Some More Addendums & Clarifications

During the long between-event break, we on staff have been working hard on a bunch of different edits and modifications to the game. In future you can expect explanations of some highly mechanical edits (professions and so on), but for now I have a few addendums and clarifications that I would like to knock out.

Without further ado, here goes.

More About How to Address Nobles

The nobility is a tangled web of etiquette and forms indeed. I’ve gotten a few questions from various participants on the following two issues, and am here to provide clarity:

  1. How should I address someone who is set to inherit a title, but whose parent is still alive? This one is easy! Heirs are addressed by whatever title they are set to inherit. Thus, the eldest child of a still-living baronet is addressed as a baront/ess; of a still-living baron is addressed as a baron/ess; and so on. These nobles simply don’t have the lands yet to back up their titles.
  2. How should I address a younger child who is neither set to inherit anything, nor training to become a squire? The solution we devised here is meant to streamline and simplify. These individuals should be addressed as “gentle lord” or “gentle lady.” Specific ranking can be established separately by listing family connections, as in, “Allow me to introduce the gentle lady Abigail Harris, daughter of Baronet Robert Harris of Stemma.”

Differentiating Commoners and Nobles

This has been a fairly oft-discussed issue by both staff and players alike, and for good reason–some people who have exceptionally nice kits look like nobles even if they are playing commoners; some cultures do not emphasize differences in garb between commoners and nobles; and generally speaking it can just be difficult to tell sometimes who’s who. For this reason we are instituting a new rule for all players depicting a noble character:

All players depicting noble characters must wear a pin decorated with their families’ heraldic crests on their persons at all times, pinned over their hearts.

Note that the pin does not need to be huge or fancy; it need only be immediately visible to anyone looking for it. If you are unsure what to design for your heraldic crest, we encourage you to get in touch with us, as we are more than happy to help you in any way that we can.

Noble Trust Funds

We will create a formalized document on this topic soon, but I wanted to give extant or would-be nobles a head’s-up about another important change to a noble’s relationship to the game world.

When a player submits a noble character for our consideration, the GMs will consider the player’s history in order to establish a “trust fund” for that character. Evaluations will focus on the following elements:

  1. Relationship between character and family
  2. Duchy and county the family is from
  3. Family’s relative social prestige or precedence
  4. Any goods or services the family produces, backs, or trades

Based on these elements, and within given limitations, the GMs will assign that character a “trust fund” consisting of a certain amount of money. PCs will not have automatic access to this fund, but will rather have recourse to it via in-game means–writing home to ask their parents for X silvers in order to purchase a deed of property, for example. The GMs will apportion the money as we deem fit and taking a variety of factors into account, including but not limited to: Is the noble child representing the family well? Are there negative rumors floating around about the noble? or, by contrast, positive reports? Is the request reasonable, from the standpoint of the family? What exactly does the noble want to do with this money? And so on. Players are welcome to open negotiations with the GM to set up an income-like system whereby their characters receive a small amount of money every event, but it should be noted that this regular stipend may be halted or adjusted at any time if staff decides it would be appropriate for in-game reasons.

This new system is not intended to create an imbalance among players, but rather (1) to supply noble characters with a source of income that is otherwise unavailable to them (since nobles are expected not to work or craft, as commoners do, and thus often end up quite poor) and (2) to help improve the depiction of the nobility as a whole and encourage players to use their connections wisely.

Inter-Duchy Relationships

One of our participants made a very canny observation in a PEL recently; that is to say, that people tend to have a good grasp on their characters’ home duchies, but might be a bit shakier about inter-duchy relationships and politics. With this in mind, I’ve put together the following facts to help illuminate the topic a bit more.

