Archive for the ‘People’ Category

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A to Z – Performers, Players and Playwrights (and Philosophers)

22 April, 2018

One of the ways that news travels across the Sea of Stars is with various types of performers, from lone minstrels to theater companies, Commedia dell’arte type troupes to wandering philosophers.

Minstrel, bards and even groups of musicians travel from place to place bringing news and good cheer with them.  Most can be sure of getting at least a free meal and space in the common room of whatever inn they visit for a few hours of entertainment work.  Music is widespread across the lands with many interesting instruments and styles emerging since the Sundering.  Dragons seem to be inordinately fond of choral music and many large cities, and wealthy nobles, retain choirs to please visiting dragons.

Theater is mostly confined to large cities and courts throughout the world, though some groups tour smaller cities in the off season.  The Empress sponsors between three and seven Imperial theater troupes at any time, sending them on goodwill tours through out the Empire.  Theater troupes often stick to classical plays which have been approved and made safe by age, it is only under dragons who ignore or appreciate the theater that troupes are willing to try new and experimental works.

Something for everyoneThe Commedia dell’arte type troupes travel widely, though mostly from city to city, taking their mix of set pieces and improvisational performances to a wide audience.  The open framework of their performances allows for easy adoption of local stories and news into their acts making each performance unique though with common themes.  One of the stock characters in the Sea of Stars is the masked and robed astrologer who give cryptic and often quite ludicrous advice to those seeking his aid

Philosophy as a performance art and intellectual competition, there is a great interest in philosophy in the Sea of Stars perhaps as a result of the loss of the gods and much of the traditional religious understanding of the world.  Traveling philosophers, many from Borusa the City of Scholars, travel a circuit of the cities and larger towns debating each other, local scholars and members of the public.  The dragons by and large tolerate such as long as the philosophers are not actively seditious, some even seem to enjoy the cut and thrust of academic debate.

Notes: While there have not been a lot of bards played in the Sea of Stars we did have a brief musically themed campaign.  And I find the idea of philosophy as performance art, or intellectual sport, highly amusing.  “Come, pit yourself against Ronalf the Learned, never beaten in debate, for a purse of 200 silver coins!”  Also, the idea of using a commedia dell’arte troupe as a framework for an adventuring party has great appeal to me.

Art Commedia dell’arte Troupe on a Wagon in a Town Square, by Jan Miel, 1640, found on Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain.

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A to Z – Nobility and Draconic Houses

18 April, 2018

NoblesWhen the dragons defeated the gods, naturally they wanted to take their spoils.  In most cases, the Empress convinced them that ruling over the other being in the Sea of Stars was the most efficient way to gain wealth and power.  A few ignored her and just pillaged their assigned lands, but they soon saw the errors of their ways and imported new people to farm and manage their lands and resources, except for a clawful of holdouts who rule over savage areas devoid of civilization and usually avoided by all others.

While dragons, in general, prefer the trapping of power to its responsibilities most just took over the local power structures and either replaced the highest power or placed themselves above them liking such titles as High Queen, Supreme Ruler, Most High and such, anything that elevated them over those they ruled.  Thus most dragons receive a constant revenue from taxes and tribute without having to go through all the effort of actively extorting it from their subject, leaving that to the nobility whom serves them.  The Draconic Houses emerge from such an arrangement, serving as the bureaucracy and enforcers of the dragons, making sure that proper taxes are paid, approving major projects and negotiating with other houses for trade deals and favors.  Over time the noble houses over seen by the Draconic Houses have often intermarried spreading draconic bloodlines wider throughout the lands.

Dragons understand the concept of nobility and an aristocracy, after all the idea of being born to rule is a core aspect of the philosophy of Dominae, but the day to day tasks are far too dull and petty for most dragons to enjoy so they leave them to their most honored servants, the nobles.  Dragon have greater tasks, at least according to them they do.

Notes: Aspects of this has been touched upon in the discussion of Knights and Knightly Orders in the Sea of Stars.

Image “Miniature showing Dripetua riding sidesaddle on a white horse . . .” by Boccaccio, Giovanni (1313-1375) is licensed under CC0 1.0

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A to Z – Love and Such in the Sea of Stars

16 April, 2018

Love!?Of course, love exists in the Sea of Stars, though there are no longer any deities that embody or promote the concept.  Among most cultures, love is how it always has been, which includes a nearly infinite number of combinations, rules, taboos and dangers.

The elves, however, have embraced the love of loss, they have developed entire genres of poetry and romances addressing the loss of the wholeness of the world, their gods (suitably allegorized), their near immortality, their place in the cycle of things, their lack.  Almost all of the elven cultures are woven through with loss and nostalgia to a greater or lesser extent.

