Wednesday, July 30, 2014

RIP: James Shigeta

TaroIsogi01James Shigeta passed away; rest in peace sir.

I knew of him largely from his appearance in Babylon 5's s02 episode "A Spider in the Web". Though I did recognize him in a couple of Outer Limits episodes during a TV marathon years back. I didn't even recognize him in the original Die Hard movie!

I'm placing him in the IDIC Files tag because I did get a thrill from seeing him in major, non-villainous, non-token roles in these TV shows. Despite the last name (and his general appearance) being clearly Japanese, in the back of my mind I often wondered if he was partially Filipino. I can't explain it; his mannerisms and speech patterns triggered 'old Filipino gentleman grandfather' in my mind.

And I secretly patterned some of my old NPCs in my Fading Suns campaigns after him, as a result.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

D&D 5e: Character Sheet Try-Out

Trying out some of the character sheets for D&D 5th Edition EnWorld stuff. I really like the compressed nature of the stats on this one done by Verys Arkon, as well as the layout of the skills grouped into each Stat.

Wish there was a similarly clean way to handle character abilities, but that's another animal.

The variances of the font sizes can't be avoided, I suppose, given the length of the skill names.

The Combat column is nice, though I feel a bit strange about that proficiencies portion. Could the Proficiencies be combined with the Exploration portion? Or perhaps with the skills associated?

Perhaps after a bit more adventuring, there'll be a few more options for useful blocks on the character sheet front portion.

Rinaldo Cardano is my character for the Echoes 2 campaign, being run by a friend of mine. It's in a homebrew setting which doesn't have native divine or arcane magic, so I guess we'll see how my cleric will deal with things. He assures us that I have herbal-based healing abilities; we'll need them based on the feedback from other bloggers on the nature of combat in this edition.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Echoes Book 2: The Echo of Treviso

A Watery Reality

This reality is composed of really quite a lot of water, islands, and approximately five hundred archipelagos, each comprising anywhere from two to thirty, but most typically an average of three to four large islands, with numerous islets.

These archipelagos do not necessarily form countries, but more often than not are clustered into loose collections of city-states, including that of Piacenza.

The City State of Piacenza

Map of the City-State of Piacenza
(by Andrew Drilon)

Piacenza, due to its geographical location, is a crucial waypoint in sea or air travel to many places of the world, and has thus become a flourishing trade city, its population frequently hosting as well as interbred with foreigners of various stripes.

It is composed of fourteen major islands, each privately owned by one of Piacenza’s fifteen noble families. Each family and therefore island is responsible for a certain Mandate of governance, with the fifteenth (or first) family – that of the Doge – enjoying (or not) oversight and a modicum of rulership over the whole.

The assignment of Mandates (and thus home islands) among families is a shifting affair, such that a family may ‘go into ascent’, taking the office of the Doge, thereby forfeiting their previous island and its rights, resources, and income to another family.

The majority of noble families normally do not wish to ascend, as the Doge and his or her kin live on an artificial island that generates no income aside from a percentage of tithes and taxes from the other fourteen, although this can be fairly substantial.

The Doge, however, has the privilege of assigning Mandates and their associated islands among the fourteen, which may be levied as either favor or burden, as the assigned family thus receives not only the potential income and influence, but also the entire responsibility – financial and otherwise – of operating their designated Mandate.

Mandates & Districts

Each Mandate is linked to a specific island and its neighboring islets, collectively referred to as a District. Each District houses a variety of residential, commercial, and government establishments, along with a number of Guild headquarters.

The Guilds, essentially, are trade associations that operate across the archipelago, some functioning directly under particular Mandates, while others are staunchly independent.

Politically, then, authority in Piacenza is held and granted by, first, the Doge, then the ruling Houses of each District, then the Guilds for professional matters and the Councils for domestic concerns, and lastly, very unofficially, the Fellowships.

Councils are subgroupings of five to ten households, which may or may not be related. The Councils handle non-business-related concerns before elevation to the District level, often with support from the Judiciary or, preferably, Diplomatic Mandates.

Fellowships are informal gatherings of friends or allies toward a common cause or agenda. These are formally banned, but nevertheless thrive in secret.