  • In general, the southern duchies–Stemma, Southlight, and Gavell–are considered more “cultured” than the northern duchies–Hawksworth and Blacknall. Caxton is often left out of these discussions, which are historically grounded, because it is so relatively new.
  • Stemma is the center and the beating heart of the country. This is an agreed-upon fact, even by persons of other duchies, although they might not see it with the same level of pride as Stemmans do.
  • Southlight was technically the first duchy of Braelin, but Gavell is usually considered to be “closer” to Stemma than Southlight. There is a long-standing argument between the two duchies, especially within the nobility, about this. Gavell and Southlight also compete over wine production (Gavellese wines are commonly considered better overall, by persons of other duchies/countries) and sailing prowess (Southlightee sailors are commonly considered better overall, by persons of other duchies/countries). Usually the “Gavell versus Southlight” arguments are good-natured if a bit sharp, but a few have been known to end in duels, since citizens of both duchies take great pride in their homes’ reputation.
  • One thing that the Gavellese and Southlightees do agree on is that Hawksworth and Blacknall are both “backwoods duchies.”
  • Hawksworth and Blacknall, for their parts, share a close bond–the cultures value similar things and both peoples have a highly independent approach to life and thought. They often find common ground in disdaining the “fripperies” of the south. It is important to remember that, during the reign of Aaron the Terrible, Blacknall and Hawksworth alike were on the brink of seceding from Braelin until the arrival of the rightful god-chosen queen–a Hawksworther.
  • Blacknalleers specifically are sometimes openly contemptuous of the highly ritualized chivalric practices of Gavell in particular. This is not to say that chivalry is not practiced in Blacknall, but rather that it is treated with a different kind of gravity–not as a form of “play,” but as a form of deep respect.
  • Caxton is generally thought of as a kind of “younger sibling” by the other duchies–a fact that Caxtoners do not really care about one way or another. The engineering, scientific, and magical achievements of the duchy over such a short period of time have been impressive indeed. Combined with the Caxtoners’ easygoing natures and ongoing duty to guard the Wall, the people of Caxton do not feel any stirring need to “prove” themselves to anyone else. This attitude is sometimes misinterpreted as arrogance among the Gavellese and–to a lesser extent–the Southlightees, and so Caxtoners typically find it easier to get along with the northerners than with the southerners on the whole.
  • The Xiros and the Braelinese regard one another with no small amount of suspicion and wariness, but ultimately also a grudging tolerance. Many Braelinese, especially knights and soldiers, have a deep respect for the Xiros people’s strength–both mental and physical–but are uncertain about their traditional shamanistic practices, which are seen as morbid, primitive, or both. Some Braelinese view the alliance with Xiros as a kindness and feel indulgently obligated to guide the Xiros on their way to becoming an acceptably cultured, respectable nation; others consider it an example of a stronger, superior people triumphing over a weaker, inferior people. The Xiros, for their part, find the Braelinese approach to the world–the notions of ownership, the structure of the feudal society, the insistence on superfluous customs like chivalry, the pervasive fear of death and the dead–confusing and backwards. That said, during the past few centuries, the Xiros have forged some strong ties to the citizens of southwestern Hawksworth in particular, and tend to trust Hawksworthers more readily than other Braelinese people.
  • Finally, Zikarians are typically seen as savage but ultimately harmless curiosities and, as such, are often treated as a type of pet or a culture of children. The islanders owe Braelin a great debt, and therefore most Braelinese do not feel the least bit threatened by the Zikarians–and will sometimes gently remind any “uppity” Zikarians of this debt. The Zikarians, who do feel a culture-wide affinity to Braelin for its role in their liberation, do their best to be patient and understanding with the Braelinese during awkward social interactions. Still, there are many Zikarians who feel a certain exasperation at the Braelinese unwillingness to view them as real people. Sometimes they are able to shrug it off; sometimes they seek out local Xiros or other foreigners they can relate to within a given region; sometimes they play along with the Braelinese conception of their culture for their own benefit; and sometimes–though only rarely–they grow frustrated and bitter.

I think that covers everything on a basic level, but I would also encourage anyone who is interested in this kind of thing to go through and read the available documentation regarding the cultures, Braelinese history, and the world as a whole. Often these will help to fill in gaps and/or clarify relationships.

All right, that is it for now–but please keep an eye out for further announcements about updates, edits, and addendums to the game that are coming soon!

Tuesday Tales: Guest Series, Part III

Servant of the Liege
[contributed by Jake T.]

