Archive for the ‘People’ Category


Questions for Characters venturing into the Sea of Stars

18 May, 2019

People of all sortsInspired by Judd the Librarian’s questions, I decided to write up a few questions to help people think about their characters and where they are from in the Sea of Stars:

For All:

What do you think of dragonrule?  Of the dragons themselves?  Fear?  Admiration?  Jealousy?

Do you have a faith?  Do you eschew organized religion?  Do you have any private rituals?

Do you have a favored weapon?  Does it have a name?

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Xenogenesis in the Sea of Stars (A to Z, X)

27 April, 2019

Do you lay eggs?The world of the Sea of Stars in deeply infused with magic, in many cases the supernatural and the natural have intertwined so far as to become indistinguishable from one another  This constant interplay of forces means that strange things sometimes, just happen.

One of those is xenogenesis, birth of an offspring that is unlike its parents, which is rare but far from unknown.  Draconic blood flows through the veins of so many people and occasionsal, children are born higher up the draconic chain of ascension than one would expect, while no child not of a dragon has even been born as a Dracona (half dragon), Dracovi and Dani have appears as children to parents who were far removed from their draconic ancestors.

Occasional fragments of divine ancestry (“god-spark”) will manifest often leading to a very unusual child with strange appearance and potent magics, such children must be hidden from the dragons who will kill them or, at the very least, try to control such potential power.  The Empress recruits such children, when found by her agents, into her household, though she also has them rendered sterile, she has no wish to see the return of the gods.

Alignment with one of the elemental powers sometimes find their way into children conceived in areas rife with such activity.  These children are sought after by wizards and other specialists in the arts of magic as they can interact with their aligned element in very useful and productive ways.

And other changes to biology are known to happen, strange coloration, extra (or fewer) fingers or toes or both, and other physical abnormalities but rarely are they negative or harmful changes (though the possessor may not consider them positive either).  It is almost as if the magic wishes to expand the variety of people.

Notes: More excuses for players to be able to play the character that they want and X is a tough letter to find things to work with.

Image The Selenetidae women giving birth to eggs. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY.



Underworld, Criminal, in the Sea of Stars (A to Z, U)

24 April, 2019

While the Sea of Stars gives the illusion of a world where the dragons control everything, this is far from the truth. most dragons can simply not be bothered to put the amount of effort into running their realm that would amount to ‘control’; most simply set guidelines, maybe send a satrap to oversee and do not bother to look too closely as long as the tribute, sorry, taxes keep rolling in.

Getting ready to smuggle the goodsThe states that actually rule, under the direction of their draconic overlords, are no more or less efficient than any other state.  So, crime and corruption exists almost everywhere and in some places, it positively flourishes.  Gap between laws and desires, inefficiencies of trade, all of these will find some way to be exploited.

Most criminal networks and syndicates are confined to a single city, or a small states, with a few exceptions such as various associations of smugglers who, while usually local, have ties with other such groups forming a large informal network.  The smugglers naturally exchange goods and routes with the pirates and the (illegal) slavers who form one of the sources for the smugglers stock.

Local criminal networks tend to concern themselves with control of the illegal markets be that sex work, illicit intoxicants, theft, protection, gambling or what have you.  Wherever there is a black market, there will be people trying to control it to maximize control and profits.  Taren Kost, for example, has no less than three syndicates vying for control of the various niches of criminality in that large city.

Some smuggling networks are so regularized and small scale that they are almost legal, the trade in small quantities of fine wines and spirits by the Elfin ships is one such.  While technically such trade should be taxed in most of the ports, the value of the friendship of the elfin fleets (and the gifts they give to the nobles and port master) make it a grey market at worst.

The Sen’tek maintain a network that distributes weapons and alchemical mixtures, mostly of dubious legality, across the Sea of Stars, primarily collecting rare materials and knowledge in exchange.  The Sen’tek network is pervasive but also very low key and focused only on high-value items, it often works with other syndicates and networks as it does not challenge the control these groups have of their trades while providing extra profits.

As long as there are profits to be made by breaking the law, someone will organize to do so.

Notes: As opposed to the actual physical Underworld and the metaphysical Underworld, both of which have already been visited in previous articles.

