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.