Archive for April, 2016


Zoology (A to Z Challenge, Z)

30 April, 2016

LionAnimals are everywhere in Sea of Stars and in so many varieties.  The initial pool of animals was similar to that here on Earth, with a few exotic variations, but the Sundering changed everything, sometimes for the better, but usually for the worst.  The raw magic released by the sundering changed animals in all sorts of strange ways, though the most common was changes in size, which is why there are giant rats and miniature giraffe in the Sea of Stars, but sometime the changes were stranger leading to tree dwelling sheep and six-legged oxen, or creatures became mixed and dangerous, creating such beings as stagwolves and sting squirrels.

People in some regions were forced to adapt to chickens that ate wood and laid eggs that were shelled like nuts, aquatic cows or replacing transport animals with zebra and other such adaptions which then became just the way things were done in that valley or these islands.  In other words, for those who travel widely, especially venturers, it is wise to not take the animals you encounter at face value without consulting with the locals.

Zoos and menageries is the Sea of Stars are always looking for new and exotic additions to their collections, gatherer of such creatures can make a good living . . . if they do not get eaten first.

Notes: Z is a tough letter to end on, but I hope still fun.

Photo by JoyTek and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.



Yonder (A to Z Challenge, Y)

29 April, 2016

Get goingOne of the things about the Sea of Stars is that there is always yonder, another place to go, if you are willing to take the risk; many who serve as sailors aboard the starships and no small number of venturers started out as people who just needed to leave their home for whatever reason, hunger, ambition, fear, curiosity, even wanderlust.  Some people just cannot stay at home because of external or internal pushes or a mixture of the two.

While most rulers make some attempt to keep their labourers, well, labouring and not running off to seek a better life, a few actively encourage troublemakers to leave and find their fortunes far, far, away.  It is the wisest of the rulers that seek to channel such people where they can be useful and be grateful for such guidance or, at least, not harbor ill-thoughts towards their homeland.

Though such worries are generally misplaces, once someone sets out for yonder, they rarely stop, for while yonder is a destination, it is not a place.  You can never reach it, not for long, there is always more yonder to wander to.   Even some young dragons become enchanted, or obsessed, with discovering what lies over yonder and spend decades or more doing just that.  For there is always another mountain range to cross, a new town’s streets to walk down, another island to visit.

After all, there are no lack of new places to see, people to meet and wonder to experience across the Sea of Stars.

Notes: Yonder has become an underused word, let us change that.

Photo by Virtual_Raider and used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


Xenophilia and Xenophoby (A to Z Challenge, X)

28 April, 2016

The Sea of Stars is rife with odd and bizarre things, from dog folk to fish trees, cows that can read and eternal snow falls, and other ever stranger things.  Much like the way that people think of venturers, it depends on a group’s recent experience with strange things on how welcoming or hostile they may be towards the next unusual thing that comes visiting.

Generally, the more cosmopolitan and urban, the more likely an area is to have strands of xenophilia, embracing the strange, and welcoming the opportunities presented by new and exotic things even if they occasionally prove dangerous.  There will always be a market down some alley in a big enough city for any strange and unlikely thing that comes through.  Novelty is welcomed in such places especially if it seems to give the possessors of such novelty some sort of social (or other) advantage.

Here or thereConversely, small towns and isolated rural area tend to a natural conservatism and fear of things from outside, xenophoby.  After all, change means uncertainty and danger and small communities do not usually have much in the way of reserves in case things go wrong, so better safe than sorry.  Now, this is not to say that all such communities are hostile to strangers and new ideas, just that they are more cautious, often much more, when it comes to trying new ideas and letting strangers do stranger things.

Of course isolated and distant communities may have their own strangeness which to them is now just traditional and the way things always have been done, there are many of such places that resulted from the first century after the Sundering which turned everything upside down.  “You don’t eat beetles?”  “Where you come from potatoes do not grow in the shape of human faces?”  “But all goats have two heads.”  “You didn’t hatch from an egg?”  “Of course you grow a new set of teeth each year.”

Notes: Yes, xenophoby and xenophobia are essentially interchangeable words but I like using obscure words when I find them so there you go.

More on xenophily here.

Photo by Susanne Nilsson and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.


War (A to Z Challenge, W)

27 April, 2016

This is what it is good forWar is rare in the Sea of Stars but not unknown; the problem with being an expansionist power is that ultimately, everything is owned by a dragon so by declaring war and trying to seize a piece of land, you are also declaring it upon that land’s owner.  Now some dragons are happy to let such conflicts play out on a purely mortal against mortal level, confining themselves to either high strategy or simply observers but a few dragons seek a more active role.

