Archive for April, 2016

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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.

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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.

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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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Rebels and Revolutionaries (A to Z Challenge, R)

21 April, 2016

To no one’s surprise, and certainly not that of the dragons, dragonrule is disliked by some and actively hated by a large minority of the people of the Sea of Stars.  There are no lack of people and organizations plotting to overthrow singular rulers to those seeking to destroy the entire system.  For the purpose of this discussion, rebels is the term that will be used for those seeking localized change and revolutions for those aiming to destroy the entire system.

Revolutionary AftermathRebels consist of everything from rival claimants to the throne to organized groups of disenfranchised people seeking to claim some sort of influence over their own lives and everything in between.  There focus is almost without exception within one state and seeking to change the ruler or the way the state is ruled.  Most dragon expect their proxies to deal with such threats to their rule with harsh measures and oppressive tactics, but some are more enlightened and would rather reach a compromise that minimizes destruction of property, even if some servants have to be sacrificed in the process.  But rebellions are a cyclic problem in most dragon-ruled states, generally less frequent the more devolved the power is in that state.

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Quest, Draconic Coming of Age (A to Z Challenge, Q)

20 April, 2016

Marked by DragonsDragons are not coddling parents, they make a vague attempt to protect their children in the egg and as hatchlings, after that they are expected to at least contribute to their own defense.  Now, they are not heartless (well, most of them are not) and they see that their children are educated and trained, how efficiently and rigidly this in done depends on the draconic house involved.

For example House Hazsolai (“Diamond Lightning”) is ruled by the Matriarch Tainhaz who calls all of her offspring   Haza (“Little Lightning”) until they have done something worthy of gaining a name over.  Tainhaz has her children intensively trained and schooled until they venture (some might say, escape) into the wide world either on a task set by the Matriarch or on a task of their own choosing as long as it advances the power of the house.  Hazolai values commercial success as much, if not more, than martial power so opening new trade routes and improving a mine are success as would be destroying a pirate ship.

More traditionalist houses send their children on hunting parties against the last of the giants, the Sen’tek or other dangerous game to prove their status as apex predators.  The young dragons may be arrogant but they are not fools and they will prepare for such tasks but even that does not guaranteed success, after all, if it was not a challenge and a risk it would not prove anything would it?

While young dragons are notably reckless and poor judges of character, other members of their house will be keeping an eye on them.  To lose to a powerful foe in combat is one thing but to be taken advantage of, that is something else entirely.   The dragons look poorly upon those that would make them look like fools, so those planning to con a dragon -even a young one- had best be careful.

Notes: Potential adventure seeds as guides, minders or conspirators.

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

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Patrons, Draconic (A to Z Challenge P)

19 April, 2016

Dragons in the Sea of Stars are absurdly wealthy, highly intelligent, borderline obsessive and easily bored.  They want what they want and they want it right now and they are willing to exchange what (is to them) an insignificant amount of their fortune for those things.

The dragon lords usually deal with such tasks as they do with most things, they hand it off to subordinates, who hand it off to their subordinates until someone finally hires a group of venturers who hopefully succeed.  Those who succeed get bumped up the chain, as long as they continue to be successful, perhaps, one day they may even meet their ultimate employer . . . or maybe not.

Many people, even venturers, are leery of working for a dragon even indirectly . . . but the money is so good.  The jobs are weird and often excessively dangerous, especially when they drift across the desires of other dragons, but the reward for success are stunning, gold, gems, magic, or even more exotic valuables.

Such venturers are usually given one chance to take the money and run, but if they do not, their draconic employer will expect they to take on as task, no matter how absurd, from that point on.

Notes: Just some general thoughts for running games where characters get hired by dragons or agents of dragons.  To a real extent the Shadowrun dictum of “Never deal with a dragon” is just as valid in the Sea of Stars.

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Royal Armouries for all!

19 April, 2016

The British Royal Armouries have placed their collection online!  It is a treasure trove of useful resources especially image of weapons and armor from the collections.

A gift from Japan

The collection of pole weapons is especially fun.

Photo of Sword (katana) (1370) by Masamitsu, Royal Armouries, no date, Photo, subject to Crown Copyright and used under the Non-Commercial Government Licence (U.K).

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