The Visse, mostly, have a love of service and of those who are their social superiors, usually dragons, such is how they were made.  Their family lives tend to be ordered and hierarchical but not locking in love, though the strict hierarchies do lead to the occasional secret assignations and unrequited love.

Dragons are . . . not good with love.  They have great passions, driving passions, and they often acquire and collect things with an avarice that borders on love.  This sometimes extends to people but their love is usually possessive and can be cruel.  Almost all dragons are exceedingly self-centered but some try to learn more about mortal love, with mixed results at best.  But conventional wisdom says that it is best to avoid the eye of a dragon.

 

Notes: Love is a strange thing and dragons are strange, so naturally the two together are even stranger.

Image “Love” by Thomas Rowlandson (British, London 1757–1827 London), T. Smith (British, active London 1785–1800) via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

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A to Z – Jesters and Humor

12 April, 2018

Harlequin?There is a long tradition of having court jesters, however, as a general rule, dragons are not the best with humor and are objectively terrible at accepting criticism even -or especially- in the form of parody and play.  The exception, as if often the case, is the Empress.  While she does not hold court regularly enough to have a court jester, she often brings players, clowns and jesters, acrobats and other performers with her when she visits other Draconic nobles.

The Empress lets fools and jesters lightly mock her, and often more seriously tease or even ridicule her hosts, as the performers are under her protection, the other draconic nobles may grumble, but they will not act obviously against her playthings.  The Empress realizes that criticism crouched in humor sometimes will penetrate where direct confrontation would not, she lets her jesters and clowns provide that critique if her words will not be heeded.  After all, there is nothing a tyrant fears more than the laughter of their subject directed at them.

The Empress does not mind the occasional comedic barb sent her way, accusations of laying multicolored or gold eggs, being portrayed as a lusty dragon/woman (her seven closest aides are all handsome male dragons after all), joke about the greed of dragons, and so on.  As long as her competence to rule is not questioned, she can take a few laughs at her expense.  After all, she remembers being roundly mocked, laughed at and dismissed when she first ventured to talk about a plan to overthrow the gods, that was painful and humiliating . . . but look who is laughing now.

Notes: Something for every, a comedy tonight!

Photo “Jester” by Michael Neel is licensed under CC BY 2.0.  (Yes, I know it is Harley Quinn, but that is the name the photographer gave to it.)

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A to Z – Ba’aikire, the Unkind Ones

2 April, 2018

Dance of warVoddick shuddered and quickly turned back from the doorway to the tavern.

“Trouble?” asked Gollaon, his hand falling to his sword hilt.

“Harvesters, a whole flock of ’em,” said Voddick.  “You can smell the death on them.”

“They must think there will be a battle on the morrow.”

“Truth.  We had best cut our night short and prepare.”

Ba’iakire (Darkwings, Harvesters)

The Ba’aikire are the surviving daughters of the slain goddess of war, death and carrion and their descendants. For reasons that are obscure to this day, the Dragon Empress did not order them slain following the death of their mother but allowed them to continue to exist and roam the Sea of Stars in their bloody quests. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Ada Lovelace Day – Cleopatra the Alchemist

10 October, 2017

Cleopatra the AlchemistToday is Ada Lovelace Day, celebrating the contribution of women to the sciences, technology and knowledge.

As is my wont on ALD, I choose to highlight notable women of ideas of the Ancient World (see my 2011 and 2012 contributions) and today is no exception:

Cleopatra the Alchemist

Considered one of the finest alchemist of her time, roughly the 3rd Century CE, and was said to one of the four women alchemists who had mastered the philosopher’s stone and were capable of changing base metals to gold.

Alchemical secretsSadly, not much beyond that is know of her, there is a single page of symbolic notes she is believed to have written.  But the school of alchemy that she was attached to was well known as using advanced technology, she is associated with the early use or even invention of the alembic, used for distilling (and still used for distilling alcohol).

Notes: Images from Wikimedia Commons (seal) and Wikimedia Common (symbols) both are in the Public Domain.  You can read more about Cleopatra at Wikipedia.

Today’s magic item is inspired by her.

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What Character Archetypes do you enjoy playing, reprised.

24 March, 2017

We were discussing what character types our current group tend to gravitate to, so I thought I would repost this article and see what people think of it (almost seven years later):

The Naive Expert / Talented Innocent

Who to be today?This is one of my favorite character conceptions, someone who is very, very skilled in a specific field but naive about the greater world.  These character are very good at what they do and very confident of their own abilities in their field and totally lost once they step out of that narrowly defined area.  They are usually young and without much in the way of social or combat skills, at least at the start.

Why play this archetype?

Read the rest of this entry ?

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