Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Echoes S01E00: A Setting Overview

recorded and written by archivist Nikki

The world Ganym is named for its eponymous largest continent, which, in the distant past, was unified from scattered fiefdoms into one realm under the Faith. (Ethnographically, consider it European in derivation, excluding the British Isles.)

While each state in the continent Ganym is functionally run by a prince or similar secular potentate, these ‘heads’ are all answerable to Archbishops—collectively known as the Wise—who are themselves answerable to the Patriarch. (So the princes are like CEOS of various companies, who are answerable to the directors of an encompassing holding company, who are answerable to the chairman of that board of directors.)

Some seventy years ago, there was a great schism, in which a certain young woman asserted her arguably-justifiable claim to the already-occupied Patriarchal throne. She was supported by four vassal states of eastern Ganym, which were promptly pronounced heretical along with her, and war was declared.

The Patriarchy, however, possesses no troops of its own, instead levying the forces required from its vassal states. Thus what actually came to pass was a sort of non-war, since, for reasons of their own, the states occupying the border between Ganym proper and the seceded easternmost states declined to attack, and their geographical position rendered it impracticable for other Ganym states to attack.

Therefore—although skirmishes and assassination attempts abounded for some time—no outright war truly occurred, and this situation persisted for some seventy years.

Recently, the former Patriarch expired and was replaced by the first elected male Patriarch after a succession of six females—a circumstance which some may perceive, along with a vague ‘seniority’, as adding legitimacy to the so-called ‘anti-Patriarch’.

Currently, the continent is divided into three:

  1. Ganym proper, in the west
  2. the Greylands—the border states, still technically part of Ganym despite their perhaps-questionable loyalties. A small city of scholars has also become Grey in the last few years, due to their having raised the question of whether the late Patriarch’s edicts—regarding heresy in particular—might not have died with her.
  3. the seceded states, as well as their own vassal states acquired in the interim, principally from neighboring islands. This eastern Patriarchy (which is never to be referred to as such) is called Ogaru [sp?], and its capital is the Cathedral of the Rock, a massive edifice built into the cliffside of one of Ogaru’s islands.

During the decades that have passed, East and West have evolved in very different ways.

Ogaru is the leading edge of technological development—while the West does still have airships and clockwork and the technicians to operate and maintain such, they are decades behind, and have proven unable to even reverse-engineer Eastern technology.

Ganym proper, however, remains the bastion of art and, importantly, religious thought.

the Faith
My character's first batch of crests. Only
Aspects are pictured; Attributes coming soon.
Magic is Faith and Faith is magic—no other form of magic exists. (In other words, as we players understand it, the Faith has pretty much successfully crushed everything else.)

The universe is composed of a discrete number of Elements. The exact number is known only to the Almighty, but what is known is that the more Faith you have, the more Elements—or rather, Aspects of Elements—you have access to, and the more you can do.

Each of the Faithful is born under the Aspect of a certain Element, which grants them certain gifts. For the common run of people, these are simple things, such as being born under the Rain Aspect of Water, and thus not getting sick from being caught in the rain.

In Ganym philosophy, there are seven common Elements, which have myriad Aspects.

  1. Fire
  2. Water
  3. Earth
  4. Air
  5. Wood
  6. Metal
  7. Anima

The Anti-Patriarchy, however, has declared that there are five more common Elements!

  1. Mineral
  2. Ink
  3. Sea
  4. Star
  5. Smoke

These, of course, are not officially recognized by Ganym, although at least three of them are secretly known to the West as very high-level magic.

It’s important to note that no one is born under the Element of, say, Water, but only under an Aspect thereof— Rain or Dew or Frost, like that. In a sense, it may be said that the Elements do not exist in and of themselves, but only as collective terms for their Aspects, in the same way that the word ‘rice’ does not really exist in Filipino, but may be perceived as a collective term for its concrete aspects of palay, bigas, kanin, and so on.

There are levels and levels of Elements above the common, but accessing them requires training, which —whether West or East — is the nigh-exclusive province of the clergy. This is not to say that only the clergy has recourse to actual, usable magic — secular people from princes to guardsmen possess Crests, but only through clerical approval.

All that an Aspect does by itself is to allow an involuntary expression of magic, as mentioned previously. In order to actively cause a desired effect, one needs a Crest.

(Think of Aspects as nouns, and Crests as sentences. You may have the noun ‘Rain’, but you need a whole sentence to tell the universe you want to ‘Deluge my enemies in Rain!’ So Crests are composed of both Aspects and Attributes, which are modifiers we can equate to verbs, adjectives, etc., which define things like duration, size, and targeting.)

A Crest is typically deployed by holding together and raising the index and middle fingers, around which will form a small halo depicting the constructed Crest, either:

  • physical—inscribed on something tangible, which is then activated by the wielder’s Faith; the wielder must have sufficient knowledge of all Aspects and Attributes relevant to the Crest—or
  • manifested—formed of pure Faith and knowledge.

The latter is much trickier than one might think, since Attributes and Aspects—with the sole exception of the one you were born with—tend to fade from the mind in time, and there are only three known ways to acquire new ones.

  1. Realization—epiphany achieved through fasting and contemplation of the involved Aspect or Attribute; can be reinforced with successive contemplation
  2. Education—being taught a successfully-recorded Aspect or Attribute
  3. Recovery—discovering lost Aspects or Attributes, but attempting to comprehend such unidentified powers can be and has been fatal
  4. (and I know I said there were only three, but Kate discovered this one, so I think our characters would not know it)
  5. Combination—causing multiple Aspects to ‘birth’ new ones

It is also possible to trade—there must be an actual one-to-one exchange, or no trade occurs. This practice is much frowned upon by the Faith, but is nevertheless rampant.


  1. Interesting idea. The additional elements of the anit-patriarchy are both kind of random and evocative.

  2. The elements of the Anti-Patriarchy are also heretical -- especially because it's rumored that some of them are actually high-level elements that are learned once you progress in your study within the Western Church.


That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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