Image “Rigging Out a Smuggler” by Thomas Rowlandson is licensed under CC CC0 1.0



Quarrels, Grudges and Blood Feuds in the Sea of Stars (A to Z, Q)

19 April, 2019

Dragons are not a very forgiving breed, they tend to catalog and remember any slight or insult inflicted upon them to be suitably repaid at some later time.  So, try to avoid crossing them if you can.  Other dragons, however, often do so.  It is a huge game to many dragons to try and get the upper hand on their rivals, this often expands into becoming a conflict between Draconic Houses which, in turn, drag in the lands the houses rule into the conflict.

War, it solves some problems, right?As a general rule, these quarrels are low key, political maneuvering, propaganda, mercantile trickery, attacks on reputations of the rival houses and economic disruptions are acceptable.  At this stage, it really is just a big game from the draconic point of view, though for the people whose fortunes, reputation and livelihoods are directly effected it is much more damaging.  The Empress encourages the houses to keep conflicts at this level, not too damaging and easy to recover from, but it is easy to cross the line.

Once an attack become personal for one of the dragons involved, for whatever reason, the violence and damage tend to escalate quickly: theft, raids, the hiring of pirates and bandits to actively harass the rival faction, leading them to retaliate in kind.  The Empress disapproves of such messiness as it tends to have a knock on effect that damages all local economies and depress Imperial tax revenue but unless it actively spills over into other draconic (or Imperial) lands, she is loath to intervene unless requested.  She will encourage the two sides to negotiate but by this stage, it is difficult for either side to back down and usually the best that can be achieved is a cold war type pause in active hostilities.

If a dragon is actually attacked, or worse yet killed, by a rival house, things will move into a full blood feud, which is in practicality a war between the houses involved.  The dragons do not do such things by halves, militaries will be mobilized, assassins sent, magical weapons prepared, privateers given letters of marque, and blood will be spilled.  Usually at least several dragons on each side will have to be killed before their will be any chance of establishing a peace between the warring houses and the Empress will (and has) stepped in to stop wars that have become too destructive to the general well being of the Empire but she prefers to be asked to mediate rather than to impose her will.

Naturally, there are opportunities for venturers and freelance intelligencers to make profits in such conflicts, but the risks can be high, especially if the situation unexpectedly escalates.

Notes: Image War between Athens and Crete from BL Royal 16 G VII, f. 67v. The British Library. Public Domain Mark.




Marriage and Matrimony in the Sea of Stars (A to Z, M)

15 April, 2019

Continuing to discuss the ways that families exist and are created in the Sea of Stars, you can refer also to Draconic Bloodines and Bastards and Kinships.

The dragons rarely bother with such firm commitments among themselves, their relationships with other dragons tend to be passionate and brief, or contractual and brief.  Rarely will long term commitments emerge between dragons and even those tend to hinge on only being intensely together for a short time and then spending considerable time apart.  Generally, dragons are private beings who prefer only to deal with subordinates on a regular basis, the clash of wills involved when dealing with a peer is draining . . . and dangerous.

Now, the lower ranks of the Draconic Houses, the dracona, dracovi and dani, are expected to marry usually for reasons of dynastic ties and political alliances.  The negotiations involved in such are usually quite complex and involve contracts and exchanges of promises and goods, who ends up married into which house and under what conditions is precisely defined (often on magical contracts).  Sometimes these alliances last only for years, in other cases they are lifetime commitments.

Dynastic unions and political marriages are the usual lot among the noble families in the Sea of Stars, rarely these matches are or become love matches, but children are expected to marry where they are told to by their family.  Sometime these marriages are outside the usual man and woman, triads are rare but not unknown as are same sex pairings.  Even more unusual constellations exist but are rare.

Marriages are a civil and societal commitment, legally witnessed, some cultures invoke the blessing and sanctions of the Sun (even if the rituals used where originally for a different god altogether).  But primarily it is social pressure and cultural sanction that maintains a marriage.

People still seek love and companionship, though not all are fortunate enough to find it in marriage.

Notes: Image King Dushyanta proposing marriage with a ring to Shakuntala. Chromolithograph by Ravi Varma. Wellcome Collection. CC BY.


