Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Law Enforcement in the Yellow City.

There was a thread on the Yoon-Suin Reddit today asking about what the response to a disturbance would be, and what was law enforcement like?  My players had the same question. So I thought - why not publish that?  Enjoy!


It bears remembering that only the Slugmen's lives are protected by the law, and only they are allowed to own property (as in real estate).  Crime against slugmen by non-slugmen are seen as an attack against the system, and are *not* tolerated.  Slugmen care far less about crimes against non slugmen…  However, this doesn't meant that the city is in a state of near anarchy.  This is in part due to a number of semi – formalized institutions and individuals that help maintain some kind of order.  These can vary a lot from district to district, and the system is *far* from perfect... but the city runs.  Factors that maintain order include: 

  • Slugmen Magistrates.  Slugmen Magistrates usually deal with commercial/tax related issues, and formal dispute between Slugmen Houses.  However, some of them are... meddlers and will insert themselves in human disputes/crimes, frequently dispensing fines.  Some are also asked by humans to resolves disputes between themselves.  Slugmen magistrates who perform this do so because of a sense of civic duty, because they are bored, or because they are hoping for bribes (some are corrupt, some aren't).
  • Slugmen in general.  As they go about their business they frequently are accompanied by guards, and this has a temporary but effective crime suppression effect.  This lead many slugmen to believe that there is less crime than there actually is.
  • Slugmen House:  Even the feeblest House employs a few dozen guards and stout servants, who keep an eye out in the immediate area around the House's compound.   These guards also look out for each other in their private lives – a guard's family having trouble will normally have no difficulties finding a dozen colleagues to assist them.
  • Holy Men in general:  Somewhat similar to slugmen, perhaps less noticeably so.  Will also act as magistrate between poorer humans.
  • Some cults in specific:  Some cults have their followers and holy men act as informal police forces.  The "Toadies" (followers of the Justice Toad) are infamous for this, but there are a number of others.  The followers of the Bull of Battle patrol the Pointed Dock District with near military discipline.  Armed followers of the Patron of Bakers (the "Rhinoes") will intervene if asked to.  The followers of Meti, the Sword Sage, take a dim view of those who abuse violence for their own gains, etc etc.  Even the holy men of Garlock can keep crime down, as hated criminals make great sacrificicial victims that few will mourn.
  • Club Men stables sometimes help put crime down as many fighters have humble origins and some want to "give back" to their communities.
  • Thief Takers – private individuals or small gangs who are hired to deal with specific thieves to get goods back or capture the suspect.
  • Bounty hunters of all kinds.   More than one crimelord has been stopped by one of the Council Houses putting a 10 000 ruppee bounty on his/her head to make the problem go away.  Smaller bounties are frequently put up by various individuals.   Assassins may also be hired privately.
  • Rent Collectors.   In some districts they have some order-maintenance activities on top of their rent-collecting duties.  Rent collectors are rarely liked, but they do have the ear of the slugmen house and thus have a certain authority. 
  • Hired Mercenaries – sellswords can be hired to patrol an area for a time.
  • Protection Rackets – some of these are semi legitimate and actually *do* protect the area.  The "Old Comrades" mentioned was such a group.
  • Local Tough – a man/woman (perhaps with a few followers) asked to take care of a problem. Mostly in poor districts.
  • Local street gang – sometimes the devil you know is the best you can get.  Again in poor districts.
  • Angry mobs. Public execution by a riled up populace do occur.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Stygian Library: A review

The Sygian Library is an adventure by Cavegirl, a particularly creative blogger and maker of gaming material.  It's a randomly generated dungeon, and can be acquired here, for the reasonable price of 5$. Now, there are plenty of great free D&D content on the web, is this worth the money?  The tl,dr of this review is yes, absolutely.

The module is well described by the author here, but in brief, the adventure is a "dungeon generator", where the dungeon is not the typical rocky tomb, but a gigantic, sprawling pan-dimensional library.  This means that the adventure could be dropped in any setting and "work", as all you need is an opening into the Stygian library.  Instead of mapping every hallway and room, the adventurers progress "deeper" in the library, with areas of interest being generated.  After dealing with an area and what is within, the characters can press deeper, go back, or "branch" sideway into another area.  One would imagine that the map the PCs are making is complex, but the map the players are  using is abstracted.  The library is not "stable", and upon a re-visit its structure will have changed.

The GM can roll in advance or on the fly if they so desire - I would recommend in advance, but if the players go somewhere unexpected it's not very hard to just start making rooms at random.

The good:  The theme is very unified, intriguing and slightly spooky.  There is a semi-abstract "progress" system, the premise being that the PCs are looking for a specific piece of information in the sprawling library; and said system works well.  As they go deeper, they find clues and meet NPCs that may have useful tips on how to attain their goal.

The encounters and monsters are very interesting.  Some are foes, but many can be negotiated with.  The librarians in particular are an intriguing bunch, with different "factions" looking after different things.  Some of the rooms are less interesting than others, but some are *very* intriguing, and the players - even though their PCs are there to find something specific, not "solve the mystery of the library" can't help but wonder at what the heck is going on.

The art is good - I wish there was some more, but I liked what was in there.  The prose is quite good - this isn't high literature, but Cavegirl clearly write better than average.  The text flows and is easily read, without being boring.  The layout is good, with several entries giving you specific page numbers.  Pages 13-15 are key to run the adventure/make rooms.  There are also further tables at the back, to create random books, extraordinary books and treasure.

The bad:  Randomly rolling for things can lead to repetition - while there are plenty of entries, the dice kept spitting out the same results for some reason.  Frustrating.  The system is not specified.  I *think* it's supposed to be B/X, but the HP seems rather low?  Nevertheless, you should be able to convert to whatever it is that you are using.  I used Troika!  I'll also note that it seems better suited for a theater of the mind type of play rather than inch by inch trap hunt or tactical combat - if you need maps for that, you'll have to make them yourself, and this module may not suit your needs.