A humid summer night slowed the town of Noralia to a crawl. The gentle stirring of coastal breezes lacked the determination to blow this far inland of Gavell, save for during the fiercest storms of the season. Lady Knight Esdeline Chernock broke the stillness with her destrier, racing up the single dirt path that ran through town. Pale and sad green eyes glanced only once out at the abandoned quarters, her attention snapping back to her riding posture. Long dirty blonde strands of sweat-streaked hair clung to her cheeks, matted with the blood of a monster she had ridden down during her nonstop dispatch here.

The buildings thinned out near the top of the incline, and it was the personal holdings of Count Thomas Strader that showed the only obvious signs of habitat. She eased her mare down into a trot, the shouts of soldiers posted to the watch warning of her arrival. Halting her destrier it took less than a moment to swing down out of her saddle. Four silhouettes spread out into two separate pairs from the gateway barring the estate, and though their weapons were not yet drawn, they were taking great care to approach her from an advantageous position. Puffing her chest out she approached the nearest one, who visibly flinched at her first step towards him, then again at her booming voice.

“Hail! Lady Knight Esdeline Chernock, servant and sword of our King Shayne.” There was a silent flash of menace in her eyes to show how literally she meant those words to be taken before she continued, raising her voice to bellow into the gated courtyard. “It is under direct orders from King Shayne that I stand here to–should he be willing–peacefully escort Count Strader back to the capital for trial!”

Three of the soldiers surrounding her looked away towards the fourth–a veteran with graying hair and a spear nestled into the crook of his arm while she spoke. He coughed shortly into a clenched fist to find his voice, hoarse but careful in his reply.

“We know why you’re here, milady. Not even a blind man could ignore what he been doin’ not only behind closed doors, but draggin’ in the townspeople as well.” He took a moment to spit in the dirt at his feet, going on more cautiously now as he eyed Esdeline. “I can’t disobey me Count–an’ he done made clear what oughta happen to people that came a-knockin’, but these are too good of soldiers to have to bear the burden of his disgrace. On the other hand, if we took up arms with you it could bring trouble down the road for us; nothin’ personal, milady, you understand. And ah–ya might want to hurry, he was plannin’ to ride out at the first sign of real trouble, I heard.”

Her only reply was the shortest nod before she took off at a full sprint through the gate. Even with her armor she showed no signs of slowing down, the estate blurring around her as she desperately searched. The first door was kicked open, the second knocked clean off the hinges, and the third she simply ran through, finding it opened out into the courtyard. The yard was spacious under the starry sky and she scanned the outskirts, trying to guess where he could be, when the flash of a flamboyant Gavellese feathered hat appeared and the chase was on. Every breath she tried to take of the heavy air seemed to slow her down, and he had considerable distance even with her speed. He was only a few paces away from reaching his stables, where a servant stood holding the reins of a well-groomed courser. Dropping her sword, she clutched at a magic component tucked into her belt as she struggled on in a final burst of endurance.

“As Shayne wills it, so it shall be–unstoppable bind!” A spell shimmered into existence and continued the chase while she stumbled and fell, clawing at damp soil to regain solid footing. She could not help but to smile at her prey while she approached now at a walk–Thomas Strader cursing her from where he was locked to the ground mid-stride.

It was two weeks before a letter came back from Esos to decide what was in store for a now-hopeful Noralia. Esdeline Chernock had left quite the impression on the soldiers stationed there; one and all seemed enamored with the boldness and beauty that the Lady Knight wielded with such ferocity. They crowded around one of the literate guards at the largest table in the barracks, hanging onto every word she read:

“Thomas Strader stands convicted of his crimes against his people; King Shayne will see to it that neither his name nor his dishonor will never again stain Noralia. While the primary candidate to replace Strader cannot be reached at this moment, I know after my night at your gates that he will take well to such hearty and able men. Know that you carry my respect, and treasure it–a soldier’s life is already too short for carelessness. Servant of our liege, and forever your champion, Lady Knight Esdeline Chernock.”

Tuesday Tales: Guest Series, Part II

The Story of Cosra and the White Stone
[contributed by Catherine M.]

