It is…well, to me, it is what Planescape wanted to be but never quite managed.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

I picked this game up at Origins this year. It is…well, to me, it is what Planescape wanted to be but never quite managed. It is, however, very much not a D&D-like game. It uses the Spark RPG system, which I had never run into before but I am informed was also used for a few other games by the publisher, Genesis of Legends. The chief creator and mind behind the game, Jason Pitre, has also worked on Hillfolk and some other stuff, but mostly his own Spark stuff. The text of the game is currently Creative Commons 3.0 under the Attribution license. On February 1, 2027, the entire text will permanently enter public domain.

The game is set in a multiverse, centered on Sig, the City Between. Sig is a moebius strip of city, floating in an infinite void at the nexus of the ‘verse, as the inhabitants refer to their multiverse. Around it spin the infinite prime worlds and the 15 major planes. Sig is always bound by metaphysical tether to three planes at a time, and those planes are able to freely come and go from the city, always with a large influx of settlers, refugees and visitors. The planes are also the source of the city’s Factions, the groups that make the place function while also pursuing their own political agendas. (I did mention this was havily based on Planescape, right?) They’re also home to the Powers – what you might consider gods, who draw power from the faith and worship of mortals and in exchange for their devotion and obedience offer miraculous rites. Planescape’s Sigil was run by the Lady of Pain, and similarly Sig was run by the Silent Regent – except for one thing. A generation ago, the Regent disappeared. The city’s been dealing with that ever since, but she’s…gone. She’s dead or vanished, and has been for over a decade. The city goes on.

The Eternal Planes are said to have been made by the Primordials at the beginning of time. These days, there really are not that many Primordials left to corroborate this, of course, so it may or may not actually be true, but they’ve certainly been around as long as anyone can recall. The fifteen major planes get the most traffic, but there’s plenty of smaller planar shards or demiplanes out there, too, swirling around the Planar Core where Sig sits, kind of like an atom. Each plane is unique, but they each have a few traits in common. First, every plane is defined by a single, overarching Belief, which influences the society and even physical laws of existence on that plane. Each also has its own natives, with unique and proud Heritage and abilities. The planes are, in theory, ruled by the Powers, divine beings or devils who most primals worship or tell stories about. (Primals are mortal beings of the prime worlds. More on that momentarily.) Each Power has devoted servants and cultists who obey their will and tend to cause problems for those that oppose them. The Powers each tend to have some section of a plane carved out as their personal realm, and they’re nearly omnipotent within that area (at least, when dealing with the thing they are Power of). The planes also serve as powerbases and sources of goods and resources for the Factions of Sig.

There are three interlocking rings in the Planar Core. The Elemental Ring, the innermost, is composed of the Planes of Flame, Waves, Wind, Stone and Ice. The outermost ring, the Ideological Ring, is made of the Planes of Justice, Tyranny, Destruction, Order and Freedom. Between them is the central Conceptual Ring, comprised of the Planes of Dreams, Shadow, Life, Lore and Death. Spread around and between the rings of the Core are the Infinite Primes, which make up most of the ‘verse in general. Primals, as the mortals native to the Primes are known, tend to be self-centered about their own worlds, but no Prime is central to the ‘verse…which is usually a good thing for them, given the chaos and problems that Sig tends to run into with its central location. Each Prime is a vibrant world with its own cultures, customs, languages and even physical laws. One might be a grand kingdom besieged by elemental forces, while another could be a world of brutal storms and tentacular monstrosities, and a third might be a sprawling planet-city struggling with language and identity clashes. There’s an infinite number of them out there, and their faith and shapes the ‘verse by powering the Powers and strengthening the Planes based on their central Beliefs and concepts. The Primes are also plundered for resources by the Factions when possible, or visited for the lore they have, or just treated as tourist destinations. The Powers and Factions get a lot of use out of them, and the more primals that end up following a Faction or Power’s philosophy, the more powerful they and their associated plane becomes.

Sig itself has always been there. Some say it is where the Primordials rested after constructing the ‘verse, while others believe it is a rogue plane, possibly once the Plane of Cities, that somehow escaped the orbit of the Planar Core and came to rest in the middle. Others say that the Silent Regent, its former ruler for centuries, made it for her own ends. No matter what, it’s ancient and hides many secrets. It appears to be put together in a mishmash of styles and materials from across the ‘verse, primarily from scavenged wood or stone held together with a strange gray mortar that is strangely warm to the touch. Whenever a new group of primal immigrants shows up, they tend to settle and form their own neighborhood dedicated to their own cultural flavor, and so Sig is more cosmopolitan than any Prime city, with hundreds or even thousands of languages spoken along its streets. Every sort of being is represented there, from the largest giant to the smallest gnome – and far stranger things between.

The most notable thing to most visitors, however, is the smell. Sig has a smell all its own, a mix of roasted rat, heavily spiced soup, rotting trash and countless living bodies, all pressed together into a mélange that is practically a physical blow, able to make newcomers’ eyes water easily. That’s not the city’s real danger, of course. That’s the conflicts. Everyone believes something different, and in a city like Sig, those beliefs clash often. The Factions try to keep things running, but also see to their own power, and terrible things hide in the slums of the Hive, while mobs can be raised for nearly any cause. There’s always work for peacekeepers, diplomats and mercenaries.

As the alignments of the Planes shift, they influence the City Between, particularly its language. While hundreds of tongues are spoken there daily, understanding seeps in through the planar tethers. Whatever three Planes are attached to Sig at the moment are understood. When the Plane of Flames is tied in, everyone can understand the tongues of fire and the scorched scripts, making it easy for the natives of the plane to communicate. The city is warped by the planes, its trends and nature changing to reflect it. But when the tethers shift, that all ends. The gift of understanding is only there as long as the plane is connected, after all. Entire neighborhoods may end up cut off from society as their language is no longer understood by others. The locals of Sig learn to cope. Some work hard to learn languages the old-fashioned way, allowing them to communicate more freely, while others hire professional scribes and translators. Work as a freebooter linguist is lucrative, if not always safe. The wealthy purchase extremely expensive translation artifacts, while others resort to drinking the liquor of blue devil squeezing.

Oh, right, I should mention – among other influences, Kill Six Billion Demons is up there!

There are several methods to travel through the ‘verse, and people tend to enjoy traveling. The main method of out of Sig is the Planar Tethers. At any given time, these major planar thoroughfares connect the City Between to three different planes, and each is a very easy, widely-used method of travel. The Brass Tether ties the city to an Elemental Plane, the Golden Tether to an Ideological Plane, and the Silver Tether to a Conceptual Plane. When they shift, which resources and immigrants can come in changes, as does the nature of the city. The city is also full of Gates, hidden portals that allow individual people or small groups to travel to a specific Prime world. Most gates can only be unlocked at specific times, with specific words or by specific people, which is why most of them are hidden and secret.

Sometimes, a Vortex will form. Vortices are quasi-natural planar rifts between Sig and a random plane that usually last for only a few days. The planar navigators usually say they are made by the acts of the Powers, but most Powers deny having any responsibility for their creation. Like a Tether, a Vortex allows the nature of the plane it is connected from to seep through into the City Between, but unlike the Tethers, which influence the entire City Between, a Vortex’s influence will be sharply limited to a specific region or neighborhood around it. There are also Portals, the most versatile and dangerous method of travel. Any potent sorcerer, wizard or Power may create a portal, a shimmering pool of color that leads wherever they decide to send it. However, the price of using a portal is high, because the price of making one is high: to create a portal, one of your relationships must be sacrificed. Your best friend no longer recalls you, perhaps, or your husband moves out and leaves you, or your child decides you’re a dangerous influence to be cut from their life. Your memory of the relationship you gave up waxes and wanes over time, like a painful dream.