Conclusion:  This is an excellent adventure, with few flaws and many strenghts.  It requires a bit of prep time (it's a good idea to read it its entirety in advance), but very little "fixing".  In fact, this is one of the best "effort to enjoyment" ratio for a module I've ever seen.  The setting is original, fun and is not "yet another dungeon".  I was concerned a bit about the random generation nature, which can sometimes result in a random nonsense mishmash, but not at all, the theme is very solid, and the entries well thought out.  I was told by several people that this was a good product, and they were right.  Go support gifted OSR authors!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The warrior-mages of Gamagadhi

The oligarchy of Ghamagadhi is described in the Yoon Suin book, but as my players spent some time there, I had to expand upon it.  Here are the warrior-mages of Ghamagadhi

It has an unusual design, being built to resemble a crescent moon and four stars: the main part of the city forms the crescent, with the rear curve facing the mountains, and the four "stars" are fortresses arrayed in front of the crescent in a semi-circle, making the whole city vaguely circular in shape. The four fortresses represent the Azure Dragon, the Vermillion Bird, the White Tiger and the Black Tortoise respectively, and their gates and walls are decorated accordingly. Each is garrisoned by 133 eunuch fighters and led by a mage-warrior of some renown.
- Yoon Suin, p 274


The four fortresses guarding the city are places of power, and each warrior-mage is bound to it.  In exchange for binding themselves to the fortress and swearing fealty to the ruling family, they are granted long life and mystical protection.  Each warrior-mage usually serves for several decades, sometimes more than a century, but eventually they must find a successor and transfer the mantle.  The requirement for becoming a warden of the fortress are somewhat vague - the capacity to wield magic, martial prowess, and the willingness to serve the Oligarch.


Azure Dragon:  Gao Li, a seemingly middle-aged woman from Xinjiang.  She has been serving for almost a hundred years.  She is aloof and not interested in the local politics.  The other warrior-mage knows she is the strongest caster by far and respect her for it, but she disdains them somewhat, seeing their knowledge as insufficient.  She feels that she is nearing the limit of what she can learn in this position, and has begun giving thoughts to moving on.  She bears an ancient jian as her weapon of choice.  Her ultimate goal is to become an archmage.  The Azure Dragon sees to the persona guards of the Oligarch.
(5e build:  Wizard (blade dancer), level 10.  The position of Azure Dragon grants +1 to all saves and increases the Azure Dragon's spell DC by 1)

Black Tortoise:  Nikhil.  A sellsword who grew up in the oligarchies and who acquired a powerful blade in a game of chance.  He once got lost in the jungles of Lamarakh and stumbled upon a powerful asura, Kalanemi.   The asura, sensing his potential, trained him in obscure arcane arts and gifted him with a magical egg which grants good fortune, all this in exchange for future... favors.  Kalanemi told him that to increased his potential, he would have to serve as a warrior-mage for some time.   Nikhil is ambitious and suspicious of others, and has become restless in his position after nearly 50 years, and is actively searching for a successor.  His predecessor was Chagdun the Brown.  The Black Tortoise sees to internal security.
(5e build: level 3 fighter (battlemaster)/level 5 warlock (fey patron).   The position of Black Tortoise grants +1 to all saves and increases the warden's AC by 1)

White Tiger:  Has served the oligarchy for over 130 years and his original name has been lost, and is only know by his title.  An old but hulking man with a great white mane. He fights with a large elephant knife (a type of polearm).   His martial skills are suprased by none and his dedication to the job has earned him the respect of the others, although both the Azure Dragon and the Black Tortoise doubt his intelligence.  Originally from the 100 kingdom, his chief ambition is to do his duty and he is fiercely loyal.  His chief concern is external security, and he has forged an alliance with giants of the high passes.
(5e build Fighter 13 (Eldritch Knight). The position of White Tiger grants +1 to all saves and increases the warden's to-hit numbers by 1)

Vermillion Bird:  Madan the Crimson, originally from Sughd is a somewhat new arrival to the oligarchy, having earned the title less than a decade ago.  A startlingly beautiful man, he is graceful,  eloquent and vain, and currently is the favorite amongst many of the Oligarchy's nobility, although some privately wonder what he's up to.  They are correct in their suspicion, as Madan wishes to marry the daughter of the Oligarch and become the next ruler.  This is strictly forbidden, but Madan is patient and believes he will succeed.  The other warrior mages see him as a fop and doubt his competencies.  He supplies the guards that ward the Seraglio.
(5e build: Bard 7 (college of swords). The position of Vermillion Bird grants +1 to all saves and +1 dmg per dice on spells).


The oligarchy has a few other notable figures.

Sarbodaya:  The 2nd son of the Oligarch, and the effective leader, given the stupidity of the firstborn and the senility of the father.  He is in his late 20s but wise for his age.  Has a magic blade in a bejeweled scabbard trust through a green silk sash, and a star broach on his shoulder.   Wants the best for his oligarchy, his main concerns about finances and food supplies - he is confident that he will handle the succession, and trust the warrior-mages will handle defence issues. He is served by the chamberlain Vo Mang and by Dumat the Sage

The nameless one: A humble priest, who tends the great well in the middle of the valley.  Has sacrificed this name to the power in the well. Recent crop failures has lead him to fear that the well has been corrupted somehow and is busy doing sacrifices to appease the well spirit.  The well spirit is not a god, but an Elder water elemental, who *will* come out to defend his humble servitor.



Namarata:  The oligarchy is renowned for its grand Seraglio, the  Bronze Nymph, and Namarata runs the place.  A woman of unknown origins, seemingly in her 40s, she is rumored to be a sorceress given that she has been in this position for the last 80 years.  Rumors that some of her employees are nymphs are correct.  She is intelligence and wields considerable influence in the valley.  She is served by Ra U Nak, a long armed bald eunuch (the opium master) and by the head guard Samir, a eunuch warrior who is quietly in love with her.  She knows, but pretends not to notice.   


