Saturday, July 30, 2011

The City of Kunili Part 1

More Excuses and The City of Kunili

Still trying to work out google's details, like a better appearance and font, but nothing seems obvious here... Stay with me until I get it right...

Anyway, was on holiday recently, away from home, and after the books had been read, local sights explored and relaxation commenced, I pulled out my copy of The Ultimate Toolbox and set about seeing if I could use it's cornucopia of tables to make something coherent.

I work best (for RPG ideas) if I can work off a starting idea or two, and create something of my own from those starting points.  I'm interested in building a corner of a world, or at least a place that related to other places that provides an adventuring environment.

Anyway, a city seemed the best place to start, as Chapter 3 has always looked good.

And so was born the City of Kunili (pron. Ku-nee-lee). (Part 1)

The name is a corruption of the original name given to the place by the Plains Tribes that originally occupied these lands - ku'Nuilili, meaning 'Sacred Hunter's Grove'. 

The founding story of the city involves a group of townsfolk from the Eastern lands fleeing a magical plague, and being welcomed by, and eventually merging with a tribe of the Plains, who were suffering from raids from other, stronger Tribes, and were hiding in a dangerous and sacred place.


The City itself is roughly triangular in shape, with the north wall running due east-west, mirroring the line of the Boarspine Mountain Range that the City abuts. The other two walls meet to the south-west.  At the north-eastern and north-western corners, lively streams of cold, clear snowmelt flow into the city, and a slower and slightly dirtier river flows out the south-east corner. 

The focal point of the City is The Island, in the centre of a small lake formed where the two streams merge.  Barely 50m in diameter, this roughly circular island has a narrow fringe of scrub and rushes, but the clear interior is dominated by a henge of ancient, jet-black and glassy menhirs.  Twelve trilithon stand equidistant around a clear area.  They are carved with strange runes that none have yet translated or understood, as they resist even magical divination.  The Tribe that was originally here was sheltering from other aggressive tribes in an area considered dangerous and fey.

The City's walls are wooden, but high and strong, made of great cross supported timbers, with wooden towers on each corner, and in the middle of each wall, where gates are open all daylight hours.  All the wood is carefully maintained and cared for, and is carved with imaginative and majestic engravings showing past heroes and leaders, native and fantastical animals, and scenes from the City's past.  Each tower has a four person troop of light infantry, with a seer or diviner occasionally present for unknown purposes.  They collect dues for entry, keep the peace and report back on currents and moods to their sergeants.

Inside the City

Kunili has a strong craft industry, and a strong civic pride arises from this.  There is also, however, an underlying sense of shame, as land holdings of the City to the West were lost following a disastrous attack on the neighbouring kingdom some 30 years ago.  This was the result of proclamations and political manipulations of the Cult of the Portals, the dominant religion of the City at that time.  Following the defeat, the Cult was destroyed by vengeful citizens, or at least outlawed and sunk into the shadows.

The nature of the populace is somewhat proud of their city and its works, but guarded and stubborn with outsiders.  There are still many aspects of the Plains culture, especially in their crafts, but also in the number of Spirit Mages and Herbalists in the poorer areas.

There are a number of cults seething in the dark reaches of the City, with the Cult of the Portal hanging on, along with worshippers of the Beast God, and various minor pain or lust demons, promising plenty, just not now... The main temples all exist in some form or another, but Moraine, God of Empires, is not allowed a building for a temple (a result of the last war).  The Merchant and the Traveller are by far the most popular temples, and the Huntress and the Lady both have sizeable groups of worshippers.  Travellers from other Eastern cities will find the temples quite cosmopolitan, with modern ideas.

There are small but efficient riverside docks downstream of the Island, that are vital for the importation of raw materials - timber, gemstones and quarried rock - from the wilder lands upstream, and allow the export of wooden and stone crafts, tools and carvings to the richer lands downstream.

Guilds and Economies

The Guilds are strong, controlling the production of exports, and wielding substantial political and social power.  Thankfully, they spend the majority of their energies feuding with each other over seemingly meaningless incidents and points of difference (no doubt encouraged by the current Ruler).  There are many guild festivals, which are the main celebrations and holidays of the City.  At Midwinter,  the most important ceremony takes place.  All of the population able to attend a simple Plains ceremony at the Island do so, or at least observe it from the shore.  This is now a lot simpler and more traditional that it ever was under the Cult of the Portal.

Only Guild members, guards, and those registered with the City can bear arms larger than a hunting knife - others must lodge theirs with the guards in the gates when entering the City.  Prospective dungeon raiders and general swords-for-hire are a special case, and can buy a one-off pass for 10 tali each time they enter the City.