Next time: Rules.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Sig: Manual of the Primes

Overall, this is an extremely narrative, loose system that is designed mostly to resolve conflicts. The core of it is Beliefs, and we’ll get into that. Generally speaking, most gameplay will consist of everyone talking about what’s going on and declaring what they want to be true or what their character is doing and what happens as a result of that. If everyone agrees that something is the right outcome, that’s what occurs. Dice are only rolled when players disagree – including the GM, who is still a player. Conflicts are generally simple – each side’s going to end up rolling one die, and whoever gets the highest number wins. There are some details that result from this and ways to manipulate your die size or result, but overall, that’s the system.

The game has three different scales: Session, Scene and Conflict. Each Session is made of multiple dramatic Scenes, and each Scene may contain a number of Conflicts. Between sessions, the GM keeps track of the changing history and relationships of the various Factions, Powers and notable NPCs, as well as if any Beliefs have changed (and therefore shifted Tethers). The game expects a Session to last between 2 and 5 hours, and each Session begins with an inciting problem of some variety; by default, the first session begins with the death or disappearance of an NPC everyone is connected to, and later sessions will typically start with one Faction or Power accomplishing a goal and another failing at one. At the end of each Session, characters may end up triggering Reflections, special scenes in which they grow and change their Beliefs.

Scenes focus on individual events. A Scene begins with a Platform (“someone declares where this is happening”), a Tilt (“someone explains why the characters have to act right now”) and a Question (“someone defines what the scene is about and when it will end”). To determine what these are, everyone rolls their Smoke die, and the three highest people get to frame the scene between them. We’ll get more details on that in a bit, as well as on the stats. (There’s only two – Smoke and Spark.) The scene then continues, with everyone roleplaying freely, until the Question is answered. At that point, the scene ends and Influence is handed out to anyone whose Beliefs got confronted in the scene, whether confirmed or rejected.

Conflicts happen when people at the table disagree over what should happen and propose different outcomes. Each side rolls their appropriate stat, adding in any relevant bonuses from Talents, assistance or other benefits. Whoever gets the highest result wins the Conflict, getting the outcome they desire but taking 1 Harm as the price of victory. While many Scenes will have a Conflict or even multiple Conflicts, you can go entire scenes without actually having one, if everyone agrees on what should end up happening in the fiction. That’s totally fine.

The game requires at least three people, given how scene-setting rules work and also because you need someone to be the GM and at least two characters to bounce off each other regularly. They suggest capping it at six, one GM and five characters, but the game can easily adapt to adding or removing one or two players in any given session. It’s not a heavy system – you just don’t want people talking over each other and stuff. You are going to need a full set of normal gaming dice, though, from a d4 up to a d20. While you will only ever be rolling one die at a time, dice sizes vary wildly depending on stats and some bonuses.

The GM, given their special role, gets special attention from the book. Their job is to play director and producer for the story, and they control the setting for the most part, shaping how most NPCs will react and act. They arbitrate between players and make judgments where needed, and should understand the rules because they’re likely to be the one that has to explain them. Their job is also to keep things moving and to remind people that they should either agree that a thing can happen or roll the dice to oppose it. They are going to end up playing the Faces (major NPCs with connections to the PCs), the locals of Sig, the planes and the primes, the Powers and the Factions.

Everyone else plays a PC. Their job is to pursue their Beliefs and define what their PCs say and do. They may also control minor, non-Face NPCs when appropriate, especially if those NPCs share some trait with their PC, such as a heritage, faction or religious belief. They collaborate together and with the GM to narrate scenes and the world, and they work to support or refute Beliefs, their own and those of others. Players are advised to be decisive and hold firm to their Beliefs, daring others to accept their perspective. Good or bad decisions don’t matter – just that you make them. It also advises you to be vulnerable and push your boundaries, though only as much as you’re comfortable with, as the next page helpfully talks about the X-Card and safety mechanisms for if gameplay goes into potentially sensitive or traumatic areas. This is definitely possible, even beyond the fact that it’s really not possible to know what someone else’s triggers will be sometimes, with the fact that xenophobia, racism and punishment are things that may well end up coming up. The game advises players also to be transparent with each other. While character can and will keep secrets from each other, players should not. That way, you can arrange for interesting scenes in which secrets are nearly discovered or risk being revealed, and can help each other make the plots you want to see happen. Players, lastly, should be daring. You are in firm control of the long-term consequences to your character. Risks can earn you Influence, but they can’t get rid of you. It is not possible to die unless you want your character to die. Otherwise, you can bounce back from anything. Push your limits and go big.

There are two primary game currencies to track – Influence and Harm. Influence can be spent to direct the story, either in narrative ways (by doing things beyond your normal fictional capabilities by tapping into, say, a Faction’s power or a Power’s gifts) or to help you in Conflicts by giving dice bonuses. It can also let you ask questions about other characters in Interludes, learning more about them, or even change Beliefs by triggering Reflections. Harm is gained by winning Conflicts, and it’s not good to have. The other main way to get Harm is to willingly take it in order to get a dice bonus in a Conflict.

Influence is gained by confronting your Beliefs. Everyone begins each session with 3 Influence, plus every Belief has 1 Influence associated with it. When one of your character’s Beliefs (or, for the GM, the Beliefs currently assigned to them by circumstance) in a scene, when the scene ends you gain the Influence associated with it. Once someone takes all 3 Influence from their Beliefs, everyone else gains 1 Influence and their Beliefs get a new set of Influence associated. There’s a Belief sheet to help track this – you put a token representing Influence next to each Belief, taking them and giving them to a player when earned. Once they’ve earned all three, you replace them and give everyone else 1 from the main token bank.

Influence can be spent after you roll a die in a Conflict to raise your result by +1, 1 for 1. You can spend as much as you want that way. You can spend 3 Influence to trigger an Interlude, and if a session ends with you at 15 Influence or more, you trigger a Reflection. Interludes are short, quiet moments between Scenes. You pick another player and ask them a question about their character or their character’s history (or, for the GM, about the setting or NPCs). You and they both lose 1 Harm. Reflections are the moments when you sit down and realize your life has changed. You pick another player and have an intimate discussion with them about one of your Beliefs, ultimately deciding whether it is confirmed and you no longer ever doubt it or rejected and you no longer believe it. Then you both either gain a new Talent or increase one of your stats by one step, and come up with a new Belief to replace it. This also causes one of the Tethers of Sig to shift planes.

Harm is…well, any form of harm or suffering. When you have Harm, your pain makes you less able to act in future Conflicts. Harm can be physical, like a wound, emotional, like a bruised ego or hurt feelings, mental, like exhaustion or taxed magical ability, or simply bad luck, like a curse or karmic retribution. No matter what, it’s all Harm and is tracked the same way. You can have up to 6 Harm, and each point limits you. If you have no Harm, you can roll any die. If you have 1 Harm, you can’t roll higher than a d12 in most circumstances. If you have 2, your cap is a d10. 3, a d8. This continues on down to 5, where you can only roll a d4. When you take your 6th point of Harm, however, you must choose either to be taken out of the scene or to retire your character from play after the scene.