Fourteen Mandates/Districts, along with some of their linked Guilds

  1. Water
    1. Sanitation
    2. Distribution
  2. Resources – No more than three tree preserves exist in all Piacenza.
    1. Forestry
    2. Animal Husbandry
  3. Transportation – Two airships are maintained under this mandate.
    1. Freight
    2. Drivers
    3. Transport Maintenance
  4. Infrastructure
    1. Architects
    2. Maintenance
  5. Public safety
    1. Police
    2. Fire
  6. Military
    1. Veterans
    2. Mariners
  7. Trade
    1. Merchants
    2. Fishermen
  8. Judiciary
    1. Barristers
    2. Judges
  9. Diplomacy
    1. Spies
    2. Linguists
  10. Finance
    1. Accountants
    2. Coral
  11. Sciences
    1. Steam
    2. Clockwork
  12. Communication
    1. Genealogy
    2. History
  13. Far Water
    1. Cartographers
    2. Explorers
  14. Culture – The head of the Culture District is married to a Civita Vecchia native.
    1. Courtesans
    2. Actors
The five most important Guilds include the Jewelers’ and the most powerful, the Guild of Smoke (The Thieves’ Guild).

Given its resource limitations, Piacenza tends to be highly-regulated in virtually in every aspect of life, not least of which is marriage. Since the islands are relatively small, intermarriage is far from unusual, and often even encouraged, as Piacenzans are not generally very fertile. On the other hand, every Piacenzan is, from birth, considered to be an asset belonging to his or her District, so unions between Districts, while ideally welcomed, are, in practice, subject to long and complex bureaucratic processing. (The couple eventually chooses – or is ‘guided’ to choose – one of the relevant Districts to live in and be affiliated with; any children of the union will be citizens of that district.)

Both despite and because of such regulation, Piacenzans by nature tend to be very savvy people – especially about the rules that relate to them personally – and exceedingly devoted to their families first and friends second. They love to celebrate and are extremely fashion-conscious – it’s a rare Piacenzan indeed who does not sport some form of jewelry on a daily basis, and is not able to make a rapid assessment of another’s general social status based on attire. They are quick to take offense, and quick to forgive – situationally, and at times, only quick to appear to forgive.

There are no private armies, no magic, and no particularly-revered gods in Piacenza. Perhaps as a result of this lack of religion, courtesans are publicly recognized and well respected. A notable aspect of the regard in which they are held is that, while married Piacenzans are expected to refrain from affairs once their unions have resulted in children, dallying with a courtesan or three is not viewed as a violation of this – it is merely a transaction with a businesswoman or businessman, as the case may be. Most courtesan houses and private courtesans reside in the Culture District, although there is one powerful establishment situated elsewhere – a subject of some tension.

Other recent unrest in Piacenza is attributed to a suspected underground group partially composed of inhabitants from, or influenced or financed by Civita Vecchia, one of Piacenza’s three main external trade partners. These are:
  1. Savona – which enjoys a long-standing, harmonious relationship with Piacenza, where they have a permanent embassy (real-world equivalent = Caucasian)
  2. Portici – formerly known as Porti, with which Piacenza once had a troubled relationship, but is now under new governance (Middle Eastern & African)
  3. Civita Vecchia – at war with Piacenza as recently as two generations ago, in the course of which two of the three fallen (and since replaced) noble families collapsed; one of these held the Mandate of War. Currently, only the Cultural and Diplomatic Districts interact with Civita Vecchia. (Middle Oriental)

Using D&D 5th Edition: Blowing on the Embers

The emergence of D&D's Basic Rules (5th Edition, yo) has made its way into our normal rules lite gaming habit.

Season 01 of the Echoes campaign concluded last month, and the second season is undergoing some world- and character-building exercises.

Part of that is actually reading the rules for D&D and seeing what we can use for the (for now) magic-free world of Treviso.

Being called on to create much of this world is forcing me (for reasons that will become clear in subsequent posts) to not only become familiar with the ruleset and subsequent extensions (and cribbing from the OSR library, whee!), but to also unearth some great source material from Blue Planet and other RPGs with similar settings.