Some dragons expect their charges to be able to defend themselves without aid from their ruler, the weak should not be coddled after all.  As one draconic saying has it “the weak are meat the strong eat.”  These dragons are sure to make sure that the people in their lands understand that they are on their own if attacked and most who adhere to this philosophy promote militarism in the states they oversee.  These states by their nature oft times look for chances to test their mettle and expand.

Other dragons relish the opportunity to test their strength against entire armies or the dragons that command them.  When dragons appear on the battlefield they usually negotiate rules of engagement to ensure that they are unlikely to be killed.  Being wounded is acceptable, even expected, but being slain bu mere mortals would set a bad precedent.  Though even such rules do not prevent the occasional draconic death in battle as warfare is unpredictable (and few can resist the chance to slay a dragon when it is presented to them).

However, generally such conflicts between states and dragons are kept small scale, skirmishes and raids, maneuvers and feints, only very rarely escalating to full scale invasion, the difficulty of transporting an army from island to island may be part of that.  But wars still happen on occasion and when they do, things can change very rapidly.

Notes: Dragons like conflict but wars, wars are uncontrollable once unleashed so the majority of dragons try to avoid them.

Photo by Paul Kitchener used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


Tuesday Magic Item – Venturers’ Indispensable Satchel

26 April, 2016

An unusual venturer“I am so glad we were able to acquire these satchels,” said Voddick chewing on a piece of bread.

“Well, we did save that enchanter life, thrice; we earned them,” said Gollaon.  “But I think you like them because you never go hungry as long as you have it.”

“Only one of its many wonderful features!” agreed Voddick.

Venturers’ Indispensable Satchel

These useful items come in a variety of styles made from an even wider variety of materials with decorations to match.  What is uniform about them is the high quality of the satchel, the surprising number of pouches and pockets and a compass rose embroidered or otherwise incorporated into the design.

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Venturers (A to Z Challenge, V)

26 April, 2016

Those that wander the Sea of Stars seeking their fortune and, occasionally, performing acts of heroism are known as venturers.  They are immortalized in play, song and story and also vilified in the same mediums, how they are viewed in a local area depends greatly on how the last group of venturers treated the locals.  Unfortunately for venturers, good memories fade quickly, but poor ones quickly harden into lasting prejudice.

Wise venturers, a surprisingly rare breed,  try to build on the legends of successful and well regarded past venturers, creating a chain of positive associations.  Paying bards and actors to spread heroic stories and even printing books of tales to present the right side of the tale.  A friendly populace is useful, often vital, providing support and information, while a neutral or hostile one makes life much more difficult on almost all levels.

The stereotype of the venturer as a big talking and overconfident but ultimately barely competent and cowardly is well established and the basis of most comedic portrayals of venturers.   Venturers are common stock characters in popular comedies and show up quite often.  Venturers are rarely played as deliberate villains in the comedies but they often accidentally make things  worse in the stories by their blundering.

While venturers are nearly universally outsiders, they are needed, they fill roles that many communities do not have people who can.  Dangerous beasts, magical outbreaks, sometimes even just bandits, venturers are hired to sort these out when the locals, or their rulers, cannot.

Notes: I just like the term venturer over adventurer, perhaps because merchant-venturer has been stuck in my mind since I was young.  Also, another minor way to differentiate the setting.





PinkCat: Running in the Shade “Hellpuppies” (A different sort of SR campaign report)

26 April, 2016

To understand what is going on here, you had best read the first PinkCat: Running in the Shade post, but short summary, this is a campaign report for our Shadowrun campaign set in NorCal through the filter of a cartoon made by one of the team members.

Episode Twenty: Hellpuppies

Guest Starring: Clawz and Double Up (cameo by DD).

It is just another day at school when one of the students (named Ben) sees an unattended puppy, he cases it off screen and then is a gout of flame and a comically soot blackened Ben staggers back into the frame.  Someone has dumped an unwanted litter of hell hound puppies near to school and they are causing all sort of comedic havoc.  Pink and Glitter set to work trying to round them up before they or someone else gets hurt, meanwhile the mean rich kids from the Upside Academy are trying to catch the puppies for their own nefarious ends.  Pink and Glitter do things like luring them with food or music which then get interrupted by mad mechanical contraptions from Upside Academy which then fail in some humorous way (usual with a push from Glitter, Pink or one of their friends).  In the end, the puppies are all rounded up and sent to a nature reserve where they can be watched by fireproofed drones.  Pink’s school gets a ribbon of thanks for their hard work protecting the animals and the Upside Academy gets a lot of burned thing to explain to their principle.