Harm is only gained from winning Conflicts (which can sometimes do more than 1 Harm, if they got escalated) or by choosing to take Harm for dice bonuses. After rolling your dice, you can get +3 to your roll per point of Harm taken. 1 Harm is removed when you take part in an Interlude, when you choose to sit out of a scene altogether from the start or when your character leaves play in a scene. At the end of the session, all Harm is removed.

Next time: More detailed explanation of scene framing

This Frame Really Ties The Scene Together

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Sig: Manual of the Primes
This Frame Really Ties The Scene Together

Most gameplay is Scenes, and Scenes are relatively structured given the freeform nature of play. Every Scene starts with the Framing phase. In this phase, you create the situation. Everyone – GM included – rolls their Smoke die. The highest roll gets to decide if they’ll be describing the Platform, Tilt or Question. Second highest picks from the two that are left. Third highest gets the last one. Everyone can give suggestions, but those three hold ultimate say over the thing they got. The person who chooses the Platform describes where and when the Scene happens, in no more than a few sentences. They control the pace of play by deciding how much time has passed since the last Scene, and should cut right to where the action will be. Scenes should be snappy and fast-moving. The example Platform is “You stand in a filthy alley in the Hive, reeking of spilled beer and infested with green slimes.” Everyone decides if their PC is present in the scene; if not, they may choose to portray an NPC with their Smoke attribute, or they may sit out the scene entirely to lose 1 Harm.

The person who creates the Tilt now has two to three sentences to describe what event or action makes the PCs need to act. This can be very helpful in framing what kind of actions will be encouraged in the scene and what sort of Beliefs may come into play or what Talents might be useful. The Tilt must be logically consistent with the Platform. The example: “A small child runs out of a doorway, sobbing loudly and clutching a stuffed dragon toy.”

Lastly, the person who asks the Question determines what the scene is trying to determine. They have…a question. Once the question is answered, the scene ends. This determines why the scene is important, and often makes it clear what Beliefs will be confronted and challenged in the scene. The Question must be related to the Tilt. Example: “Will you bring the girl back to her terrible and cruel family?”

Once all that’s taken care of, the Collaboration Phase begins. Everyone at the table talks about what’s going on, starting with the GM. The GM gets the first chance to make a statement or declaration, and everyone else that is taking part in the scene gets to describe what their characters say or do. You can ask each other questions to learn more about why they’re saying, thinking or doing things. The GM does similar with the NPCs, or may narrate things about the current situation or setting. Periodically, people may make bold declarations of what happens. You’re encouraged to ask each other questions and build off the answers in this phase, and to confront your Beliefs and those of the others. Anything proposed in play here is assumed to be true unless it contradicts what has previously been established. If you disagree with something, you may trigger a Conflict and propose your alternative. This enters the Conflict Phase.

The Conflict Phase begins by determining the two sides of the Conflict – always two. Each side determines what will happen if they win the Conflict. Others at the table may choose to support a side, but must describe how their character’s actions help bring about the outcome. If the participants of the Conflict are using their primary character to bring about the outcome (a PC, a Face NPC or a Power, generally) they use their Spark die. If using a lesser character or the actions of the world itself, they use their Smoke die. Every person that supports your side increases your die size by 1, to a max of d20. For NPCs, if they have a Strength that applies, their die size is increased by one, but if they have a Weakness that applies, it decreases by one. There is also another way to automatically get a d20, even if you have Harm. Every eternal plane has a single Belief that overrides everything else there. Anyone whose side of a Conflict supports that Belief while on that plane always rolls a d20, no matter what. No one can gain Influence from refuting the Planar Belief while on that plane.

Once die sizes are determined and rolled, bonuses apply. If you have a Broad Talent applicable to what’s going on, you get +1. If it’s a Common Talent, +2. If it’s a Deep Talent, +3. You can add +3 to your roll per Harm you choose to take, and +1 per Influence you choose to spend. We’ll get into Talents during character creation. Whoever ends up with the highest result wins the Conflict. Their declaration of what happens is the true one, and they take 1 Harm as the price of victory. If there is a tie, the Conflict escalates. The entire Conflict phase is repeated, but without any external help from other players. Whoever wins the second roll wins the Conflict, but takes an additional Harm. If there’s still a tie, you repeat this process until there isn’t. If you lose a Conflict, you cannot repeat the same declaration you made that lost the Conflict for the rest of the session.

Whatever the case, once the Question has been answered, the Scene enters the Closing Phase. This can also be triggered if everyone decides the scene should end, even if the Question remains unanswered. Any PC whose Beliefs have been challenged and confronted during the scene can claim Influence from the Belief Sheet as appropriate. Everyone at the table must agree that the Belief was confronted and discussed, refuted or confirmed. If anyone disagrees, you don’t get to take the Influence from the sheet. The GM gains Influence in the same way, but their Beliefs are not static. They change based on the location of the scene. On one of the eternal Planes, the GM gains 1 Influence each time someone, no matter who, reinforces the Planar Belief in a Conflict. On a Prime, the GM’s Beliefs are the three Beliefs of the Prime world. In Sig, the GM’s Beliefs are the Beliefs of the three Planes tethered to Sig. If anyone has claimed all three of the Influence tokens from their part of the Belief Sheet, everyone else gains 1 Influence and three new tokens are put on those Beliefs. Lastly, anyone may spend 3 Influence to trigger an Interlude.

In an Interlude, whoever triggers it may ask a question of another player. For players of PCs, they may ask a question about the PC’s history, motivations or dreams. For the GM, they may ask about the setting. The question can be made in character or as a narrative observer. The person asked needs to answer honestly, which can be done as dialogue, actions or a narrated flashback. Once this is done, the person asking and the person asked both remove 1 Harm.

At the end of each session, if you have 15 Influence, you trigger a Reflection. You pick someone else at the table and talk to them intimately about one of your or their Beliefs. This is generally an in character discussion, possibly about the struggle in which the Belief was confronted or a moment of confession or personal revelation. At the end of this, both players work together to create a new, replacement Belief, as the character either integrates and ceases to question their Belief or rejects it as false. Both parties can discuss the exact wording and must achieve a mutually acceptable Belief based on what’s been happening. It must still fit all the normal rules for Beliefs, which we’ll get into in chargen. You write it down on the Belief sheet. At that point, both players get the chance to improve their characters. They may raise one of their two attributes one step, to a max of d12, or may gain a new Talent of their choice. Either way, this should be selected based on what was learned while confronting the Belief.

Whenever a PC changes a Belief, the GM chooses one of Sig’s tethers to shift. One plane loses the tether and is replaced by another, changing the city. New immigrant communities will flood the streets, bringing new languages and cultures. The Factions aligned with the old plane will lose power and those aligned with the new one will gain it, and the same for the Powers. The GM will work to account for this and describe how the city changes and warps. After this, the session ends.

There are only two ways for a character to be forced out of a scene, and both of them are your choice in almost every circumstance. First is being Taken Out. At any point during a scene, you may declare that your character has been Taken Out and temporarily incapacitated. At that point, you can no longer make declarations or take part in Conflicts, though you can still talk to everyone else at the table. You just can’t really do much but ask them questions and give your thoughts – you cannot make declarative statements about what’s going on. If you take 6 Harm, you must choose to be Taken Out if you don’t want to retire your character after the scene. Being Taken Out removes 1 Harm at the end of the scene.