Dumat the Sage:  The Oligarch's house wizard, a man in his late thirties, originally from the Yellow City.  Dumat has a secret - he isn't a wizard at all, he is a "fraud" .  He fears being discovered, and constantly seeks more magical items (or money to aquire them) to keep up the appearances.  He has gathered so far a cape of billowing, a staff or display (which holds aloft a large pink crystal made of quartz with a continual flame spell upon it), a wand of detect magic, a ring of the ram and a number of potions.  He's also managed to master the spell of sleep, prestidigitation and dancing light.  Despite his deep insecurity, the Oligarch is satisfied with Dumat's services, as he's actually become a decent pseudo-caster by now and is fairly knowledgeable about all things magic.  Dumat is very in love with the nymph.
Dumat is served by Grum, the figment. Grum wears burlap robes and a rune-engraved bronze collar. Grum has existed for so long now that he has gained "realness" and now has 3 HD. Can cast grease 3/time a day, minor illusion at will, invisibility 3/day, stinking cloud 1/day.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

The Zeugma Campaign: Gaming in Pseudo-earth

I'm going to try something new - instead of posting a play report of a session, I'm going to post a play report of a *campaign*.  This game happened in 2008-2009, used the 2e Warhammer frpg system (modified), was set on a pseudo earth in 1150, and was centered around the city of Zeugma.  Zeugma was a city in Modern-day Turkey that bridges the Euphrates, and is at the point where the East and West meet.

I have tons of material on Zeugma but... does anyone care?  Well, let's first see what occurred in the campaign (I think some of these can be mined for adenture ideas, given that they were all adventures we ran ha.)  After that, I'll give a few comments on what I learned running this.

(Party members:  Orzad, the dwarven pit-fighter, Amandyl the elven "bounty hunter" (a runaway noble), Peklar the Armenian ex-bandit and Mahmud, the Turkish right-hand man of Jaffar the Merchant.)

1: The campaign begins. Party hired by Jaffar, an ambitious merchant, to guard a rented warehouse where some his goods are stored. It turns out the owner of the warehouse hasn't been paying protection money to the local thieves' guild.

2: Fake brigandry. The party becomes retainers of Jaffar. He asks the party to perform a delicate task - to create the illusion of a heavy brigand presence upon a certain trade route. They aren't to actually kill anyone, just scare travelers.  However, the party is forced to intervene to save pilgrims from Turkish raiders. The party encounters Hassan, a mysterious Turkish bowman, who intervenes in their favor. The party also encounters Stephanos of Trebizon and his group.

3: Lost and Found: The party hears rumors of a lost magical item within the city and starts looking for it. It turns out that this is a training exercise by the local mage guild. However, the party also learns of another, much more powerful item being smuggled in the city - a wand infused with the deadly ice magic, Omptose Phellac. The party makes the acquaintance of Valmaxian, a reclusive elven sorcerer; Agda the witch; Alcanter the Blue; Thrain Silvertouched (the Spirit Satrap) and of Feanaro Culnamo, an "elven” “shop" “owner".

4: Grave Hunt: The scribe Ophelos has found an old parchment indicating the true location of the tomb of Selecus I Nicator, founder of Zeugma (one of Alexander's generals). The city approaches the party to go on an expedition in exchange for a share of the treasure. After a few days of travel, the tomb is found inside a barrow which the locals swear is haunted. After defeating the goblins inside (who were tricking the peasants into making offerings) and the undead guardians, the tomb is secured, will with many historical artefacts and quite a lot of treasure, including the griffin's claw, an enchanted sword made of Damascus steel.

5: Liberation of Carablos: Rumors of war, as Joscelin II is captured by Nur Ad Din as they were ambushed while looking for Turkish raiders. Jaffar has report that the town of Carablos, a critical supply point on the way to Baghdad, is extorting travelers under the order of a new governor. Party investigates and is joined by a mysterious vagrant, Assad the lepper. The governor turns out to be consorting with necromancers and worse, and Assad to be a Turk not to cross. Violent confrontation ensues.

6: The Zeugma Hastildude: Party members take part in traditional martial games, demonstrating archery, riding and swordsmanship. A jousting demonstration is done and is deemed to be a silly western practice. The party does well - Orzad reaches the semi final and loses vs Christophoros, the reigning champion of the melee (Christophoros is then defeated by a newcomer, Du Hamel, a templar). Peklar wins the horse-race, and Amandil reaches the archery finals.  Mahmud is trained by Assad.

7: Property fraud: a complex scheme is unleashed upon Zeugma, where the conman sells tiny parcels of lands to commoners to give them the right to vote. As the next election will be for the Spirit Satrap, religious tensions flare. The party attempts to investigate *and* profit. The conman escapes!

8: A trip to Antep: The party pursues the conman to the nearby city of Antep, as a large bounty is on his head. On the way, meet NubZeb the goblin. Antep situation made complicated by the conman hiring local thief guild as protection, by members of the Zeugma thief guild also being after the bounty, by actual assassins being after the conman *and* by Antep being besieged by the Sultanate of Rum! Nubzeb is instrumental in gaining acess as he knows of a secret tunnel. The conman is killed, his money seized by Antep authorities, and some dwarves escape Antep and migrate to Zeugma with the party.

9: A trip to Abu Kabal: Jaffar realizes that with the disruption from the conman, the success of a Zeugma caravan on its way back from Baghdad is suddenly of grave import. The party goes south to rejoin the caravan and help escort it north back to safety. After traveling 150 leagues, the caravan is found. On the way back to Zeugma, the caravan is beset by a habboob - a sandstorm. 3 desert ogres - far more cunning than ordinary ogres and wielding magic, use the cover of the storm to attack.

