Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Player's Campaign Questions [Galbaruc] Part 2.

Picking up from the last post:  This batch of questions is from Antion:

Where do I live? How private is it? Enough to muffle a scream?

All native PCs begin play as boarders at a Low Lodging House run by a 'Mother Clinkscales.'  It's a shabbily respectable looking structure in a disreputable corner of the Contrada of the Shark.  It is overcrowded, indifferently maintained, and offers little to no privacy.  On the plus side, fewer stabbings are reported to take place on the premises, guests may store bulky or cumbersome items in a locked storeroom, and Mother Clinkscales herself has a reputation for honesty, discretion,  and even a touching proprietary concern on behalf of her boarders.

Where did I go to school? How prestigious is that?  

Galbaruc has its own university, though it has a reputation as a breeding ground for heresy, hedonism, and weird fringe philosophy.  There is also a medical school, whose curriculum occilates between the archaic and the dangerously experimental.  Most people have no education beyond a simple grammar school (and even that's a rarity in the countryside and the poorer parts of the city), so a University education of any sort is extremely prestigious, a fact often exploited by charlatans.

How many people care what religion I am? What if I'm an atheist?

Though nominally Urizenite, Galbaruc is more religiously pluralistic than many of its neighbors, and the local form of Urizen's faith are considered by more Orthodox believers to be hopelessly corrupt, compromised, and riddled with heresy, superstition, and foreign influences.  Many foreign and indigenous gods have been syncretized as Saints, and in the countryside, especially, older religions are practiced alongside the new.  Even in the city itself, indigenous gods such as Yash-Kunag and Seppophis are worshipped openly by more heterodox Urizenites, and the rites of Yash-Kunag are tied with the panoply and rituals of state.

That said, there is a sizable minority of hardline Urizenites, and brawls and even pitched battles between opposing sects and faiths have been known to take place.  Religious prejudices may inform legal decisions and hiring practices.

Atheists are mostly found around the University, and in artistic circles.  They are considered by the majority to be odd, overeducated, and delusional, but are generally tolerated outside of orthodox Urizenite circles.  Many atheists find gainful employment during the Festival of the Great Culling, as their skepticism makes them less succeptable to the awe-inducing aura of the godlings.

Finally, atheist "clerics" exist.  They do not attribute their wonder-working powers to a deity, and offer their own explanations (if any) for their strange abilities.

What languages do I speak? Common, Ancient, Foreign?

Most people in the city speak "Common."

Other languages encountered so far include:

Zhaibari -- The dominant language of the nearby Sultanate
Kozak -- Language of the rampaging hordes.  Hyperborean's hillbilly nephew, twice removed.
Hyperborean - Dominant tongue of the 'civilized' regions of the Far North.  Lots of dialects.

Some Scholarly/Dead/Exotic languages include:

Classical Hyberborean
Ancient Hyperzephyrian
Northern Tlönic
Southern Tlönic

How easy is it to acquire new magic-user spells?

Access to M-U spells is pretty much limited to what you can find while adventuring and what you can get from other M-Us in the city.  Usually this would involve joining an Occult Order, but theft is also an option.

Is "adventurer" its own social class? How shitty can I treat commoners (or vice versa)?

Adventurers occupy a similar status to actors in Renaissance Europe and Genroku Era Japan -- dangerous, disreputable, and lower-class, but often possessed of a certain glamour and swaggering style that captures the imagination of their betters.

Most common people treat them as they would a chapter of Hell's Angels -- with an amount of distaste mixed with fear of physical violence.

Where can I buy or sell something illegal? (Drugs? Poison? A dead body?)

The subterranean Night Market, which changes locations frequently, is the place to go.  In addition, many unassuming shops do a brisk trade in contraband goods in back rooms and under the counter, if the customer knows who to ask. 

Can I auto-buy new equipment while in town or shouId I ask you to bust out your Ye Olde ShoppeKeep voice?

Standard equipment you can auto-buy unless you're in the middle of fighting a small army of waterlogged living corpses dragging themselves out of the canals or something.  Something exotic or custom-built I'll either do as a scene in-game or settle with you outside of the game so as not to slow things down.

Is a rapier v longsword duel considered ridiculous or merely unsporting? for which side?

In a formal duel, the choice of weapons is left to the offended party.  Generally, it's seen as sporting to allow each duelist to fight with the weapon he's most familiar with.  Sword and pistol duels are common, and more exotic arrangements involving poisonous plants, cursed bells, and lethal gastonomy have been heard of.  The most serious affairs of honor are settled with knives, and anyone interfering in a knife duel is held in the lowest contempt and disgust.

Any random charts or formalized lists of frivolous shit I can waste my money on?

I'm working on it.  I'm using Chris Kutalik's Conspicuous Consumption rules from Hill Cantons in which you can earn XP by spending your hard-earned cash on fripperies and gewgaws.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Players' Campaign Questions [Galbaruc] Part 1

So I put out a request to my players over G+ for questions about setting, playstyle, etc. for my campaign.  As with Jeff's 20 Questions, I think this is a useful and more interesting method of defining a setting, and it forces me to supply details I'd normally be inclined to gloss over, and also to determine what should be left vague.

I'll be doing this in two parts (unless I get another post's-worth of questions).  First up is Michael Moscrip:

How is the local ruler chosen, and what sort of government is it?