Once upon a time there was a Traveler woman named Cosra who greatly angered the Brown God.  No one is sure now what her crime was, or when she lived, or even what her last name was.  What is known is that for her punishment, she was fixed in the sky as a star before her final white life stone was drawn.

The Black God bound Cosra to the sky with this last white stone shining brightly at her heart.  She wept for mercy, and the god was gentle, but unyielding.  Just as it turned away to descend the night’s steps back down to its realm, it paused and murmured back to her, “Your time is not finished yet, spirit.”  And she understood that the god was displeased that the normal order of things had been subverted, and she fell quiet as its robes slipped silently down the glass stairs.

As she lay suspended in the sky, her dark hair hanging down towards the Ephemeral Realm, she grew aware that time passed with less urgency in the sky.  She watched the sun and moon swing in their silent circles.  The other stars, spirits with peaceful eyes, never spoke a word, though sometimes they sang very quietly.  Her eyes became accustomed to the darkness and the great distances of the sky, and she watched the goings-on of the Ephemeral Realm from her place.  Wars raged and calmed, rulers rose and fell.  The last of her family died, and her crime was long forgotten, even by the bards.

Then one day, a god-chosen was born to the Zikarians.  The boy’s family was the least of their clan, but the chieftain was deeply superstitious and quickly became aware of the boy’s status.  Much to the dismay of his parents, it was decided that the boy could not stay, for surely he would bring bad luck upon the land.  After passing the week at a summer festival in Ilios, his parents left him in the shrine of the gods, his fate token curled tightly in his fist.

Cosra saw all of this.

That night, she heard the robes of the Black God whisper against the glass stairs of the sky, and was surprised when the god sat beside her and strummed the silver strings that bound her.  The god opened her hand and showed the woman the token that the boy had held.  “I gave the child to the Brown God, for he was the Brown God’s chosen.  But I was at shrine first, and so I decide the fate of the token; and, briefly, of the child.”

She followed the god’s finger as it pointed to the child, who was being carried in a basket by the Brown God to a hollow in the woods of Braelin.  “You angered the gods once,” the god continued.  “Though that was many years ago.  Perhaps this night you shall make reparations for it.”

The Brown God reached its hollow and took the child from its basket.

“Tonight,” the Black God continued, “though his family left him for dead, the Brown God will gift this child with a great magic that will run in his blood and the blood of his descendants, and when he is older, he will save many lives in a war that has not yet reached the shores of the Ephemeral Realm.”  The god plucked Cosra’s bindings again, absently.  “The Brown God has asked me for a sign to the mortal realm of this blessing, and so I have come to you.”

It deftly unknotted her ties, and she put her final white stone into its hand.

The bards say that a bright star fell from the sky on the first night of Silencing in the year 668.  It burned there for seven days and seven nights, giving its light to all of Braelin.  And then, as suddenly as it had appeared, it burned out.  It was on this same night that Gerolti Mayne, the great Zikarian fire thaumaturgist, was blessed with his magic.

So I declare the story was told to me, and so I hold it to be a true and worthy account.

—Rhiannon Sharleigh, Lyric Bard of Éras.  Given at Esos this 13th day of Reaping, 1042.

Tuesday Tales, Part XVI: Avril Daniells and the Rout of Gwennhill

Gwennhill is a small town in Caxton near the Braelin-Seren border; in the early 700s, it was most famous for being the closest village to the volatile border.  During the moon of Reaping in 689, a brigade of Serenite soldiers crossed into Braelin and found their way to Gwennhill. Looking for a quick foothold into enemy territory, the soldiers stormed the small village, capturing it with little resistance from its approximately 150 citizens.  Immediately following the takeover, however, the Gwennhill council met in secret and agreed to send three youths on horseback to Esos to warn of the invasion.  The trip was expected to take at least two days, and the townsfolk knew there was little hope that Gwennhill would survive long enough to be saved, but at least the Crown would be forewarned and could take measures to defend the rest of the country.

