permanently increase it by one.
The Jester's course The art of being funny- another 3 technique system, It lets you fail a graces (Diplomacy) check and pass it off as a joke, act like a twit in front of unworthy opponents so they underestimate you and have their threat lowered, and tell anyone a joke so funny that it can mess up their next roll, or even, if you succeed on this multiple times, literally paralyzing him with laughter so he can't do anything. (And he may start laughing again just by seeing your face.)
Path of the Moistened eye Mastery of Begging: Whining so exquisitly that if you succeed you get a marginally better result, retry a failed roll immediately, beg from people poorer than you without penalty, beg on behalf of your country, and giving a company's treasure roll a master die by bullshitting people who you owe money to to invest again. In a non-fantasy world, this would the chief skill of televangelists. [/B]
Strategic education Strategy, instead of tactics- another company scale discipline. if you lose a fight you and the other PCs can throw your army at people as a distraction so you can escape safely, go double or nothing on the losses in a fight by escalating the conflict, send waves of troops in at the killbots until they reach their preset kill limit, increase your company's might by one as long as you're personally in the fray, and offset permanent might losses by sacrificing another permanent company stat.
Financial Sophistication The last one in the section is all about using your Company's treasure rating wisely; not reducing it for actions taken during the month, using it to gather info and reward followers.
It actually segues nicely into the last part of this chapter, which is all about wealth and more in-depth discussion of how the abstract money system works. Combining it, spending it, gifting it.
Next time: The first in-depth look at a Country in Heluso and Milonda: Uldholm, bastion of democracy! Sort of.
Two updates in one week! One day I may keep up the relatively breakneck pace of the Rifts reviews!
(That day will be sometime in 2025.)
Yes, it's time for more:
The First Nation: Uldholm
The chapter opens with the tale of Criff the Clever, an Uldish culture hero who managed, in the course of the tales about him, to function as a member of all 15 of the Uldish guilds, thwart the Imperial invasion, make himself rich, and get laid with as much variety and as little repetition as possible. He's the sort of self-made man the modern forward-thinking Uldholm admires, since they don't have kings, nobility, or a state religion, unlike most of their (As they see it) less advanced neighbors. They're the most egalitarian nation in the world! Which is true as far as it goes, since well, on one side you've got an expansionistic empire ruled by a hereditary empress, on another you've got Dindarva, a country rules by a noble class that believes those not born noble are literally like children and should be treated as such. (More on them later.) And of course, there's the Truils, but the Truils barely have culture at all, do they. (Spoilers: They do. They are the next country writeup in the book.
Anyway, the big split in Uldholm isn't between noble and commoner, it's between Guilded and guildless. The guilded believe themselves to be a meritocracy where anyone can advance, and thus feel justified in taking advantage of non-guilded, because obviously if they weren't so lazy and applied themselves they'd be in a guild, wouldn't they? (Except for immigrants, who can't join a guild. Or folks who practice a trade without an associated guild. Or because they pissed off the wrong farmer and got blackballed by guild politics.)
Basically the Uldish have a chunk of Prosperity Gospel republican in their makeup. Which still makes them less jerky than their enemies in a lot of ways. (And bigger jerks in others, obviously. The Dindarvan noble attitude towards the less fortunate is patronizing as all hell but at least they try to care for the poor out of a sense of noblesse oblige as opposed to "You wouldn't be poor if you weren't so lazy")
The guilds have two major political schools of thought- traditionalist and and visionary. Traditionalists are big on doing things the way they've always been done, obviously, and are big fans of "Anyone can do it if they just work hard enough." Visionaries are always looking for a better and easier way to do the job, preferably by getting someone else to do it for you.