10: Anti-Banditry: Antep pays tribute to the Turks of the Sultanate of Rum, who abandon their siege - for now. While the party was away, Jaffar organized a small caravan going east, which was attacked by bandits. Jaffar wants revenge, his goods back but most importantly two things:  a magical ring that "can see ahead" *and* a very valuable slave. The party dispenses justice, retrieves the ring and travels to Edessa, the fallen crusaser city, which has become a camp for slave traders and where the slave has been sent. On the way, the party meets Cengis the mule skinner, and Crius, a large mysterious being guarding a hidden door. The slave turns out to be a Circassian beauty that is highly educated in the codes of law - a bride for the Paper Satrap.

11: A trip to Aleppo: Valmaxian examines Jaffar's new ring and declares it to be not a divination tool but the ring of many parts, which can be used to retrieve an ancient magical item hidden beneath the Citadel of Aleppo - the staff of storms! The party agrees to help. What follows is *extremely* eventful, with earthquakes, the staff retrieved, Joscellin II, count of Edessa, found and rescued and the woman Le-ka, resurrected but put inside a golden automaton, who now claims to be the Avatar of Ishtar, Goddess of love and war.

12: Upward Mobility: Jaffar tries to become a council member on the merchant guild. Someone tries to assassinate "him" - but his servant is the true target. Templars are involved, and the assassin's guild is not happy someone is poaching on their turf. An arrangement is made with the templars - but Agda the witch foresees blood - BLOOOOOOODD!!! Hassan informs party that Jaffar is still in danger. While traveling on protection detail, the party is attacked by would be assassins - but the party proves to be the anvil upon which the local assassins hammer the would be interlopers. Many dead. Jaffar wins election. Amandil dreams of bloody pyramid.

13: Delaying action: Nur Ad Din is enraged by Joscelin II's escape and decides to strike Turbesell (Joscelin's forteress) before Joscelin is ready. Zeugma decides to help covertly - the party, some assassins (Hassans, Assad and *the black dwarf of zeugma!!!*), an Amber mage and other sell-swords (including Stephanos's group) are recruited to start guerrilla campaign. Party convinces goblins to help. Enemy scouts are ambushed, bridges are torched, horses are spooked, siege engines are burned down and enemy mages are furiously murdered. Eventually, Armenian relief force shows up, and Nur Ad Din withdraws.

14: Jailbreak: The Egyptian (elven) Ambassador has learned that Valmaxian has left and is a follower of Set, the imprisoned dark elf/god.  The Staff of storm is a key to release him.  The Blue guild foresees a key "fork" event and are troubled. Agda the witch flees the city. Party has doubt, as Set's imprisonment could be considered unjust. They return to the hidden valley where they previously met Crius (who is no longer present). They do not manage to stop Valmaxian in time, and Set is released at night. Set rises his hand and  blots the moon.  He and declares that there are not four elements, there are five. Once the darkness disperses and the moon returns to normal, Set and his servants are gone.

And that was it!   The campaign had a 2nd arc, where the consequences of Set's release were explored, in 2014, but that would be best kept for another post.  This text was originally a recap for the players starting the 2nd arc.

Lessons learned from this campaign:

1: The Warhammer system works well to simulate a lowish fantasy setting, such as a pseudo earth, and it doesn't have to be used exclusively for the Warhammer setting.  It takes a lot less work to run a game than in 3.X, pathfinder or even 5e, leaving the GM more time to think about more important things (who are the NPCs, what do they want etc).  One of the reason for it is that the great majority of careers ("classes" in Warhammer) are not magic users.

2:  However it is not perfect.  There is a lot of "whiffing" (fights were combatants are all missing each other) at first, some of the rules are a bit peculiar, and the career system *really* isn't for everyone.  One of my players (who later departed, not listed above) had a huge problem with not being able to design his character exactly how he wanted, and instead having to rely on a random roll to tell him what his lot in life would be.

2b:  Adding bits of Dragon Warriors to a game is always a good idea.  Although almost all the adventures were original content, A Grave Hunt heavily borrowed on a Dragon Warriors module.  Goblins and trolls were based on Dragon Warriors description, and I adapted the Dragon Warriors magical systems to Warhammer.

3:  I had a lot of fun running a city campaign, although half the action was outside the city walls.   It requires a good understanding of how the city works, what are the factions, what do they want.  Looking back, I think I should have injected a little bit more chaos in there - I think that once you have an entire city in  your mind, you can become reluctant to shake the boat too much, and that can be detrimental

4:  As I am older, I have reservations now that I did not have back then.  To weave a "pseudo-earth" and the fantasy races, I had the elves being Egyptians (and originally refugees from Atlantis), dwarves were analogous to the Jews, and the Turks were hobgoblins.  I put in a lot of effort to be realistic and not mono-dimensional.  However, I am sure that no matter how well I did it, some would find the very concept profoundly offensive.  I *really* thought Zeugma was interesting (I started taking notes on Zeugma in 2004, I let things percolate in my mind for a long time sometimes), but I'm hesitant to publish the setting.

4b:  While pseudo-earth is "easy" because there is tons of material out there (see https://www.akdn.org/publication/aga-khan-trust-culture-citadel-aleppo-description-history-site-plan-visitor-tour-Syria - I was able to turn the citadel in this crazy multi level dungeon that was historically plausible!) - there are also... links to real life situation.  Aleppo suffered terribly during the Syrian civil war, is it "cool" now to have a game there today?  :/   The second art of this campaign occurred, in part, in the Tarim basin, aka Xinjiang, where the Uighurs are currently undergoing  terrible persecutions.  When I ran the 2nd arc of campaign things were nowhere as bad, now it feels... bad... to use it as a gaming setting.

4c:  This also applies to events of *back then* that still reverberates today - things like the crusades, tensions between faiths (or between the various sects of the same faith)… I think it makes for good gaming material, but it's perilous to publish.

5:  Different groups prefer different style of play and freedom.  I don't like railroading, but on the other hand my group likes to be "pointed towards the plot".  Having a patron saying "I have a problem, take care of it please" and then letting the PCs loose really works well for my gaming group.  I knew what the problem was, who the people involved were and what they wanted, but how it played out depended on my PCs.  Sometimes they really surprised me.