Retiring can be done whenever you want, but is usually done when you take 6 Harm. Fictionally, it means your character has gotten into some problem significant enough that they can no longer continue as a protagonist. Death is optional; what matters is that after the scene, they are no longer in play. Maybe they literally retired, or are stuck in hospital, or have gone mad, or have achieved a grand destiny and must now run a kingdom. However, they get a chance to tie up loose ends this scene. You erase all Harm, and for the rest of the scene you operate at full capabilities. Once the scene is over, the character’s done, so make it a dramatic and memorable exit. Try to make a new character by the end of the session or start of the next one; possibly promote a Face or other named NPC to full PC status.

Next time: Session structure and chargen.

Session Is Hard To Make Puns About

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Sig: Manual of the Primes
Session Is Hard To Make Puns About

The first session will always begin the same way – you go through chargen and determine the Faces, who the PCs are connected by, and the Focus, who every PC has a connection to. The game begins because the Focus has just died (or vanished), and the first scene is about why. Between sessions, the GM will think about the opinions and plans of the Faces, Powers and Factions, figuring out what issues and problems they are dealing with and what schemes are currently in play. If Sig’s just had a tether shift, that will likely be a major element in what’s going on in the next session. For sessions that aren’t the first one, the session begins with everyone rolling their Smoke. Whoever rolls highest picks a Faction or Power and declares that their agenda has been completed successfully, working with the GM (if they aren’t the GM) to determine what that is. Second highest picks a second Faction or Power whose agenda was foiled and, again, works with the GM if they weren’t the GM to determine what agenda that was. The third highest creates a new Face NPC that got stuck in the middle of the conflict and has been affected by both the successful and failed agendas.

Now, chargen! Chargen is a communal thing, because of the fact that every character will end up tied to the setting and NPCs, and also because players should be interested in each other’s characters. Step 1 is to determine which planes begin the game tied to Sig. You roll 3d6 and, as a group, assign your results to the chart. A single 6 means that a tether has changed recently, and you decide which plane lost it and which gained it, with both having influence on the city. Multiple sixes mean the City Between is currently bound to at least one Shard Realm as well. Shard Realms are lesser Planes, still eternal but smaller and less influential than the 15 core Planes. Elemental shards might be Dust or Steam, ideological might be Compassion or Greed, and conceptual might be Time or Motherhood. The end of the book covers the example Shard Realm of Empire, or you can make your own.

Alternatively, you can pick one of the five example Cities, which show you ways the City Between can change based on what’s Tethered.
The City of Power (Fire/Destruction/Lore): The city is a brilliant and terrifying place, a bright and hungry light in the void. It is a city of brass and fire, where safety is about caution and etiquette. The city is full of demons, cultists and bargainers, each dangerous and each seeking lost and forbidden secrets. The City Between is a place of forbidden power, dangerous and untamed.
The City of Secrets (Waves/Order/Shadow): The city is a dark and gloomy place of mist and shadows concealing all. The roads have been replaced by a canal network flowing from the Great River, and the government maintains a tight control over the city. The laws have grown restrictive and binding, their touch applying to nearly every aspect of life. The City Between is a place of hidden lies, dangerous secrets and paranoia – not without cause.
The City of Revelation (Wind/Freedom/Dreams): The city is in constant motion. The rickety buildings are shaken and blown about by gale-force winds at all times, and on those winds come dreams and treasures. Strange gifts and prophecies abound, and the city life moves as if in a dream, always feeling slightly unreal. The City Between is full of visionaries and dreamers.
The City of Trials (Stone/Justice/Life): The city is alive. You can feel its heart beating like a drum in the stones under your feet, and you can see the trees bursting forth even though the hard stone, tended by ancient spirits. The city is full of trials, testing the virtue of the people, and of teachers, whose skill and wisdom are praised widely. The City Between is a place of judgment, growth and improvement.
The City of Endings (Ice/Tyranny/Death): The city is old, standing in monument to times before. Blades of ice and iron decorate the streets, and there are constant reminders of better days. Statues and frozen roses are all over the place, and all seem to be in mourning over some loss. Memory is more precious now than human life. The City Between is a place of the lost, dead and broken.

Step 2: You create you character’s name and title. Every character has a title – if not an official one, a nickname by which they are known on streets. It might be descriptive or ironic, but it tells you what the City thinks of your past deeds and reputation.

Step 3: Heritage. You decide who your parents are. They could be anything. In Sig, most people have at least some Planar blood, and explicitly, any couple can have a child if they’re willing to pay a price for the right ritual, mystic blessing or technological assistance. Star-crossed lovers are fairly common in Sig, raising mixed-blood children. Adoption is also common in the ‘verse, and it has physical effects. When Giants adopt a human girl, she is going to grow up big and tall, possibly even full Giant size. Prisoners of the Devahil often make bargains to escape their torment that turn them into Devahil themselves. Your parents may be any mix of the 15 Planar heritages described in the book, which we’ll get to in the chapter on the Planes, Primals, or weirder things. You might be the only person like you, or perhaps just you and a parent. Either way, you get two Talents based on your Heritage. Each Planar Heritage has four associated with them, but you can make up new ones easily. A Talent is just a single word or phrase that describes something you’re good at, after all.

Step 4: Profession. You decide what you do for a living. You then get five more Talents, which may reflect either your Heritage or Profession, your choice. Broad Talents represent a general understanding of some wide field, such as History or Huge or Fire. Common Talents are a focus on some particular subject, such as Biology or Flight. Deep Talents are a specialized sub-discipline, such as Burning Hands or Master Fencer. The game suggests you have two Broad, three Common and two Deep, with at least one Broad, Common and Deep reflecting the core abilities of your Profession. The GM is ultimate authority on what Talent is Common, Deep or Broad. Broad, remember, give +1, Common +2, and Deep +3, because of their varying ease of application.

Step 5: Faction Loyalty. Think about if you belong to a Faction. The game presents the 15 most influential ones, but they’re not the only ones that exist – any plane will support multiple Factions in Sig, with the core 15 just being the most common and influential. At heart, every Faction is trying to advance their goals and influence Sig to improve their standing. The closer they are to their home Plane, the more resources they’re going to have to draw on. Factions provide two things: Duty and Leverage. Duty is what the Faction does for Sig, and Leverage is what they have as their power within it. You may spend 1 Influence to be able to wield your Faction’s Leverage to your advantage for a full scene. However, you are obligated to support your Faction’s Duty. Not everyone belongs to a Faction, and some people may be members of a Faction for practical rather than ideological reasons. It’s good to think about how your character sees the Factions and thinks about their own economic and political standing, even if they aren’t members of any.

Step 6: Spiritual Power. The Powers are out there, offering up their gifts in exchange for faith. Their religions and doctrines vary - some are benevolent beings that wish to help others in exchange for faith, while others are vicious demons that terrorize people in to worship to propitiate them. Some release tantalizing lore and secrets as hints of their glory, or shape worlds to protect their faithful. The Powers all hunger for worship and faith, and all tend to have extreme personalities and issues with restraint. They may shower their followers in miracles and guidance when happy, or may unleash terrible plagues when their anger is aroused. For a Power, the moral imperative is upholding their nature and the thing they command. Powers have near-absolute control over their divine title, tha aspect of reality which they have control of. They offer great power in the form of potent rituals and miracles to their cultists, clerics or servants, but they demand much, as well. They are immortal, nearly indestructible, and faith is their bread. They tend to have long-term plans that their followers serve, both to provide them with more zeal on which to feed and to pursue their interests. Most Powers are bound to their plane, but can influence worlds outside it. They can easily reshape their domains within a plane to suit themselves, and outside of their plane they must act via avatars, servants and other, more indirect forms. Your character may well serve one of the Powers, offering up devotion.