Kinship in the Sea of Stars (A to Z, K)

12 April, 2019

The Gods War and the Sundering were hugely disruptive to societies across the Sea of Stars, religious certainties crumbled, the world shattered and everything was in flux.  Weather patterns changed, seas poured away, everything changed and peoples moved, often in great numbers, in search of safety and certainty.  These waves of refugees and migrants washed up near and far changing the composition of many a land and it was decades before the turmoil settled down, partly imposed from the top down as the dragons took charge of their new dominions and partly due to the changes slowing and the new world stabilizing.

With so much turmoil social systems had to adapt or break apart.  Traditions that relied upon religious sanction were particularly hard hit, no small number simply transferred their allegiance to the Sun, the only visible surviving god, and tried to rebuild.  Others turned to the newly triumphant dragons for guidance, adopting Dominae or other draconic beliefs in their attempt to find a new way forward.  A few turned from faith entirely seeking solace in philosophy.

Marriage!With the disruption to families, new ways to organize them were often found: adoptions, fostering and various constellations of marriages were tried and, in some cases, became the new traditions.  The Anjovians from the ice fields on the far spinward part of the Sea of Stars practice marriages exclusively between two couples.  No small number of cultures are matrilineal, tracing decent through the female line.  Contract and limited time marriages are popular in some cultures.  Same sex relationships, and even marriages, are not uncommon in some cultures as there are ways to provide for reproduction and continuation of the family line.

Adoptions and fostering remain common, sharing skills and building ties between families and regions.  Many towns and villages have yearly exchanges to maintain ties running back to the aftermath of the Sundering where one place sent aid to another and that kindness is remembered and built on through the years. The Sheth, a group of grey-skinned humans, adopt children (especially orphans) and feed them a special diet to turn their skin grey to continue their distinctive culture and appearance.  Adoptions are one of the ways that the Draconic Houses increase their numbers, seeking out and recruiting skilled and talented people, sometime even ascending them to the lower levels of the draconic bloodlines.

Kinship is both complex and flexible in the Sea of Stars.

Notes: Image from the Wellcome Collection used under CC BY.





Draconic Bloodlines and Bastards (A to Z, D)

4 April, 2019

Colorful dragon glassIn the Sea of Stars, all dragons have the ability to change shape most use this ability to take human form which often to indulging in the pleasures and passions that humanity is prone to.  In the first century after the Dragon Rule began there were so very many half-dragons spawned but after that, bearing a half-dragon child became very hard and dangerous on the mother, if not a dragon, the reason for this change is unknown.  (The religious say that it was a punishment from the gods, other wonder if that is so, why did it take a century to manifest.)

Still, there are no small number of people with some amount of dragon blood flowing in their veins, the dragons categorize the people in such a fashion:

  • Dracona, those in the first generation, or half-dragons as some would call them.  Embody quite a few draconic powers (toughness, magical attack -usually being able to breath fire or some such- and great physical strength).  New Dracona are rare (as noted above) but they have a significant lifespan so there are quite a few around.
  • Dracovi, children of the Dracona and other mortals, still marked by greater strength and durability compared to most humanish species but not to the same extent as the Dracona nor is their life as long.  Elves with dragon blood are often called Shadowelves due to their closeness to the Draconic House Shel’liochassa (“Shadowed Heart”).
  • Dani, those with just enough dragonblood for it to manifest in some fashion, providing abilities that are by echos of the power of their distant ancestors.

Certain complex and powerful magics, held almost exclusively by the dragons, can allow people to ascend up the draconic chain of being.  But only the Empress holds the key to the magics that will advance one of the dracona to the status of a true dragon and such power has been exercised . . . once in the history of the Sea of Stars.

The Draconic Houses, in general, care more about loyalty and the power that the dragon-blooded bring than  concern about who their distant ancestor was.  Prove yourself useful and loyal, and you can go far.  Bastards, distant relations, foundlings with dragon-blood, it makes no difference ultimately as long as they devote themself to the house they find service with . . . it is those with greater ambitions that take greater risk but sometime, achieve greater ends.

Notes:This was going to be the A to Z for B (with bastards taking the lead) but I changed it around and you can see how it links to the Bloodline Chain.

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

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