Teas, Opiums, Poisons and Kojos: use in play and a few examples.

Someone on Discord wanted to expand their use of opium in a Yoon-Suin game.  I thought about sending them my notes, but then I realized I could clean said notes up and make a post out of them instead!  Two birds in one stone etc.

I have to admit something though - these were not a big hit with my players.  But I think it's not because of the "flavor" of the items (although some players distrust drugs, probably for good reason).  Rather, most of my players will be thrilled to get a consumable item and... never use them. Potions of strenght, heroism etc remain unused.  Interesting, items that are more  utility than combat oriented see more usage, but even then many items get on a character sheet and are promptly forgotten.  Some bloggers have suggested that there is a "too good to be used" phenomenon going on.  Basically, players feel "sure I could use this potion now to help me fight the ogre, but there could be a giant next week!"   And when they meet the giant, it's "but there could be a dragon tomorrow!" etc.

So you know your group - do they use consumables or not?  If they don't, don't put too much effort into these.  (EDIT:  Wombat from the OSR Discord server suggested that these should have a shelf life - use it or lose it in other words.  I never implemented this, but it seems like a good idea...)

So with that cheerful intro, here is what I've used in my Yoon-Suin Campaign so far (I've tried to exclude the examples from the book, but I might have missed some?)

TEAS
Tea of the Third quality:   day to day black tea that almost everyone drinks
Tear of the Second quality:  Green tea, quite nice
Tea of the first quality: there are usually almost never any of this tea as a "generic", everything is "special"

- Emerald Green:  1 rupee per *cup*.  Brilliant green tea, excellent.
- Fighter's brew:  Deep brown tea.  Caused lethargy and the drinker to sleep almost a full day. However, healing dice have advantage and double amount gained.  2 gp per pot
 - Mountain's delight:  Pale orange tea.  Intriguing flavor with a mineral tint.   1 Paisa a cup
 - Amethyst Jasmin, a deep purple brew with aphrodisiac properties.  Cost a staggering 80 rupee a pot as it is grown in a single farm and contains amethyst powder.
- The Yellow Tea.
- The Unseen Brew.


KOJO STICKS
- The Kojo of inner fire:  This reddish tobacco increased energy, removing up to two levels of exhaustion.  Not recommended before bedtime (and eating a solid meal is a good idea too).
- The kojo of beneficial health:  This pale grey tobacco speeds up natural healing.  All hit dice healing rolls get rolled twice and keep the highest (eating also recommended).  This effect last one day.
- The kojo of bliss:  This dark green tobacco makes you blissful for 2d6 hours.
- The Kojo of Yoon:  This dark purple kojo stick reeks of Yoon, the common purple spice used by almost everyone.  Smoking this kojo makes the smoker immune to hunger for a *week*.
- The kojo of the moon.  This brilliant white kojo stick is almost without odor and burns with an invisible flame.  Gain advantage on perception for 1 hour.
- Black Kojo:  a particularly strong kojo, no magical effect
- Pale Kojo:  a very smooth one.  No magical effect. 
- Orange Kojo:  Flavored with orange rind
- Riverweed Kojo: everyday kojo, a bit uneven in quality.
- Kojo of Endless Air.  The smoke of this Kojo is almost flavorless but tingly.  It loads the body with oxygen, allowing one to go without air for 1d3 hours (great for water exploration, also for high altitude sickness)

No prices were set for these, as they were obtained and traded with Lamarakhi clans (small rewards, favors etc)... and yet never used :(

OPIUMS:
- The Brown Imp:  A brown opium, smoked in a pipe.  Acts as relaxant tea. Save vs poison DC 12 or see demons cavorting at the periphery of vision (this save can be failed on purpose, as many users find the cavorting entertaining).  Addictiveness:  14%, DC save 10 to half the % .  Costs 7 rupees a dose.  Produced in large quantities, but expensive due to its popularity, frequently on the menu at slugmen parties and social functions.
- Jasper Judge, a black poppy:  Eaten in the left mouth.   Cause lack of sleep and keen judge of moral character.   Potency 6 (16%), save DC 11.  Costs 5 rupees a dose.  Often used by negotiators.
- Fierce Heart: A red poppy, which is smoked into a pipe.  An aphrodisiac and a stimulant, it boost energy (+1 damage for 1d6 hours).  Potency 19, save DC 14.  Costs 9 sp per dose. 
- The Rainbow Storm:  A purple opium, crushed and then mixed with boiling tea.  Hallucinogen, colors are super bright and chaotic (disadvantage to many checks) for 1d4+1 hours.  Addictiveness:  Potency 6.  DC save 10 to half the %.  Costs 4 rupees a dose

(the rules for potency and addiction can be found in the Yoon Suin book).

POISONS
- Sea's blight: onset 1d6 minutes, debilitation 1d3 days/1d3 hours, a squid that hunts sea snakes (local product), uncommon (IN 5e, debilitation is 3 levels of exhaustion... there is a 5e "poisoned" effect with is sufficient for most poisons though) . DC save is 13
- Alchemical Jug Basic poison. Skin contact onset 1d4 minutes, DC 10. Injury onset immediate, DC 12. 2D6 dmg, poisoned, check every 4 hours until pass.
- Foe-stopper: A somewhat weak poison obtained from the boxfish toxin. Save DC 12, Poisoned 1d4 rounds. A weapon-applied poison, immediate onset. Weakens muscle for a short period of time
- Black Centipede poison: Injury immediate onset, DC 13. Damage 1d10. Poisoned (save every round)

The main use for these were not by the PCs, but by the *foes*.  Brigands using poison on their arrows can really spice up a fight!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Star Wars Economics - energy, shipping and labor.

Someone asked in the OSR discord group about sci fi economics, and so I have a few comments.