So how'd it get all early modern there? Well, it's the empire's fault. Uld back before the invasion, generations back, was a fairly traditional kingdom, with a noble class, a king ruling by divine mandate, and all the other bits. Then the Empire invaded, and brought their Blood-cutters with them. The Bloodcutters are a school of sorcerers that were concerned with the bonds of family and lineage, but their big important power was the ability to use one member of a family to strike at any other relation, no matter how distant. And when your noble class is as inbred as your typical noble class is, with everyone being more or less related to the king, well, capture one member of a noble family and his whole line is gone inside a week. They pursued a royal heir, and got one, and so the royal line was wiped out. This worked pretty well to cow the empire's other conquests, and would have worked on Uldholm too, except for a guy known as general Rolf, a common-born trooper who'd risen through the ranks. As the nobles got decimated, he found himself more and more free to wage war as he liked, and had better results. (How true this actually is open to question, but Rolf -did- exist.) The war turned to messy guerilla war affair, and eventually the empire decided Uldholm wasn't worth taking, with there being organized groups of orphans the Bloodcutters couldn't hurt. (Other things were also involved, but we'll get to that in the section on Imperials.)
In any case, the guild council already existed at that time to settle disputes, but since the soldiers were their own guild, it became a sort of defacto government, eventually adding a legislative senate, with the council as executive. Guilds have the right to trial over their own members over the civil authorities. Local governments. Who are, of course- appointed by the Guilds. And the lawyers have their own guild, but you might rather be judged by a bunch of other bakers. Maybe.
Culturally the Ulds are aggressively modern- "Classic" art, music and literature from the old Kingdom is a guilty pleasure at best. Modern Uldish music is shallow and light. Medieval Pop, and most plays are either slapstick comedies or, well, blockbusters- military special effect shows, sometimes with real wizards on stage to cast spells. Actors and playwrights aren't guilded, except for musical theater, but they're pushing to become one because a lot of them are making a lot of money, especially the ones who feature in the specialty plays for rich audiences.
See, there's an undercurrent of conspicuous consumption in Uldish culture. If you're reach, you should be -eating- rich, and dining on shit like sparrow's tongues, monkey livers, and fried snake from the lightless jungle. You can't just be seen going to the latest Rolf's Battle adaptation, you have to go to special plays- tragedy-drenched romances or anguish plays where everyone suffers, including the audience. The Uldish belief is that moral rightness, working hard, being clever in your dealings, and so on leads to material success. So it follows that looking rich is as important as being rich, or at least can't hurt. They also tend to dress like idiots to show off their wealth- even the very poor will have one or two fancy outfits. Uldish fashion is described in other countries as "Wear your heart on your sleeve! And try to find room for anything else that might fit."
As mentioned, the Ulds are ruled by 15 guilds:
The Cultivators: Farmers, though most of the political cultivators are only technically farmers and may have never seen a plow in their lives. The largest and most fractious section of the senate.
Merchants: The second largest guild- traders and shopkeepers. They are isolationist, because every time Uld goes and conquers new territory the guild that grows the most is the Cultivators.
Miners and gemcutters: Nearly as rich as the bankers and with more guildmembers, but ideologically opposed to the merchants, as they always need new territory to expand their mines.
Weavers and Woodcarvers: A unified block of votes and about as politically neutral as you can be and still be in an organization that calls itself a senate. (This means they're good at taking bribes and concessions before they vote.)
Masons and Builders: The tax and spend block- because public works means more work for their guild members. But they also pay the highest dues and taxes of any guild, so they're honest about it.
Butchers, Teamsters, and Tanners: Animal handling and animal products. Also expansionistic, but only against the Truils.
Bakers: The only reason they aren't the most fractious guild is because there are more Cultivators.
Bankers, Lawyers, and Mercenaries: Rich out of proportion with their numbers, and lender of private armies to other guilds.
Blacksmiths: Split into those who are proud about traditional uldish craftsmanship and those who want to steal the smithing secrets of the Dindarvans.
Soldiers: The enforcement arm of the law, and with more men under arms than the mercenaries, they are in favor of spending on defense but not on aggressive military campaigns.
Traffickers: Importers and exporters of goods. Somehow a separate guild from the merchants. Big on peace.