The tali is unique to Kunili, and consists of a uniquely carved wooden disc, inlaid with shell, with a hole through the centre.  It is the only legal tender within the City, with all other coins being valued for their value in metal only.  The Moneycarvers Guild is in charge of the circulation of tali, and creating new ones while weeding out any copies or counterfeits. Due to the intricate and specialised design of each, though, few fake coins exist and all locals would instantly recognise them.  A tali is worth 1/2 a Jade Piece, which is valued at 5 silver florins in the Empire.  This gives the tali a rough value of two and half florins, which is useful to know when shopping there.

The Call of The Weeping Skulls

There are few inns in the City, as trade is usually by means of flat bottomed barges on the River and these are fast to load or unload and resume their downstream return. There are a few, however, near the gate in the north wall, where travellers leave for the strange dungeon complex known locally as The Weeping Skulls.  This is still a journey from Kunili, as hopeful delvers must pass the fringes of the Talonwoods and cross the narrow mountain pass known as 'Boulder Run', thanks to local Giants.

Extra coin is entering the City due to the numbers of foolish warriors and mages that have started delving the dusty corridors of The Weeping Skulls in the past four years since it's uncovering.  Many spend their last coin here on provisions, equipment, and carved wooden luck tokens, and do not return.  Those that do stumble back to civilisation clutching baroque jewellery and tarnished metal coins spend them on more supplies and better equipment, and enter yet again, as the Dungeon seems to cast a kind of addictive madness over those that tread it's dusty halls and breath it's foetid air.

Next post - Personalities and more of the Guilds

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I'm a bit late on this news, but Jeff's Gamblog posted some insightful and interesting questions about campaigns earlier this year, and in doing so, indicated that a lot of what is prepared is not interesting at all, while the basics are ignored. I've had a look at my most adventured in setting and realised I've got some of the answers, or at least an idea where they can be found.

So, for this setting, here are the questions with answers;

  1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?

Ask your god.  If you're lucky, they won't answer.  If you aren't, they'll turn up and ask you to do them a favour.  If you do, they might ask again, and that's probably not good.  The gods are not world builders, but were once mortal, and managed to grab (and hang onto) their mantle.  But, greater powers = greater concerns...

   2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?

Try a town or city, or a mercenary encampment.  Not too many shopping opportunities out here on the moors, unless you can salvage something from that dead body over there...did it just move?

  3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?

Try a Dwarven metalsmith that drinks a lot.  There are enough of them in the Eastern foothills, but the payment they might ask should worry you. There's enough metalsmiths in the caravan town of Shevel, a few days to the south if you're serious.

  4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?

Any that mighty are probably hiding from the attention of demons or greater powers, although Eade the Silent, Master of the Azure Tower in Sto'nat, Halgren Stoneface, whose chambers are somewhere in the ruins of the Broken Lands, or Alzagret the Blue, Dragonfriend, and hunted by the Brotherhood of Flame, are all suitable for most magical requests. But don't waste their time. Elminster they ain't.

  5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?

Y'silis the Fallen Paladin of  the Huntress, immortal Scion of the Southland City of Teth.  One learns a few combat tricks in 1200 years of constant warfare.  Round here, the Vampire Kings of Gesdyn are probably dangerous enough, and they're only a weeks ride to the north.

  6. Who is the richest person in the land?

Probably the Dwarven Fortresses, but they aren't letting on where they are, let alone who much money they have.  And, anyway, a peasant with a cow is likely to have a happier and longer life than the average dungeon crawler.

  7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?

It is a little known secret that all healing potions are based on honey from giant bees, and that is what gives it it's blue colouring.  That aside, the temples of the All-Mother, and, strangely, Death, provide healing for a fee, but those with insufficient assets will probably end up consulting a village witch or hedge wizard for herbal remedies, and having to take plenty of rest.

  8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?

Again, herbalists and aged crones can probably point you in the right direction for a cure, except for death and undeath.  One must consult with the clergy of the God of Death on those matters. Don't do level drain or alignment, either, in my campaigns.

  9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?

I don't play D&D of any flavour, so don't have to deal with spell books and Vancian magic.  That aside, guilds are usually local, and it pays to keep on their good sides to avoid being made a scapegoat the next time a demon summoning goes wrong and the City Guard need someone to hang.  Each mage does have a lifelong connection to the master/mistress or institution that taught them the basics (the standard tuition for magic is from years 7 to 21, with monetary payment to be made following graduation, in coin, magic objects or services rendered), which can be comforting, challenging or embarrassing.