First we have to narrow our scope - I'm going to stick to Star Wars economics, as expressed in the Star Wars Saga system.  The prices in the system seem vaguely calibrated to 1 credit = 2 dollars.  I suspect the original intent was that 1 credit = 1 dollar, but with inflation that sum shrunk (interesting mental exercise:  if 10 000 credit (Han Solo's fee for transport) was in 1977 dollars, that's about 41 000 dollars today... I wonder if Disney will make those adjustments).

1:  Energy
So anyway, we need our "economic yardstick".  What is the "most true" price that we can use?  I suggest energy, more precisely "starship fuel" (I forget the term) It's worth 50 credits per kg, and 1 kg can power a modest start starship for 1 day.  Other "high energy" operations (taking off a planet, jumping into hyperdrive, fighting) also take 1 kg of fuel.  If a light freighter can carry 100 tons, fuel, even if 90% of it is "packaging"  (containment fields etc, I imagine this is very "volatile" stuff, perhaps an exotic form of matter), i.e. 100 kg of fuel per 1 ton of carrying capacity, that's still a whooping 5000 credit per ton, or half a million credit for a full load.  That's a large sum to be carrying around.

So energy is super valuable right?  Well... no.  The amount of energy to have a spaceship reach orbit is *staggering*.  Modern rockets are what, 90% fuel by weight?  We know that this fact is also reflected in game.  The GNK power droid (the "Gonk droid") carried about 1 kg of fuel and could power a startship for a day... or power a house for an indeterminate period of time - it would eventually run out after a number of years, but it's essentially "day to day" power for a fraction of a credit per day.  So your monthly power bill, for the average citizen living in an ordinary dwelling, would be trivial - a few credits at most, possibly far less.  This means that energy is *very plentiful*.  Only high energy users (spaceship, heavy industry, planetary defences) need worry about its cost.  A light freighter bringing a load of starship fuel to a distant outpost is going to be disappointed, they will probably only need a few tons *at most* for the year.  The main demand is probably the starport, who would resell it to other spaceships.

The fact that a GNK can transform startship fuel into usable energy (electricity I'm assuming), means that the process of using this starship fuel isn't *that* complicated.  You can't burn it in a boiler, but if a semi-smart walking generator only costs a few thousand credits at most, clearly these generators are pretty plentiful too.  This means that energy is "fungible", probably easily converted from one form to another.  You can import all your energy need in starship fuel as a planet, why bother with bulky and dirty things like crude oil?  Let them burn it on their planet and pollute it, you aren't dirtying your own!

If energy is fungible and very plentiful, it probably means that there may not be be that much money selling it; because the margins are probably pretty thin.  So as a light weight freighter captain, unless you are selling to a place with a very high demand (isolated, disaster/war area) or finding a very cheap source of energy (a planet close to a star that specialize in making fuel and sells it for less than 50 credit/kg; or perhaps battlefield loot), it's not that exciting.


2:  Shipping cost
This leads us to a next consideration:  are you, as a freight captain, buying and selling, or are you carrying other people's stuff for a fee?  How big should this fee be?  In other words, what are the shipping costs?

So I'm going to be considering 2 ships - firs the YT-1300, in part because it's famous (Millennium Falcon) but also because it's a good example of a generic light freighter (we'll be using the generic stats, not the souped up millennium falcon).  The second will be a large volume cargo ship, but not something amazing - so the GR-75 medium transport (ie the "rebel transport") will do.

The YT-1300 can carry 100 tons, has 2 crews and a hyperspace speed of 2
The GR-75 can carry a whooping 19 000 tons, has a crew of 5 and a hyperspace speed of 4 (bigger is worse in this system).

Let's first look at trip lenght and fuel cost.  Let's assume that the trip is form the surface of a planet to the surface of another planet in another s

Fuel wise, a YT needs one unit of fuel (1 kg) to take off the planet.  Then it will take a day (another unit) to reach the outside of the system.  Jumping to hyperspace requires one unit of fuel.

The lenght of a trip in hyperspace is (to use the simple Saga rules) 1d6 x hyperspeed rating (we're going to assume 3.5 average, and ignore complications or hyperspace lanes etc).  So 2x3.5 = 7 days in space, or 7 units of fuel.  Then 1 more day to reach the planet, and 1 unit to land.

This means that the YT 1300 will need 12 units of fuel (600 credits) and 9 days to do a delivery.

The GR-75 has a similar calculation, except that its hyperspeed rating is 4, so it's trip in hyperspace will take twice as long - the trip will be 16 days, and require 19 units of fuel.

We'll take a pause here and talk about fuel consumption.  In SAGA, a starship uses 1 kg of fuel as a "unit", but a capital ship (frigate-class) uses 100 kg.  But what about ship that are bigger than a light freighter, but not quite a capital ship (like the GR-75).  It doesn't say.  I changed this in my game - corvette sized capital ships used 50 kg, and I would eyeball (sorry) the GR-75 to use about 30 kg per unit.  This results in 19 X 30 = 570 kg of fuel, or a whooping 28 500 credits worth of fuel!  

But what about other costs?  Consumables (oxygen, water etc) is 10 per person per day, so this means 180 credits for the YT, and 960 for the GR-75.   Docking fees are about 20 for a small freighter and... 200 for a bigger one?

General maintenance is 4 days worth of fuel in cost per 20 trips.  This can be spread over each trip for accounting purpose so 10 credits for the YT, and 300 for the GR-75

3: Labor
Last is the crew cost.  This is... harder to estimate, but we can give it a go.  There is an "upkeep" cost (ie cost of living) given of 1000/month credits for average, and 500 for struggling.  How much is the average spacer paid?  I'm going to say 500, because they also receive benefits - they have a place to live inside the ship and they get "space food".  That leaves 500 credits to buy clothes, drinks at the port etc etc.  Seems reasonable.

So crew salary is 9/30 X 2 X 500 or 300 for the YT, and 1600 for the GR-75.