The Serenites quickly set to raiding the town’s food stores and began to tear down homes and shops in order to garner the materials needed to construct a fortress. On the first night of Gwenhill’s occupation, the soldiers gathered to celebrate their conquest.  From the villagers they demanded wine, women, and the town’s best musician, to entertain them as they reveled all night.

The townspeople of Gwenhill selected a young musician, Avril Daniells, to act as bard to the soldiers; her talents were renowned throughout the town and the villagers assured the Serenites that she would be very well-suited for what they wanted. Daniells entered their camp alone and began at once to perform for the rowdy soldiers as they drank, fought, danced, and built bonfires out of the remnants of the buildings they had destroyed earlier that day. Slowly, as the night progressed and Daniells’ songs continued to flow seamlessly one into the next, the soldiers began to calm down; slowly, one by one, they fell asleep, until at last nothing could be heard but the sound of snores, sleepy murmurings–and Daniells’ fine, soothing voice. The young musician continued to sing, song after song after song, keeping the Serenites entranced.  For days she never paused or broke her tune, until on the evening of the sixth night the Braelinese army reached Gwennhill and captured the sleeping army.

Unsurprisingly, Daniells was and continues to be celebrated as a hero, with the story of her skills reaching even the farthest corners of Braelin.

Tuesday Tales, Part XIV: A Continuation of the History of the Silver Fern

Aubrey Purdom was a well-known tinker in Caxton, enjoying the height of her prosperity from the years 1025-1032.  Purdom was famous for having created some of the most coveted rune-inscribed items in the country–and for her refusal to craft the same item twice. Many believed her to be a genius, calling her “Gifted of Silver”; others believed her to be eccentric and dangerous. In the year 1033, Purdom suddenly stopped producing magical items, claiming to have been given a task by the Silver God itself. Locking herself away from civilization for two years, she reemerged at last in the latter moons of 1035 with a finished masterpiece.

During her self-imposed exile, Purdom had created a scepter unlike any that had ever been seen before.  It continuously and endlessly leeched the magical energies from everything within a ten mile radius.  While the world was very impressed with this bottomless magical pit, it also became immediately apparent that the scepter posed a huge threat to the safety and well-being of everything and everyone around it, since its secondary quality was to create a kind of anti-magic field extending an additional fifty miles past its primary radius, thereby covering most of Caxton in a magical dead zone.  The scepter’s power was such that even the Caxton Wall was adversely affected.

Naturally, the Order of the Silver Fern was called in to take care of the situation as soon as possible. Brigadier General Mage Morris Arkell and three subordinates, Brigadier Mages Galvin Lomas, Rhoda Persell, and Violet Collman, were dispatched to handle the matter. After a thorough inspection of the scene, it became clear that only one solution was feasible: to overload the scepter in the hopes that it would destroy itself.

Together the four mages joined together in a ritual designed to release all of their magical energies simultaneously, knowing that undertaking this action meant that none of them would return from the Black God’s realm. Embracing their duty to honor their oaths, the mages said one final farewell to their friends and families before completing the ritual, releasing all of the magical energies in their bodies and permanently severing the link between their bodies and spirits. The intense release of magical energy created a pillar of green light, which extended upward as far as anyone could see; reports from that time indicate that the pillar was visible even from the far shores of Zikari. The result of the release was immediate, as the compressed magical energies within the scepter stabilized and its draining effect stopped.

Purdom, who had fled into hiding, was found and apprehended shortly thereafter in a cave in northern Blacknall.  In Esos, she was tried before the monarch and sentenced to death for every life that she had robbed through her work–a total calculated as twenty-two deaths. After her sentencing was complete, a memorial was held in honor of the fallen mages.  This memorial, now known as the Vigil of Light, has been observed in Caxton every year on the third of Thawing.

Tuesday Tales, Part XIII: The Trials of the Silver Fern–Orrell Wyndstrom

The Trials of the Silver Fern: Orrell Wyndstrom.  Orrell Wyndstrom was a notorious and much-feared shaman in Braelin in the year 92. He was most well-known among locals not for the large tract of land he held, but rather for the rumor regarding his servants and vassals.  It was believed that Wyndstrom had built his manor atop the ruins of a once-thriving village that Wyndstrom himself had destroyed, down to the very last woman and child. Many said that, by raising and controlling the bodies and spirits of these victims, Wyndstrom had managed to hold, maintain, and defend his lands for close to a century.