Most of the faithful are reasonable people, though there's plenty of zealots around, and some followers of the gods are even mercenaries of faith, useful enough to their Power that the god doesn't tend to mind their lack of real conviction, as long as they follow the religious obligation or restriction that the Power demands ofthem. All Powers demand this - it is a show of devotion and a symbol of loyalty from their greatest servants. In exchange for this sacrifice of behavior, they offer their followers access to a powerful Ritual and the ability to pray for miracles. If you follow a Power, you must maintain that Power's Devotion. As long as you do, you can use the Ritual, and if you pay Influence while doing so, you avoid the usual price that the Ritual requires. Further, at any time, you may pray to a Power to grant you a miracle that is within their portfolio. The GM will decide if you get what you wanted, largely based on how happy the Power is with you lately. You may spend as much Influence as you want to bribe the Power with your faith, and the GM is instructed to take this into account in both whether a miracle manifests and how potent it is. There are 15 core Powers, one for each plane, but you can easily add new ones following their same pattern, which we'll see when we get to setting material. Even if your character does not follow any singular Power, however, think about their spiritual and religious beliefs (or lack thereof).

Step 7: Beliefs. Every character has three at all times, and Beliefs must be three things. First, a Belief must be subjective. In Sig, people tend to change what they believe in the face of overwhelming evidence, and so anything that is obviously true or obviously false is not a good Belief. Beliefs are philosophical things, and it should be possible for a Belief to be seen either way. Second, a Belief should be declarative. It's best if your Belief is the kind of thing your character might actually say in a heated argument about what they think. Third, a Belief should be controversial to at least a significant amount of people. After all, what's the point if your Belief isn't something anyone else cares about and you can't influence society on a whole about? The book gives some examples: "Family is a chain to be broken." "Violence is the best teacher." "Only sinners need masks."

Your first Belief should be centered on your relationship to your family, community, Heritage or culture. The game offers some questions to help you come up with it. Does your character advocate for their culture publicly? Is their ethnic or linguistic heritage core to their identity? Do they rebel against the backward ways of their family? Do they want to assimilate into the greater society of Sig?
Your second Belief should be centered on your character's politics or economic concerns. The game's questions to help that out: Do you personally care about your Faction's duty, if you belong to one? If you belong to one, how often do you use your Faction's Leverage for personal reasons? Is there some Faction you hate, fear or envy? Do you believe any Faction behaves in a moral way?
Your third Belief should be focused on your character's spirituality, ideology or morals. The game's questions to help you: Are you a zealot who strikes out at unbelievers? Are you an intellectual that debates issues of dogma or theology? Are you a missionary, out to convert the masses? Are you mad at any of those last three kinds of people?

Step 8: Attributes. You have your two. Spark, which represent's your character's personal capabilities to change the status quo and shape the world, and Smoke, which represents how the world reacts to you and how much you influence it just by being there. Spark is used when your character's personally doing something, and Smoke is used for framing scenes, starting new sessions, and controlling the environment, weird magic that is not your personal ability or the actions of minor NPCs. D4 is the lowest an attribute can go, and generally speaking no one will never have it; it will only ever come up due to having 5 Harm. D12 is as high as a PC can go - if you want a D20, you're going to need teamwork or the support of a Planar Belief on its home plane. The GM begins with one stat at d8 and the other at d12; Spark is high if the main danger will be coming from personal relationships, emotional pressure and zealous faith, while Smoke is higher if the greatest danger will be from force of arms, political strategy and arcane secrets. PCs start at D6 in both, and then can either raise one stat twice or both once.

Step 9: Personal Connections. This is the final step - creating the web of Face NPCs that tie everyone together. Each PC is bound to three Faces; at a physical table, you'll gather everyone in a circle and put index cards on the left and right of each player, plus one in the center. Yes, you share cards with your neighbors. Players then define each Face. They pick one of the three they are connected to and assign them Heritage, Faction or Power as the basis for their relationship, describing what bit of commonality they have. You start with the player who has the first idea, then go around the table clockwise until everyone's contributed to their three Faces. If your PC and a Face share a Heritage, talk about their familial relationship - are they a sibling, a lover, a child? Did they help you out when you really needed it? Did they hurt you somehow? If your PC and a Face share a Faction, talk about your professional relationship with them. Are they a rival, a colleague, a mentor? Did you once work together on some job, years ago? If your PC and a Face share a Power, talk about the spiritual relationship you share with them. Do you think of them as meak, misguided or righteous? Do they stand in defiance of your religion's teachings?

Having done this, the group now collaborates to give each Face a name, two strengths that describe their core competences and one wekaness, which represents some character flaw or vulnerability. The card in the center is the Focus, and because everyone is tied to them, they will end up with the most complicated and overlapping history. Now, you put another card next to their card. Each player provides one fact, which can be true or just rumor, that their character knows about the Focus. You write all of these down and the Focus' name. The first Scene of the game involves the death or disappearance of the Focus; at a physical table, you rip up the Focus' card and announce it, and the game starts.

Next time: The Planes

This Hand Of Mine Is Burning Red

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Sig: Manual of the Primes
This Hand Of Mine Is Burning Red

The Elemental Plane of Flame embodies the Belief that Passion is incorruptible. It is a place where the heart ignites, lit by rage and desire. The plane itself is made of solid flame, the land ember and ash. In the distance, against the void, pillars of fire extend out into the night. Shimmers dance at the edge of vision, guiding you through walls of incense and smoke. Solid fire blocks paths as easily as stone wood, and rivers of ash and lava flow freely. Only the strong or the pure can survive long. The Crucible is a scorched wasteland of warrying city-states, said to be the home of the bravest and most ferocious warrior clans and bands in the whole of the 'verse. The City of Smokeless Fire is made entirely of brass and glows with inspiration. Its many artisans are famous for their works of light and fire. The Lifepyre can always be seen, lighting the deserts of the plane. It is a fountain of azure flame that rises high into the night, and its touch burns away both physical wounds and corruptions of the heart.

The most common people of the plane are the Firehearts. Their passions burn hotter than any other people's, for their heritage is flame. So intense are they that their skin is the colors of ash and their veins course not with blood but living magma. They are famous for their sklll in alchemy, combat and dance, which are revered arts among them. Firehearts are often perfectionists, unwilling to settle for things half-done or works that are less than their best. Their common Talents are:
Fire (Broad)
Passion (Broad)
Purification (Common)
Burning Hands (Deep)

The greatest Faction of the plane is the Cleaners. Sig is a messy place and a brutal one, where people and things get broken. The Cleaners work with both. They are equally healers and garbage disposers, the people who most deel with the bodies that lie in the streets, living or dead. They pull them out of the gutter and into the infirmaries, where they cauterize wounds, burn out curses and patch up bruises. At other times, they dispose of the city's refuse - which, of course, they define. They clean out the litter and burn it away. They may not be appreciated by many and they may be overworked, but without them, Sig would fall apart.
Duty: Care for the sick, dispose of the trash.
Leverage: No one pays attention to the trash men. The Cleaners can easily move through Sig unseen or unnoticed to wherever they please.
Example Agenda: Build a new clinic in the Hive to manage the epidemic of the screaming sickness.

