Friday, September 11, 2020

The F-122 Challenge: Itaban's Verge

^ Details of the F-122 challenge can be found above ^

The short version: Pick 7 classes. Get 10 random questions from a list of 122. Make a setting that includes all of them.

My Seven Classes (All randomly selected from Whose Measure's compilation here:

1. Book Fairy (start with a Book Bag and a book, A Study of the Effect of Islands on Dwarfism) (Xenophon)
A: You have a miniature Book Bag that shrinks any book into it down to your fairy size and can hold 5 books. You can fly and are tiny.
B: You can expend a book to cause a supernatural effect related to the subject of the book.
C: Your book bag can hold 10 books, and you can expend two books at once to create a more complicated effect.
D: Whenever you run out of books, there's always one nearby.

2. White Hawk Rider (Xenophon of Athens) starts with a very large white hawk, a lance, a saber, and three javelins
A: You have a very large white hawk, which you can ride.
B: When attacking from the back of your hawk, you have +1 damage and +1 to-hit
C: Your hawk has been trained to attack or carry foes with its talons and beak.
D: You're immune to the ill effects of high altitudes.

3. Dice of Death (start with 2 bone dice and a drinking problem) (Archon's Court)
A: If you whisper the name of someone to your dice, you curse them. Both you and your target take 2d6 damage from seemingly random accidents.
B: Your Dice can be used on nameless things (animals, lesser angels, not demons, as they are all named).
C: When you curse something with your dice, you take the better roll of the 2d6.
D: Your curse extends - inanimate objects can be cursed, causing them to fall apart. This requires a detailed description of the object.

4. Witch of the Cliffs (start with a cauldron of sea water, a conch shell, a ragged grey robe, and a witch's hat) (Lexi)
A: You can vaguely divine the future through the sounds of the sea. The GM rolls the next <templates> random encounters, and you can choose which order to meet them. This ability resets after you confront them all, or if by the sea, after confronting one.
B: You can never lose your balance or fall. You can conjure gusts of salty sea air at will, so long as your cauldron is full of sea water.
C: You can summon small sea creatures like crabs or eels from your cauldron, so long as it is full of sea water.
D: You can summon large sea creatures like sharks or sea turtles from your seawater cauldron, like sharks or sea turtles. so long as it is full of sea water.

5. Fake Word Goblin (II) (Corgifan2) Start with Filthy rags, battered dictionary of fake words (d6 damage, 2 hands), bent fountain pen, notebook. You are dubiously literate
A: If you drink a vial of ink and vomit it back up onto a page, it will write anything you wish, so long as it is one page long and contains plenty of fake words
B: When you use one of your fake words in written or conversational instructions, a creature you designate believes the word is real and follows the definition in your dictionary. You can affect an additional creature for each additional level.
C: You can rewrite scrolls to use your fake words. When you do this, gain +X MD when casting them for each fake word you use. There is a 1-in-6 chance, for each fake word you use, that the spell sees through your fake words and backfires, following the least favourable definition of the fake word the GM can come up with
D: When you desecrate a heap of books with your fake words, pile them up, and dance on them, summon a Library Golem from the books (Slow, Vulnerable to fire, Strong). It will aid you as long as you can feed it a desecrated book every hour (1 book per slot)

6. Avenger's Doom (II) (Phlox) (start with a net, a lily, a dopey dog, and a shield)
A: 3/day, make another person charming to someone else, as charm person
B: When you spare someone’s life, make opposed charisma tests. If you win, they become friendly
C: Until you’ve discussed your differences with someone, they deal nonlethal damage to you.
D: You may officiate ceremonies where oaths of vengeance become oaths of friendship.

7. Shore Shark (start with fins, teeth, and an old Jaws movie poster) (RandomWizard)
A: Being a shark, you can swim and breathe underwater. Being a shore shark, you can also breathe air and walk on sand (specifically) with your fins. And you can talk. Somehow.
B: The sight of a big scary shark fin can be used to force people to make morale checks or something.
C: You can now walk on all land, and with a disguise and hooded cloak, you can probably pass for a big gray-skinned human.
D: In shallow shoreline waters, you can dismantle a ship or kill a person with a single bite.

My 10 Random Questions (From the Throne of Salt link above): 

1. Is there a homo sacer?

(Homo sacer is a figure of Roman law: a person who is banned and may be killed by anybody, but may not be sacrificed in a religious ritual)

Goblins are legally classified as a type of mold in the Verge, and property owners can be held liable if someone is harmed by a goblin on their land.

Given their linguistic ability and general attitudes, it's possible a goblin made this law and everyone else just accepted it because it was written on an official form.

2. Does wealth grant access to elite social classes or are they hereditary, ceremonial or awarded?

The inner elite of the Verge don't measure wealth in the traditional sense, or display it in material goods. Gold is just something that sinks, that weighs you down. To be wealthy is to be knowledgeable, of things that can help you and yours and hurt those that oppose you. Flyting is a popular way to show this off. With knowledge you can win a seat at the table, get a hand in writing up what laws the priesthood declares, decide who does what and where they do it at.

That's the ancient and incestous sort of elite though, the ones who can trace their bloodlines back to the stumps of Itaban's wrists. The ones who made their bones dealing with the wider world are more practical and cosmopolitan, with more appreciation for coinage and slitting throats.

3. What is the local menace?

These currently loom in the public eye:

The Unspoken Censors, an order of nuns who make their tongues into bells and believe that language and light are mind-chaining inventions of the demiurge. As a center of learning and letters the Verge is a particular focus of their attentions. They're said to maintain a secret mission beneath it. The Censors don't often act openly, but their presence is suspected behind every arson and assassination.