  10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?

A lord's castle might have one of these, but a city should have a small selection.  Lorman, Gesdyn or Amoth are the three most likely cities in the region for an expert in these fields, but each does have it's own potential issues.

  11. Where can I hire mercenaries?

Most big cities, or from various trading posts, although the normal mercenary companies number between 500 and 3000 fighters, and can be much greater during wartime.  More sensible for the average low level dungeon raider is a few bored pig farmer's sons, village idiots or other, failed dungeon raiders, usually found in taverns in villages near to the dungeon of your choosing.

  12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?

Players asking this does worry me.  But providing you don't actually draw the blade, you should be okay.  Note that while sheathed blades are acceptable,battleaxes, morning stars, spears, lances and scythes are not welcomed on the streets of most large cities.  Smaller centres are more liberal.  As with weapons and spells alike, it's what you do with it that matters, and the local militia can be dangerous if provoked.

  13. Which way to the nearest tavern?

If we're starting in Stalish, next to the Kelarus River, then the Rotted Oyster has a passable dark ale and a good supply of one armed travellers.  Turn left before the bridge.

  14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?

You'll find that out in good time.  At 1st level, travelling from one city to another will be hard enough without looking for trouble. If you're serious, try the edge of the Barrow Downs, running parallel to the North Road.  If you're lucky, only Winter Wolves, Trolls and minor undead should wander along.

  15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?

Always.  The Baron of Tordarth is still considering threatening the southern fiefdoms, and far to the south, the clash of armies has been ringing for the past thousand years.

  16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?

It's really only the Trieste Republic that are into that sort of thing, and the nearest Arena of theirs is in occupied Port Ooroth on the shores of the Painted Sea.

  17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?

Cults abound.  Best find out their true motives, persuasions and powers before either joining or assaulting them, as misunderstandings can be unfortunate... But some of them may offer some useful powers with only minor drawbacks. 

  18. What is there to eat around here?

Do you have hunting, foraging or herbalism as a skill? If not, it's 3 coppers for lunch at the Oyster, and it will take us that long to get there.  Should be some type of roasted game animal, with root veges and some sort of stodgy oatmeal cakes.

  19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?

Yes, but there are others that have been looking for them too, for quite a while, so they aren't lying out in the open, and probably aren't defended by goblins either.  You're better off finding a rich but little known treasure first. And that takes a bit of roleplaying to uncover...

  20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?

There's the Black Queen in the lost Dwarven Keep of Azhgael, who, with an army of dark forces battles a fire demon for the riches of the abandoned halls.  Sure to be all sorts of riches in there, and there's a one armed man in the Rotted Oyster who will offer you a map to a secret entrance to the outer mines for only 3 gold crowns...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wow - four posts in a year.  Not good, but I will try to do better...

Here I plan to post basically systemless ideas, settings, people or events for others to use as they want or give them ideas, even though I can't compete with the awesome Old-School RPG blogging going on these days.

I've got a huge amount of scrawled notes on various RPG campaigns, some used and worn out, some not, some  that don't really fit anywhere.  Where I pick up ideas, I usually write them down later, and then adapt them to my type of campaigns, where high level magicians keep a low profile so as to avoid unnecessary attention and not every tavern is run by a retired high level fighter.

I plan some sort of structure to this eventually, but it's getting late, so here's one of the things that may be happening in the north eastern part of the main empire in my current campaign;

Enerahna the Shadow Queen

Formerly a minor sorceress and youngest child of the ruling family of a moderately sized frontier domain just beyond the eastern borders of the Empire , following the sudden, unexpected and unrelated deaths of her parents and four brothers (disease, falls, hunting and horse riding accidents, and drowning) Enerahna (pronounced En-e-ranna) the Pale ascended as sole ruler only four years ago, during a memorably wet spring.

Within the first year of her reign, border disputes with a newly aggressive bordering barony, goblin raids from the mountains and a spate of banditry disrupted vital trade routes and created hunger and poverty.  Following a failed assassination attempt, Enerahna the Pale disappeared into the mountain wilds to the north with a mysterious stranger.  She returned a week later, alone, with a glowing crown that gives her greater magical powers, and allows her to summon faceless warriors clad in strangely ornate suits of full plate to serve her.  These 'Shadow Knights' (as the common folk refer to them) are deadly in battle, but although they have quelled the raiding and banditry, the populace fear them and the new power of their Queen.

Using her new powers, she has expanded the dominion's borders several times, and has also attracted the attention of more powerful people, and forces.