One of the notable Powers of the plane is Alius the Pure, Power of Healt, Judgement and Transformation. Once, she was a mortal man, but this was not her true nature at all. When she entered the Lifepyre, it burned away her false form, revealing her true being. She immediately ascended to divinity as the passions of flame rose in her breast, filling her slender form with white fire and her mind with unquenched ambition. Her worshippers now travel the 'verse, burning away both sin and weakness in themselves and others. Her flames transform the faithful.
Devotion: Bathing in water is forbidden.
Ritual: The Smoke Rite can be called on to burn away any wound or purge any toxin. If you do not spend Influence, it also destroys most of the target's self-control.
Example Agenda: CApture the Patriarch of Moran, God of Eugenics.

The Elemental Plane of Waves embodies the Belief that True power is hidden. It is a place of endless seas, bright at the top and dark in the depths. Brine and sweet water mix freely in floating kelp forests. The currents pull ever downwards, guiding visitors through glowing pods of jellyfish, schools of all kinds of swimming creatures, even ancient turtles with shells inscribed in mystic lore. The deep waters hide terrible behemoths, immense sharks and benevolent, scholarly krakens. No one can recount all the secrets hidden in the waters, but with effort, some can be uncovered. The Abyss, in the lowest depths of the plane, holds ancient, lost weapons that were hidden long ago by the Primordials during the war that destroyed them. They still wait to be uncovered once more. The Coral Mazes lie in the upper reaches, a network of bright and three-dimensional structures of living coral, carefully grown and cultivated by skilled artisans among the Waterborn. Sunk was, at one time, a mighty city on some prime world. Now, its marble and crystal structures are beneath the waves here, serving as the diplomatic center for the entire plane.

The most common folk of the plane are the Waterborn, often overlooked and scorned by other Heritages. They are a collection of proud but broken peoples, enslaved by dark and ancient Powers in the depths and remade in the image of their masters. Whatever they once were is gone - now, they are short creatures with webbed feet and gills, to better allow them to swim in the plane of Waves. Some of them have fish-like scales or stiff, hard shells, and others have strong claws or grasping tentacles. Their bodies are able to reshape themselves to adapt to any new environment, so long as there is water for them. Because of their history of captivity and enslavement, secrets are the chief commodity of Waterborn society. Privacy and secrecy are prized, and simply knowing something others do not is power. Many Waterborn have made their way to freedom from their aquatic masters, and they now travel the rest of the 'verse, reveling in their freedom. Their common Talents are:
Water (Broad)
Secrets (Broad)
Biology (Common)
Mutable Form (Deep)

The Riverwatch are the most notable of the plane's Factions. They oversee the Great River that flows through Sig and brings in clean water. Without them, it would be filthy and unusable. They filter out the sewage and keep the river flowing with trade. The waters remain drinkable because of their efforts, and so Sig remains inhabitable. When they aren't handling sewage, they manage what river traffic eexists and hunt down any predators or other dangers that manage to make their way into the River and its associated waterways.
Duty: Clean and patrol the Great River of Sig.
Leverage: Control of river traffic and access to water.
Example Agenda: Slay the juvenile leviathan that has killed 30 people so far this week.

Tritonous of the Hungry Seas is a notable Power in the Plane of Waves, the Power of Storms, Fury and Hunger. He is the beast beneath the depths, his bulk writing and squirming. His hunger is an ancient one, driving him to devour the vessels that dare to intrude in his territory. Once, he was a caring and benevolent deity, but his beloved children were slain by mortals, and he never forgave them. The loss of his children broke him, and his grief awoke the darker impulses of his nature, worse than anything from the depths of the sea. Now, he waits and watches, sending Waterborn slaves out to drag mortals into his watery embrace that he might feast on them.
Devotion: Never suffer a blond man to live.
Ritual: The Deepcall can summon one of Tritonous' powerful warriors forth from the Abyss. If you do not spend Influence, the warrior will only serve to kill and destroy.
Example Agenda: Destroy the island of Atlan, on one of the most civilized primes of the 'verse.

The Elemental Plane of Wind embodies the Belief that Every message is sacred. It is a place of constant flight, where anyone can pass through the air and clouds without a care for gravity. The rushing winds move everywhere, accompanied by birdsong and the sound of storms. On the other hand, there is no shelter in much of the plane. Nowhere to hide from the aerial beasts that hunt for food, from the danger of extreme weather. And the weather is definitely extreme - not just rain or snow or winds; falling brimstone, razor crystals or icy shards all fly through the endless skies as well. The Vault of the Skies is a series of floating islands that are home to the massive fortresses of the Cloud Giants. The Aerie is a towering set of stone spires that enter the Plane of Winds from elsewhere, which is not entirely clear. Millions upon mullions of birds and other avian beings roost and make their nests upon the spires. The Chorus Vortex is a whirlwind of light and cloud, where the Winged make their homes and spend their time singing, whispering secrets and living out their lives.

The Winged are the most common people of the plane. Each appears as a humanoid being with a pair of wings. Some are feathered, others batlike, and others insectile. They are nomads that belive soft and quiet speech is an act of holy devotion to their vairous faiths. They are well-known for their love of enthusiastic gossip and rumors among the planes; among the primes, they are often believed to be divine messengers. They aren't, but the Winged are happy to encourage primals to believe that they are. After all, many of them make their living delivering messages across the 'verse, to planes and primes alike, for all manner of clients. Sometimes they really are delivering divine messages. Their common Talents are:
Air (Broad)
Communication (Broad)
Flight (Common)
Unstoppable Message (Deep)

The primary Faction of the plane is the Heralds, who employ many of the Winged. Everyone needs messages delivered, and the Heralds don't let them down. Neither rain nor snow nor demonic invasion shall stay these messengers about their duties. They ensure accurate and timely delivery, and if that means they have to occasionally read the contents of what they're delivering to make sure it ends up where you intended, well, what can you expect? The Herald Guild, as they are also known, serves as the postal service not only for Sig but throughout the 'verse as a whole, ready to deliver to any of the planes and most of the primes. Next-day delivery is available, for a fee.
Duty: Deliver messages to the planes or the primes.
Leverage: Reading the mail. The Heralds, as a collective, know about nearly everything that's going on in the City Between.
Example Agenda: Deliver the peace treaty signed by Xeneth the Oppressor to Polena the Valorous.

The example Power is Ferrelux the Whisperer, Power of Thought, Chaos and Secrets. He appears as a beautiful Herald whose wings shine as bright as the morning star. (Yes, really.) He was first raised to power as the Voice of the Primordial Empress, who in ancient days ruled over the Plane of Wind with total and brutal authority. However, after she was slain and overthrown, Ferrelux began sharing dangerous and subversive ideas across the 'verse. Now, he has settled into his role as the bringing of political revolution and the inspiration for radical new religious beliefs.
Devotion: Direct lies are forbidden, though omissions are encouraged.
Ritual: The Rite of Rumor lets you implant an idea into someone, which they will remember as having been told them by someone they can't quite recall in the indistinct past. If you do not spend Influence, the idea spreads uncontrollably any time the target whispers.
Example Agenda: Make it known that the Silent Regent has a divine heir hidden on one of the primes.