What really happened:

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Umbra, shadow between the stars (A to Z Challenge, U)

25 April, 2016

Out thereBeyond the space between the islands, between the stars is the darkest of shadow, known as the Umbra to those who study such things.  But there are being that live (or at least exist) in this strange space, the darkness between, is the home to a host of strange beings, many inimical to life as it is known on the islands, though they rarely venture into the Sea of Stars unless summoned by the foolish

These sub-umbral creatures come in a bewildering and frightening range of sizes, shapes and geometries, in some cases their mere presence warps and damages what is around them, others come from space so far removed from the standard conceptions of being that even looking upon them risks one’s hold on reality.  The danger of summoning such alien creatures is often lost on those who have access to the tools to do so, as often their is no indication beyond some flowery description (“The darkness without”, “the infinite shifting flower” and such) about what they are bringing into the world.  Once brought here, they are extremely difficult to control, fortunately in some cases the world is as inimical to these bizarre being as they are to the world, which does not prevent them from causing a great deal of harm before they die.  They that the summoner can control sometime pose an even greater threat as the summoner will probably with to bring more and eventually they will break free.

The sub-umbral beings can be classified into families of strangeness each with similar characteristics but each branch is radically different from the others making classification difficult even when reliable data can be gathered about the sub-umbrals.

One of the secret tasks of the Imperial Navy and other Imperial forces is to locate and root out infiltration of these sub-umbral beings, luckily such tasks are rare as they can be exceedingly dangerous and dragons in Imperial service are routinely called in to support the sealing of such threats.

Notes: For those that want Lovecraftian or Far Realm strangeness in their Sea of Stars campaign, this is where it comes from.  Umrays are one of the least strange of the sub-umbrals being from near space.

Photo by Jun and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.


Taxes, Imperial and otherwise (A to Z Challenge, T)

23 April, 2016

Money, money, moneyEven in the Sea of Stars, taxes are inevitable arguably even moreso than death what with the existence of immortal dragons and the unliving beings and spirits.

The draconic houses collect taxes, tariffs and tribute from the lands they rule and the Empress takes one tenth of what the draconic houses gather.  The Empress does not care what level the draconic houses tax their subjects at, only that she gets her share.  Few Imperial officials are more feared by draconic houses and lesser governments alike than the Imperial Auditor who ensures that the Empress gets her share of all things, precisely and without fail.  The standard penalty for failing to pay the proper amount of taxes is a fine equal to four times the amount withheld plus the original sum though auditors can adjust this under exceptional circumstance which must in turn be justified to the Empress herself.

The various draconic houses and the states that they directly and indirectly control pursue a wide range of taxation and tariff strategies, trying to maximize their receipts and deny money to their rivals.  Merchants and travelers do their best to maneuver through these barriers to trade and travel while losing a minimal amount of money.

Naturally, corruption is endemic to collectors of taxes, outside of the Imperial Auditors, though it is harshly and routinely cracked down upon due to the costs and inefficiencies it imposes by the states and houses, it persists.  Almost inevitably, the more complex a systems of taxes becomes, the more corruption it spawns partly why the Empress keep her share of taxes so simple that there is no misunderstanding of what belongs to her.

Notes: Taxes should not be neglected and remain as a threat even to venturers.

Photo by Jeff Belmonte found on Wikimedia Commons and used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


Skyships (A to Z Challenge, S)

22 April, 2016

Take to the skySkyships, or flying ships if you prefer, existed before the Sundering but they became so much more valuable in the shattered world.

Before the Sundering, the elves controlled most of the manufacturing of skyships with their knowledge of and access to magic woods and ancient enchantments, but the aftermath hit them hard and their ability to increase production was limited.  Some of the elven techniques were acquired by humans but while the human made skyships do not have the grace or speed of their elven counterparts, they do fly though their manufacture is also limited by the availability of woods and magic worker.

The dwarves developed their gemforge powered skyships, but as they consumed gems to fly, they were only used in times of crisis.  Their crystal ships were perfected later, they only require sunlight to fly but they take centuries to grow to a useful size and only a few of such exist due to their expense to manufacture.

Experimental alchemists found that treated bones of the giants of the sky could be bound into ships to provide lift, but such bones were rare and the available supply was quickly used up.  The bones that empower such skyships have been carefully maintained and the ships they lift are still encountered even today.

The process of binding air elementals to ships is also used, but the elementals will often try to escape, requiring constant maintenance of the ward and bindings.

There are occasionally skyships build by suspending them from balloons, lifted either by alchemical processes or elementals, but they have not been overly successful but wizards and alchemists keep trying, hoping for a breakthrough.

Owning a skyship is a symbol of wealth and success, but very few of them are used as pleasure craft they are just too expensive to be allowed to sit idle, so most are working ships either transports, carrying both high value cargoes and passengers, or warships.

Notes: I just really like the idea of flying ships, it gives a nice magical feel and it is an exciting way to travel.

Art by Theo Evans and owned by me.

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