Tako revanchists. According to dubious histories, way back when the Verge was the territory of the octopoids, who got pushed out with the coming of the fairies and goblins and whatnot. The tako nation of the nearby waters deflects internal tensions outwards by blaming problems on terrestrial influences, particularly from the aqua-traitor sharks. This rarely escalates to open war, but militia raids are unfortunately common.

Foreign occultists. The ritual to get to the Verge the magic way is relatively easy, and no small number of curse-flingers and charm-peddlers wind up on its shore each month. These occultists tend to see the Verge as an extraplanar space where decent sense and consequences for your actions no longer apply, becoming hooligans who harass people for "alien secrets from [their] non-Euclidean realm" and suchlike. The few that manage to stick around congregate in slum-gangs that concoct bizarre and conspiratorial cosmologies, plan library heists, and hook up with goblins.

4. How are soldiers usually paid?

In blackmail. 

Cold hard revenge is hard to come by in the Verge, and precious metals don't hold the cachet they do elsewhere. Coercion, not gold, is king.

Powerful, knowledgeable, and otherwise influential people can "mint" blackmail by selectively leaking their own dirty secrets, or someone else's. This blackmail can switch hands, even targets, like how rai stones can change owners without ever moving, but are "spent" and locked-in as soon as they're publicly revealed. Social consensus is such that even a eunuch could be made into a bastard-siring philanderer with the right blackmail.

This diffuses what might become open revolt against the elites, a terrible prospect for everyone and everything here, into a subtler game.

Somewhat relatedly, soft martial arts are tremendously popular in the Verge. Manuals and tutours of them are a significant export.

5. What are only nobles allowed to own?

Libraries and caves. Books are a common trade good, but amassing them is the sole prerogative of the nobility. There is a long and vicious debate over when a collection of books becomes a library.

Caves are the best place to keep books in the Verge, cool and dry on the otherwise storm-swept shore.

6. Is a bar tab used to hire on cannon fodder or sailors?

The best people for rough work work for blackmail. Outlanders, grudgeless people, and pariahs could be bought with booze.

7. Are there holy fools or other types of weird sacred people?

The Avenger's Dooms (often referred to by the euphemisms Palm-Slaps, Auntie Slobbers, or Gentle Callers, as referring to them directly outside their presence is a mild taboo, believed to attract their attention), are treated simultaneously as overly idealistic eccentrics and vital to the continued existence of the cosmos.

They live in a sort of parallel society, denied such things as marriage and the ability to own property. In return their word carries a heavy weight in mediations, trials, and counsel. They preach mercy, spit on claims of justice, communicate with each other through handsigns and woven patterns. Many are former priests.

8. Are there monsters that have been sealed off in desolate places?

The Verge itself is a desolate place in which a monster has been sealed.

It lies at an end of the world, or perhaps more accurately at a gradient where "the world" bleeds into somewhere that is very much not "the world". You can get there the normal way (good luck finding it on a map), by sailing a ship with a paper sail due south until you lose sight of shore, or crawling to the lightless interior of a cave while wearing a blindfold stained with the blood of an enemy.

The monster is its namesake, the demi-god Itaban. Itaban was born with a weapon in each of his ten hands and a destiny to kill his father, and his father's father, and his father's father's father, starting a kinslaying blood-feud that would eventually unravel reality itself. Rejecting this fate, Itaban sealed himself away and severed his hands. His fingerbones were carved into the Dice of Death. From his boredom and the blood of his right stumps were spawned the first Book Fairies. From his whimsy and the blood of his left stumps came the first Fake Word Goblins.

That's how the popular story goes, anyways.

9. What is the most taboo Vice?

To spill blood through vengeance. Such blood tugs at the thread of Itaban's destiny. Even a single drop brings it and him infinitesimally closer. Violators tend to be exiled on rickety rafts (sent towards shark-infested waters by old agreement).

10. Are there criminal brotherhoods or street gangs or bandit clans that hire out members?

There are three major criminal organizations of note in Itaban's Verge:

The Taltu-Kar. Sharks don't have any sense of kinship towards their relatives like humans, goblins, and fairies do. In fact, they tend to hate any siblings they fail to devour in the womb. Instead of families they congregate in shared interest groups called kars. The shared interest of the Taltu-Kar is providing plausibly deniable violent revenge for a hefty fee.

Sharks are predators by nature. If they eat someone it's nothing personal, just a meal, even if they happen to be compensated by a jilted lover or betrayed business partner of the deceased afterward. A hired killer from the Taltu-Kar is one of the best ways to get around the vengeance taboo.

The Zawb Coven. Double-dealers, conmen, and hexers who dance between the political networks of land and sea whenever the heat becomes too much to handle in one or the other. When blackmail's the real deal it usually came from the Zawb.

They only deal with family (an inflexible policy imposed by the salt-lich Great Grandmother Zawb), but fortunately they're generous with adoption and marriage. The current head of the family is said to have a dozen spouses and over one hundred children.

The Order of the Black Cloud. It's a polite fiction that white hawk riders really ride white hawks. These so-called hawks are in fact giant seagulls. To compensate for this shameful fact, white hawk riders tend to surround themselves with trappings of chivalry, knightly brotherhoods, and suchlike. The Order of the Black Cloud is one such group, a bunch of mercenary blackguards with pretensions to being warrior-poets.

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