The founding members of the Silver Fern, as part of their decades-long task to prove the worthiness of their Order, chose to investigate Wyndstrom’s actions.  To their horror, they found that he had been desecrating the villagers’ corpses while undertaking experiments geared toward finding a way to extend a Human’s natural lifespan. The three mages decreed that Wyndstrom’s practices directly violated of the Code of Magic they had set forth to guide the actions of magic-users in Braelin, and demanded that he cease and desist his practices so that the spirits could rest in peace at last. Wyndstrom refused, hunkering down in a fortress guarded by legions of undead soldiers

In response to his stalwart defiance, the members of the Silver Fern laid siege to the castle.  After ten long days of battle they finally broke through the front of undead and attacked the keep.  Wyndstrom had gone into hiding at the top of the tower; and there it was that the Silver Fern mages found a shell of a once-powerful shaman, barely holding on to the simulated life for which he had been searching so long.

Once the undead had been cleared out and the mages had begun the process of restoring the affected lands, Wyndstrom was taken to Esos for trial.  There it was decided that simple execution would not do justice to the deaths and suffering he had caused over the course of the past century.  Instead the judge ruled that Wyndstrom must live out the remainder of his life imprisoned in Esos, slowly watching his magical energies drain away and his body decay as a result.  The judgment was carried out; all told, it took seven long years for Wyndstrom to pass on at last.

Tuesday Tales, Part XII: The Founding of the Order of the Silver Fern

The founding of the Order of the Silver Fern.  In the earliest days of the year 81, High General Knight Victoria Raynsford approached Queen Abbigale Robbins to request the chartering of an order that could provide magical support for the White Lotus’ operations.  At first, Queen Abbigale was hesitant; although she agreed that it made sense to assign mages to help the knights in battle, particularly powerful mages could—and often did, at that time—pose a very specific and dangerous kind of threat to society.  After several long discussions with Raynsford, however, she finally granted her permission to create a “trial” organization of mages.

At the queen’s command, criers throughout Braelin carried the announcement to the furthest corners of the country: The Crown was seeking talented, respectable mages to serve and support its interests as part of the new Order of the Silver Fern.  Interested persons were to report to Esos in order to participate in a weeklong tournament taking place from the 10th through the 17th of Springrise.  (This, of course, is where the Carnival of Magic originated.)  The victor of the competition would be appointed to the position of High General Mage, while the individuals taking second and third place would become Brigadier General Mages.  After this point, Queen Abbigale decreed, it would be up to these three mages to prove that the investment of time and money had been worthwhile.

Records from that time indicate that a grand total of 479 mages flooded into Esos in order to participate.  After seven days of fierce competition—including melees, tests of knowledge, strategy games, sample battles both with and without non-mages, and tests of magical endurance, among other contests—three winners were crowned: Desmond Neilson in first place, closely followed by Lita Saunders and Alyssa Grey.

Over the course of the next two decades, these three worked together and with the aid of the White Lotus to establish laws against illegal casting, to bring dangerous magical practitioners to justice, and to contain unstable magical experiments.  They did their job well and faithfully; and it became increasingly clearer to everyone that the Order of the Silver Fern had become essential to the continuation of Braelin’s growth and security.  As a symbol of the Silver Fern’s success and to commemorate the issuing of the order’s permanent charter, Queen Abbigale ordered the construction of Glasscourt in western Stemma, declaring that henceforth it would serve as the headquarters of the Silver Fern.  At the same time, Brigadier General Mages Grey and Saunders were given leave to recruit five additional mages into the organization as Brigadier Mages; Halvard Fane of Blacknall, Sancia Caxton of Stemma, Shayne Spicer of Stemma, Eva Corby of Hawksworth, and Frances Quintin of Southlight.  In turn, those five recruited still other mages, who became known in common parlance as “royal mages.”