Back to Shipping cost
Total cost for the trip in a light freighter is 600 (fuel) + 20 (docking) + 10 (maintenance) + 180 (consumable) + 300 (salary) = 1 110 credits, or about 11 credits per ton of cargo.  If you want to run a profit, you probably want to charge at least 20 credits per ton of cargo (or 2000 for a load), much more if there are any risks involved.

The GR-75's total cost is 28 500 (fuel) +200 (docking) + 300 (maintenance) + 960 (consumable) + 1600 (salary) = 31 560 credits, which is enormous.  *However* your cost per ton of cargo is *much much* lower, 1.66 credit per ton.  You could ship at 5 credits per tons of cargo and make way much more money than a light freighter.

This means that as a light freight captain, if you are buying and selling (and not merely transporting for someone else), you need higher margins to operate than a large cargo ship. If you buy 100 tons of Trandoshan beans at 120 credits a tons, you better hope that you can sell them for 140 credits a ton!  Meanwhile, the GR-75 captain would only need to sell them at 125 to be profitable (but needs to find someone willing to buy 19 000 tons of it).

So why are light freighters used at all?  Well, not all shipments are 19 000 tons.  The light freighters tend to be faster and can make more runs per months than a large cargo ship.  They are better at avoiding detection and trouble.  They are more flexible, and can respond to opportunities and emergencies better (oh planet such and such has a famine?  Let's bring them beans, we'll make a fortune!)  They are useful to smuggle illicit goods, or pick up passengers.   The last 2 are probably particularly important.   In fact, I suspect that for many light freighter crews, the "normal" cargo was just a way to cover some costs and, more importantly, provide them with a cover of legitimacy.  "Why are we here?  Why we are delivering Trandoshan beans, that is all sir!  Everything is in order!"


Conclusions:

1:  I am satisfied with using the kg of fuel as an economic yardstick.  Always think of energy when designing planets.   I imagine some rickety outposts have power generating stations consisting of little more than a few dozen Gonk droids standing in a room, wired to the ceiling and gonking away.  Even though it is plentiful, energy still remains fundamentally important.  Wars will be fought over it, just like today.  Shipping is the lifeblood of the economy, and to do that, you need starship fuel.

2:  Time is money.   The easiest way to cut costs for a starship is to get a better hyperdrive.  If the GR-75 had a hyperdrive rating of 2, its cost would almost drop by half.

3:  There is a need for light freighters, especially on the fringe - and for GMs, that's good because that is where the interesting stuff happens!

4:  Labor costs explain droids, economically speaking.  Another way for a ship to cut costs it to replace a few crew members (who costs 6000 per year) with droids.  Droids costs a few thousand credits each, but would pay themselves off in less than a year  (there must be a "job stealing droid" sentiment...).  I'll also note that "adventuring ships" (ie light freighters with the party on board) will cost more than the standard light freighter because of all those extra people, not to mention all the extra guns and shields the adventurers probably want to have on board...

5:  When Han Solo asked for 10 000 credits to give Luke and Obi-wan a lift, considering the circumstances, wasn't completely outrageous

6:  In the Mandalorian, when Mando says "5000, that barely cover fuel costs these days" … either his ship is *very* fuel inefficient, fuel costs have gone up drastically, or bounty hunting involves several jumps.

7:  Piracy is interesting because of logistics.  If a band of pirates convert three YT-1300 into gunboats and capture a GR-75, there is no way that they can steal its entire cargo, they don't have the hold!  So either they collect valuables and steal fuel *or* they steal the entire ship, but now selling the cargo is difficult...

8:  There is more to say about this - economies are complex, even more so galactic one.  But a full simulation is impossible AND not necessary.  How to use this in a game will have to be another blog post...



Sunday, January 5, 2020

More Grimoire spells

I thought that was nearing the end of my effort to translate the Petit Albert Spells.  I'm clearly not going to do all of them.  Some are boring, repetitious or of dubious adventuring use - although creative players can use almost any spell to their adventage.  However, once I made a list of spells I did want to translate I realized that there are still quite a few, so this will not be the last post on this book.

After I'm done, I probably will start on a different Grimore - the Grimoire du Pape Honorius.   Eventually out of all of this I will try to publish a class, a system, a spell list, something to use some of this.  Perhaps, if we are very lucky, someone more talented than I will take a crack at it.

Also, now that I think that we all know what the format and feel of these spells is,  I'm going to be slightly less "faithful" to the voice of the original author - I'm going to be trying to be a little bit clearer and concise, and especially try to fix the run-on sentences.


Another love spell

Live chastely for at least 5 or 6 days, and on the seventh day (preferably a Friday), eat and drink foods of a warm nature that excite you to love.  When you feel in that state, have an informal conversation with the object of your passion, and ensure that they can look at you continuously, as you look at them, for 15-30 seconds.  The visual rays will meet and will be a powerful vehicle for love; so much so that they will penetrate the heart, overcoming pride and cynicism.  It can be difficult to convince someone who is prudish or shy to look at you directly for more than a moment.  However, one can achieve that by telling them that one has learned a secret divination that can learn about their future (hapiness, long life, etc) or some other thing that will peak the interest of the target of your affection; tell them that the divination requires direct eye contact for a few moments.

There are so many love spells in this book, so here is one.  Of course love spells can be used in adventuring!  I like this one in particular because you can only cast it one someone you love - no funky ingredients or incantations, just the magic of the souls.  Incidentally, the above spell is also mediocre dating advice... not great, but it's better dating advice than some of the dreck I've seen online.



An impotence spell (and the counters)

Have the member of a freshly slain (term is unclear) wolf and approach the door of the target.  Call him by his proper name, and when he replies, tie the member of the wolf with a piece of white thread, and he will be so impotent to be as castrated.