Physicians: Influential on health matters, but fractured on every other issue.
Enchanters, Sages, and Lifelong students.: NEEERDS. Natural allies of the soldiers, though, because the native schools of Uldish magic are very combat oriented.
Musicians and translators: Big fans of foreign adventures, either peaceful or warlike, because it gives them songs to write about and work for the translators. Not well-trusted.
Brewers, Innkeepers, and Givers of Hospitality: They have one senator and one council member, and basically get nothing done because they're too busy fighting internally.
The chapter wraps up with Uldholm at war: They rely heavily on wizards: Uld is home to both the Flamedancer school (Fireproof dancers who can blow up battlefields) and the Stormtongue school (Winged, can call lightning.) So they can get there fast and do a lot of damage. They have pretty good grunts, but no real elite troops other than the wizards. Currently, they're only at war with the Truils, who are proving annoyingly hard to actually be effective against, as the scattered truilish tribes tend to fade away after a few raids, and can cross land the Ulds consider 'conquered' in small groups. If they get too successful they're going to run into the Mammoth-riders and they may be in for a surprise. Dindarva's on the other side of heavily fortified mountains from Uldholm, but the east, the border with the empire, is less well defended because it's almost all broad open plains. They're hoping their improved combat sorcery and regular army will deter future imperial invasions. The Empire, in turn, is more worried about Dindarva and the war on other end of the country to even think about Uldholm.
Next time: Truils! and then? COMPANY RULES.
It's time for more
It's time for the most nation of Heluso and Milonda, the TRUILS. Truils are cannibal, mammoth riding, drug-crazed, werewolf barbarians. Well, technically they are three tribes. One is a tribe of mammoth riding barbarians (The Mountain Riders), one is a tribe of werewolf barbarians, (The Night Hunters) and one are folks who use a lot of a special drug called Kratig (The Bluefaces. So it's only a slight misrepresentation!
They -are- all cannibals, however, in two acceptable and one unacceptable circumstance. The two acceptable circumstances are funerary (where a truil in good standing is served as the main course of a feast in his honor) and on the battlefield, by biting a live enemy and ripping a chunk off- given that just about every Truil in the Night Hunters probably knows a spell or two even if they aren't full blown dedicated sorcerer-priests, and that Truilish magic is about being a werewolf who worships the moon as a goddess, this may just be practical. It's also a good scare tactic against their most common enemy, the Ulds. (Because well, who's not gonna be freaked out by that?)
The mostly unacceptable version is about eating the uncooked flesh of a dead enemy; Truilish belief is that this curses the enemy's ghost to unending torment until the one responsible is himself dead and his body goes uneaten. (If the killer gets a Truilish funeral, well, the torment isn't going to end.)
The Truils aren't really a nation, exactly , despite being in a chapter called "The Second Nation" they're a collection of not actually unified tribes who are slowly being pushed off their land by the Ulds. They aren't entirely sure why the Ulds want it, really, given that their own myths say that they were tricked out of the good lands where there is actual sunlight by the ancestor goddess of the Ulds. The tribes are nomadic, and 'agriculture' for them consists mostly of tending to plants in an area and trying to plant and grow more than they take from a given spot before they move on. They're an oral culture, for the most part, and possibly the most actually egalitarian society on Heluso and Milonda, but this is largely because the gap between "Chief" and "Average member of the tribe" is just not that wide.
The truilish military is basically exactly the opposite of the Ulds; Ulds tend to field big waves of average troops, backed up with terrifying military sorcerers who dance to make people explode or spit lightning. Truils do small sneaky commando units, supplemented by werewolf terror attacks or mammoth shock and awe raids.
As a side note: The Truil chapter is the first one to mention skin color; Truils (And a group that don't get a full writeup until another book) are the only white people in the setting. (This is another bit that drives some people crazy about the game, though not as crazy as 'Men ride side-saddle'. These people probably deserve to be driven crazy.)
Next time: COMPANY RULES. Possibly even this month!