Galbaruc is an independent city-state and a republic (though this hasn't always been the case).  The closest historical/cultural analogue is probably the Republic of Venice.  The Princeps (First Citizen) is elected by the Council of Ten, who are in turn drawn from the ranks of the Senate.  There is still a traditional aristocracy, but its power and influence has weakened considerably with the resurgence of the merchant class.

When and where are religious services held? What's it like to attend?

Most religious services are held in churches and temples.  Urizenite churches are typically massive and architecturally dazzling, or strive to be.  Shrines and temples to more obscure deities can be as tiny as a niche in an alleyway, or a back room in a private home or business.  Street preachers of varying persuasions will rant and cajole from impromptu booths and platforms set up around the city, though these are appreciated by most spectators as entertainment.  Mystery cults, etc. usually meet in some underground or secluded outdoor areas.  The structure of these services will differ greatly according to religion or sect, but it has been noted that religious practices in the city tend to take on a more baroque and sensational character than elsewhere, with a greater emphasis on decoration, showy vestments, eccentricity, and theatrical flourish.

Note -- at some point, I might rename they days of the week, but until then, let's assume our own 7-day week with Sunday as a holy day/day of rest for Urizenites, just to keep it simple and familiar.

Are there frequent holidays or festivals? What is it like to be there?

Holidays and festivals are frequent - -both the native celebrations of the city and those brought by immigrants from all corners of the earth (and beyond).  Sometimes, two or more of these may be in full swing at the same time, the streets and canals thronged with celebrants.  Galbaruc's festivals are noted for their insistent observance of rituals and forms forgotten, banned, or unobserved elsewhere, as well as a tendency for ostentation and novelty.  Typically, you can count on a relaxation or reversal of social conventions, lots of booze, sex, drugs, music, and dancing, and swarms of pickpockets and other petty thieves. Two notable festivals are the Courtship of Seppophis and the Festival of the Great Culling.

What sort of thing could people find out about someone that would make them a pariah? That would make them celebrated?

Often, the same behavior will make one celebrated in some quarters and despised in others.  A sense of style and dash can do much to turn a common thief or murderer into a bold, picturesque rogue, subject to the embellishments of popular imagination and the guest of honor at the homes of those wishing to arouse envy and controversy in others of their set.

Acts and attitudes generally applauded:
- defeating enemies of the Republic as well as local dangers and nuisances.
- hosting a public event, funding parks, monuments, fountains, pleasure-gardens, etc.
- donating to charities and philanthropic pursuits
- performing some other act of civic pride
- Acting in a bold, striking, and decisive manner.
- Displays of Courage, Wit, and Cunning.
- Achieving Revenge on one's enemies, or perishing spectacularly in the attempt.
- Rising to the height of one's chosen pursuit or profession  -- the Beggar-King of Galbaruc is still a beggar,   but commands a grudging respect for his position within his milieu.
- Acting according to one's own philosophical, ethical, or aesthetic convictions, with a lofty contempt for death and other consequences of same.

Acts and attitudes generally disdained:
- Treason or collaboration with enemies of the Republic
- Pettiness and miserliness.
- Displays of cowardice and indecisiveness.
- A lack of style and grace -- Coarseness of sensibility.
- Failure to take action due to despair or complacency
- Engaging in slave-trading
- abuse of the elderly, the pious, the innocent, and the beautiful. (according to public opinion)
- Failure to keep one's promises.
- Acting contrary to one's established character and reputation.

All of the above are subject to exceptions, excuses, unforeseen variables, and the fickle whims of the public.

What's the most common job for a common person?

Most working people in the city are unskilled laborers, followed by skilled laborers, small tradesmen & their assistants.  Outside of the city, most people are farmers.  

Who shows up if there's a fire? A murder? A riot?

Fire:  In poorer neighborhoods, it's usually up to an impromptu bucket brigade, perhaps led by a member of that contrada's watch, or some other upstanding citizen.  There is no single permanent paid firefighting force in the city, but several ruthlessly competitive rival organizations have sprung up.  They will often brawl with one another over territory and haggle with property owners, refusing to take any action until arriving at a disproportionately favorable settlement.  In truly dire circumstances, the city militia will be called into action.

Murder:  Each contrada is responsible for arming and organizing a local watch to patrol itself, which can take the form of anything from an ad hoc brute squad with cudgels and torches to a well-trained, uniformly equipped force in distinctive uniform.  In theory, serious malefactors captured by these forces are to be transferred to the custody of the city's nascent police force, but all too often, such things are dealt with internally, with rough justice administered on the spot, in the privacy of a local barracks or a shopkeeper's basement.  Suspects apprehended for murder, rape, etc., often find themselves dragged in front of their supposed victims' families/kinsmen/business partners, who may then determine their fate.

Riot: If it isn't stopped at the Watch level (or if the watchmen join the mob themselves) the City Militia is called out.  The cavalry is particularly brutal in their methods.  Their efforts may be enhanced by those of sorcerers and alchemists in the employ of the City.

If I'm an upstanding citizen, who do I tell if I find a body? Who does that person answer to?

In a good neighborhood (where a body has a chance of lying intact and unmolested for any length of time, and Watch/Police patrols more frequent and robust) an upstanding citizen should inform a man or officer of the local watch, or an officer of the police, if one happens to be in the vicinity.  The police are widely considered to be ineffectual, unsympathetic, and dangerously new, and most established citizens of good character prefer to work directly with the local watch, who more often than not know the citizen, at least by reputation, and can vouch for his character.  Foreigners and those of lesser social standing may prefer to deal with the police, who are held to be more impartial in such matters (for good or ill).