To prevent this spell from working on you, simply wear a ring in which is set the right eye of a weasel.  To counter the spell, the ancients assure us that the "oiseau rain" (some type of bird, I cannot find the meaning) will cure this spell by eating it following fasting, roasted with blessed salt.  Burning the teeth of a man who has since died and inhaling the smoke will also free you from the charm.  Also, a torch made of oat or wheat straw put under the head of the bed of someone affected will work.  If both the man and the woman are affected by this charm, the man must pee through the wedding ring while the woman holds the ring.

Why is this relevant to adventuring? Politics that's why!  If the King can't have an heir...  It's also interesting to see the numerous protection against it, although I the translation of this was challenging.




To be fortunate at games of skill and luck.

Take an eel that died due to want of water, and take the bile of a bull killed by the fury of dogs.  Put the bile inside the skin of the eel, along with a dram of vulture blood.  Tie shut both end of the eel skin with rope from a hanged man, then put it inside hot manure for 15 days.  You will then dry it in an oven that is heated with ferns harvested on the eve of the Saint-Jean (Saint-Jean Baptiste in June?). You will take this to make a bracelet, and on this bracelet you will write, with a crow quill and in your own blood the following letters HVTY.  By wearing this bracelet on  your arm, you will make a fortune everywhere.



To keep drunkenness at bay, followed by to remove drunkenness

As nothing is as worthy as man's reason, and as it's often lost via excesses of win, it is convenient to give him protection against this.  If you are invited to some meal where you fear succumbing to Bacchus's tender violence, you will drink before getting to the table two spoonfuls of water of betony (bishop's wort) and one spoonful of good olive oil, and you will be able to drink wine in complete peace of mind.  You will be careful that your cup does not smell of nail trimmings or the savory herb, as both are ingredients can strongly contribute to drunkenness.  If you have been surprised and are already drunk, you must wrap your genitals in a cloth drench in a strong vinegar, and you will return to your senses. 

That last piece of advice... oy.


The antidote to said deadly stink and other misamas

(in a previous entry, I showed the translation for a deadly miasma spell.  Here is the counter)

To be warded against these deadly infections, here is a sovereign antidote that will triumph against all sorts of venoms and poisons.

Take two handfuls of leaves of common Saint John's wort  in season (before the flowers have fallen).  Infuse them in four pounds of olive oil in the sun for ten days.  Then put them in a bain marie with hot water, press the leaves to remove the juices and put them in a vessel of thick glass.  When the common Saint John's wort has flowered and is seeding, take a handful of these flowers and seeds in this glass vessel, and make it boil in a bain marie for 1 hour.  Add 30 scorpions, one viper and a green frog from which you have removed the head and feet.  Boil for a short while, then add 2 ounces of powdered, minced or crushed of each of the following:   gentian root, fraxinella, small or great fortelle or its root (no idea what this is), septfoil, rhubarb, Armenian bole, properly prepared theriac and a bit of crushed emerald.

Close the vessel well and expose all this to the sun during a heat wave, you will then digest this for three month in warm manure.  After all this you will funnel this composition in a tin or strong glass vase.  To use it, rub it around the heart, the temples, the nostrils, flanks and along the spine.  It will also cure the bite of poisonous beasts.



As part of the argument to prove that magic is "natural", a spell to keep snakes at bay

It has been noted that in Switzerland and Sweden, where there are many snakes because of the mountains, that said snakes fear the Greek language.  They fear the efficient virtue of the three words "osy, osya, osy" so much so that they will plug one of their ears with the tip of their tail and press the other ear against the ground so to not hear these words.  This makes them immobile and stupefied, unable to hurt men and women.

This argument was important because magic had to be seen as respectable, a result of natural laws, and NOT dark satanic powers!  I also note that this is probably the easiest spell to cast in the entire book, and pretty easy to test too.  (spoiler: it won't work).


To make a treasure finding candle

... I will end on this topic with a spell given by Cardan to know if a treasure is where we are digging.  He claims you need a large candle, made of human tallow, and that it must be set in a piece of hazelwood as illustrated.



If the candle, lit in an underground place, sparks and crackles, it means the treasure is in this areas, and the candle will sparkle even more as you get closer to the treasure.  The candle will go out when you are right besides the treasure (thus have other light source at hand!). 

There is also advice to have blessed candles at hand if you think spirits are near the treasure, and that you should ask them what you can do for them to put them at peace (and that you should do said things).  Even back then undead in dungeons were a problem!



The hand of glory - a candle made from the hand of a hanged man, which stupefies those seeing it (allowing you to rob a place)

I must admit that I have never personally tested the secret of the hand of glory, but three time I assisted the definitive convictions of outlaws who admitted, under torture, to having used the hand of glory in their robberies. These interrogations revealed these detail.  The hand of glory is made from the hand of a hanged man, and its use is to stupefy and turn immobile those to whom it was presented to so that they would be unable to resist.  The hand was prepared thus:  a hand (left or right) of a hung man exposed on the side of a road is taken and well pressed in a funerary shroud to get all remaining blood out.  It is then put in a clay pot with a powder made of well pulverized zimat (this may be cinnamon), saltpetre, salt and long pepper, and left there for 15 days.  It must then be removed and dried in the sun during a heatwave until it is very dry.  If the sun doesn't suffice, it must be in an oven heated with ferns and vervain.  

You will then make a sort of candle with the fat of the hung man, virgin wax and sesame of Lapland (is there such a thing?!?), and the hand of glory will be used as a sort of chandelier to hold this lit candle, and in all places one goes with this macabre instrument, those present will be stuck immobile.

aaaaaand now we see why the authorities would try to band this book.  I also like how the author makes very casual reference to torture - different times.  But he continues on:

A ward that will stop the hand of glory from working

When the thieves were asked if there was no way to ward oneself against this artifice, the criminals reveled that the hand of glory will lose effect and that the thieves will not be able to use it if the door sill (or other area where the thieves would enter) was rubbed ith an ointment made of bile (?) of a black cat, fat of a white chicken and blood of an owl, and that this ointment must be prepared during a heat wave.