Next time: The Planes of Stone, Ice and Justice

Strong In The Real Way

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Sig: Manual of the Primes
Strong In The Real Way

The Elemental Plane of Stone embodies the Belief that Strength is a burden The caverns are buried in a world of endless stone, and they are said to be older than anything else in the 'verse. A faint grinding is always there underfoot, and occasionally a rock wil lfall and echo through the tunnels, which are often clauustrophobic. The passages vary wildly in size, going from tiny halls to massive caverns that could encompass even the largest city on a prime world. Living crystal formations provide a faint glow even at a distance, just enough to see them reflected in eyes in the dark. Veins of gold, lead and any other metal you might want can be found in the walls, and uncountable builders and miners, ranging from tiny dwarves to massive giants, work to exploit the wealth of the plane. Harvesting this mineral wealth is not generally safe, however. Cave-ins are frequent and often release tox gases, magma or flash mudslides. The Halls of the Deep is a metropolis built of gold, in theory home to the Everstone Giants. It was built long ago in a cavern larger than any mountain in the 'verse. The Earth-Heart is a living, breathing chamber of clay that pulses and writhes constantly. Here, all elementals of stone and clay are born. The Forge Primordial is a natural meeting point of a number of steel veins, rivers and magma flows. Here, the dwarves built an immense city-state dedicated solely to the art of the smiths. This is a sacred place, where practical metalforging is mixed with religious faith and spiritual fervor.

The most well-known people of the plane are the Giants. They emerged from the depths of the elemental planes, massive creatures carved out by some painstaking hand in the hollow world of the Plane of Stone. They work constantly to build greater and ever more elaborate wondrous creations, driven by some relentless cultural ambition. For the Giants, strength and skill must be used to be respected. Anyone that fails to take care of themselves or that becomes complacent is exiled from the mainstream Giant communities. Their raw, brute power is enough to crush anything in their path short of a Power or terrifyingly potent magics.
Stone (Broad)
Huge (Broad)
Strength (Common)
Irresistible Force (Deep)

The greatest Faction of the plane is the Guild of Toil. Labor is always in demand in the City Between. Without the Guild of Toil, the tenements and buildings would collapse or burn. Their constant work maintains the roads and buildings, their strong backs pull the loads and carry the burdens. The Guild manages and takes care of the common workers, managing civic projects for the benefits of the City. In "thanks" for this, they solicit cash "donations" from the citizenry, typically collected by large, muscular Guild reps. The Guild keeps the city going and feeds countless families, but they're not above flexing their muscles to make it all happen.
Duty: Maintain the roads and buildings.
Leverage: Demolition of infrastructure, whether by direct action or neglect.
Example Agenda: Dismantle a block of the Hive and rebuild it as housing for Guild workers.

One of the notable Powers of the plane is Morkanah, the Sheltering Stone, Power of Love, Hearth and Protection. The Stone that Shelters is the last of the Primordials. It is a simple being, dedicated to keeping its worshipers safe. It protects from the rigors of life, shielding others from conflict, fear or even death. It cares deeply for its followers, whether they are of flesh, stone or clay. It wants them to be happy, to be safe, to be together with their family. It very much misses family.
Devotion: Never harm family.
Ritual: Morkanah's Embrace summons forth an immobile shell of stone around someone, protecting them from harm. If you do not spend Influence, the shell will remain even after its job is over.
Example Agenda: Build a true sanctuary for star-crossed lovers on the Plane of Stone.

The Elemental Plane of Ice embodies the Belief that Beauty is fragile. It is...well, first of all, it is heavily cribbed from Polaris. Like, the game admits that straight up. I quote: "This plane is well renowned throughout the 'verse, thanks to the fame of the Polaris Chronicle by the noted planar scholar, Ben Lehman." We are inited to read Polaris if we want to get history and customs of the plane from there. The world itself is one of fragile splendor, vast wastes of ice and snow, and starlit cities. The blizzards howl, and duelists fight. The cold is everywhere, with the stars and aurora the only true guides. Broken ruins of old, frozen cities dot the landscape. The Remnants of Polaris are four towars from an ancient age, crafted long ago as glowing citadels of ice and starlight, which surround an evil vortex to the Plane of Flames. The Icy Wastes are a massive glacier, home to constant blizzards and massive trade caravans that crawl along the ice. The Crystal Caverns are a set of interlinking tunnels and caves in the ice that go deep within the plane. Within them, ancient nations still thrive.

The most notable folk of the plane are the Polari, once called the greatest people the planes would ever know. They clad themselves in snowflakes and starlight, living lives of perfect bliss as they ate grand delicacies and toasted themselves with wine distilled from the night itself. They were tall, slender, beautiful creatures with skin so pale that their blue veins showed through and eyes of pale blue or red and hair of silver or gold. They spoke rarely, and their language and voices were like the sound of water freezing. They excelled at poetry, ice sculpture and elaborate dances. Now, they are a people in decline, dying slowly. Hope is not yet lost, however, for some can still hear the songs of the stars. Their common Talents are:
Ice (Broad)
Light (Broad)
Fine Arts (Common)
Starlight Sword (Deep)

The Performers Guild are the most notable of the plane's Factions. In Sig, there are countless cultures and faiths, and inevitably, they come into conflict. Holy wars, Factional conflicts, culture clashes. The Performers use the fine arts, whether painting, dance, theatre, sculpture or otherwise, to serve as a cultural bridge. They believe art can soothe tensions, strengthen diplomacy and even facilitate ceasefires between the communities and organizations of the City Between. They're not wrong. It is accepted by all in the city that performances held by the Performers Guild are neutral ground.
Duty: Provide diplomatic services.
Leverage: Compelling propaganda.
Example Agenda: Perform a new play, The King in Yellow.

Aludra of the Frozen Tears is a notable Power in the Plane of Ice, the Power of Time, Memory and Grief. Once, she was a goddess of joy and life, but all was taken from her. Her husband was lost to his mad qquest, her lover to unbounded zeal, her home to her own mistake, her people to despair and grief. After a time, her loss brought her wisdom, albeit a said and melancholy wisdom. She froze her tears, making them into diamond sculptures that will last until the end of all time. Now, Aludra seeks only to preserve all that remains good and beautiful in the 'verse.
Devotion: Never forget the names of the dead.
Ritual: The Frozen Kiss can protect a person or object, shielding it from the flow of time entirely and so preserving it. If you do not spend Influence, however, whatever is frozen this way will remain unchanging and frozen until hope is found.
Example Agenda: Freeze the Great River of Sig for a season.

The Ideological Plane of Justice embodies the Belief that Virtue must be tested. It is a mountainois plane, full of ancient trees. The land thrums as if alive, radiating pleasant warmth for travelers, which are frequent. Pilgrimages are common, and pilgrims tend to help each other on their way, teaching each other lessons. The mountain peaks hide countless golden-domed cities, many of them dedicated to just Powers and the faiths that worship them. Thunder is a common sound, as is chanting and prayer. Law, on this plane, sheields the weak from the strong and empowers reconciliation over retribution. The Final Court is found on the plane's highest peak and is the greatst court of law in all the 'verse. Mortals or Powers alike can make the perilous journey to receive a scrupulously fair hearing from the Seven Magistrates. The Valley of the Thunder Queens is a lush and rich valley of gardens and palaces, overseen by a council of wise queens who are attended by humble sages. The Range of the Defenders is a mountain chain in which warriors of light and justice train eternally for battle, wielding arrows of solid lightning and blades of strongest steel.

The Ancestral are by far the most famous people of the plane. They were once primal souls who guarded their descendants for four generations. When their watch ended, beasts of living lightning came for them, bringing them to the Plane of Justice. There, they were inducted into the orders of the wise as honored teachers and warriors. They made wonders and carved tmeples throughout the plane, making new epics and songs to preserve their mortal knowledge. The Ancestral vary in appearance wildly, as they may originate from any Prime world and any culture. Each, however, has a spirit-form that is bound together by the noble-lightning, and patterns of power pulse just under their skin. Because of course you can play as benevolent lightning ghosts. Their common Talents are:
Justice (Broad)
Spirits (Broad)
Guardianship (Common)
Lightning-Rider (Deep)

The primary Faction of the plane is the Teachers' Guild. Sig has countless children within its streets and halls. Elsewhere, they might be dragged to work on their parents' farms or in factories, or suffer terrible fates. The Teachers' Guild is dedicated to ensuring this is not the case for Sig's many children. They set up small schoolhouses throughout the city, providing the young with a place to learn the basic skills they need to survive and thrive. The schools all have different curriculums - literature, sometimes, or history, or accounting. The Teachers don't care where a child comes from or what hardships they may face outside of school - while they learn, the Teachers will keep them safe.
Duty: Nurture and teach the children.
Leverage: Secret reports from students, past and present.
Example Agenda: Open a new school in the Hive to care for the hundred children who fled from the Prime world of Karn.

The example Power is Myn the Questioner, Power of Travel, Thought and Guilt. Myn always appears as a young girl with copper skin and green eyes. She wanders the planes without apparent direction, finding those who have become too complacent or comfortable in their lives. She approaches these figures and asks them a single question. To one warlord, she asked if his husband would condone such cruelty. To the Queen of the Emerald Rose, she asked when the Queen last spoke to a commoner. To Polena the Virtuous, she asked why Polena punished herself so harshly for human failings. Myn tests those who need it, but she does not judge how they answer her tests.
Devotion: Never carry more than you need.
Ritual: The Third Eye can be opened to reveal what issues someone is currently struggling with, even if they don't know themselves. If you do not spend Influence, you are bound to that person until the problem you detect is solved.
Example Agenda: Convince Moran, the God of Eugenics, to abandon his divine mandate.

Next time: The Planes of Tyranny, Destruction and Order

Thus Always To Tyrants

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Sig: Manual of the Primes
Thus Always To Tyrants

The Ideological Plane of Tyranny embodies the Belief that Mercy has no place in the law. The plane is a place of torment, punishment and pain. The stench of blood and bile are near constant, and darkness is frequent but for faint torches. Most inhabitants of the plane lie in chains, trapped and damned for all eternity. Many of them did nothing to deserve this punishment - what matters here is not guilt but accusation. The jails of the Plane of Tyranny do not need an excuse to inflict their torments. Countless souls are trapped here, punished for crimes that could be real or could just be the fever dreams of their jailors. It is possible for any of them to be let out, should they choose to join those jailors. However, most realize this is not true freedom - just another kind of chain. Razorburg is an ancient city of basalt, full of smoke and screams, where the damned are sent to fight and kill or be killed. Five Lights Below is the maximum security area of the plane, a set of dark caves where the most dangerous prisoners in all of the 'verse are kept. Any kind of punishment imaginable might be found there. The Marching Stones are a desert waste, inhabited by conscript armies of the damned, infernal war-machines and massive obsidian stones. Here, wars are fought for all eternity, with neither purpose nor end.

The most infamous people of the plane are the Devahil. Every soul imprisoned on the Plane of Tyranny has a choice to escape their eternal torment. Those that accept it are reborn as Devahil, told they are the last true servants of law. Theirs, they are instructed, is a mission of order and harmony for the universe, brought by arms and will. They learn that the Plane itself was designed as a multiversal prison, meant to chain the dangerous powers of chaos and offer redemption to those with the will to seek it. The Devahil punish the prisoners, hunt down law-breakers and work closely with the Harmonious Army of the Plane of Tyranny, at least when they accept the job they have been freed to do. Some of them even come to believe the lies and the propaganda they are told. The mark of a Devahil is horns - no matter what their previous form, all Devahil grow some form of horns or spikes on their heads. Common Talents:
Dominance (Broad)
Pain (Broad)
Intimidation (Common)
Mental Invasion (Deep)

The greatest Faction of the plane is the Guild of Advocates. Law is not simple in Sig, and understanding it requires a firm, wise guide. The Advocates serve any client, offering their legal services for a reasonable fee. A legal representative from the Guild of Advocates will happily support you in resolving your issues via formal or informal methods. No matter what your cause, there is a member of the Guild of Advocates who will speak for you and assist you. They are professional, brutally efficient and more than happy to deal with strange or labyrinthine laws that might contradict each other. (Indeed, they encourage the laws to be as infuriating to deal with as possible, because opposing or getting around them brings in money.)
Duty: Offer legal services to the denizens of Sig.
Leverage: Maneuver the bureaucracy of Sig's many laws and twist them to advantage.
Example Agenda: Ensure a law is passed to forbid the giving of alms to the impoverished beggars of Sig.

One of the notable Powers of the plane is Kalzak the Absolute, Power of Law, Judgement and Hatred. Kalzak was a demon who earned his infernal title, the Demon-God of Moral Absolutes, by much work and battle in the infernal bureaucracies. He rules now from a tower of skulls, where his infernal scribes carve new laws on the bones of still-living victims. He spreads through the Primes a single toxic idea: that which is different is dangerous. His servants encourage racism, bigotry, prejudice of all kinds, hoping to cause more bloody, hateful wars. When the dust settles, Kalzak chooses the most hateful, dangerous souls to join his demonic retinue.
Devotion: Never treat an outsider as your equal.
Ritual: The Chant of the Holy Mission stirs up ethnic and religious hatred in a crowd. If you do not spend Influence, the mob will cause direct, brutal violence rather than subtle oppression.
Example Agenda: Convince the Dragon-kin to invade the Prime world of Karn.

The Ideological Plane of Destruction embodies the Belief that Power is its own reward. Rage and terror fill the ruined lands that make up most of the plane. Massive beasts smash through the remains of buildings, swarms of fleshworms devour the unwary, sinhounds hunt and feast on those who are too slow to escape. The weather itself is dangerous, throwing razors and acid about without warning. Those too weak to be saved from the eternally crumbling cities of the plane hide or flee as best they can. Butcher's Field is a wasteland of salt, rust and fiery winds, where demon armies battle for eternity. Maw is a strange series of undulating tunnels whose fleshy walls drip constantly with acidic slime. The Oblivion Hole is a glowing white hole in reality, and anything that falls within it is utterly annihilated.

The most notable folk of the plane are the Wyrms. Their red flesh is pierced by many spikes and horns, and their great jaws contain immense power. Others name them demons or dragon-kin. They know themselves as the Liberated, who have found true freedom. The lesson they have learned, as a people, is that power born from freedom is worth any price, no matter how terrible. The Wyrms are an innately independent and territorial people, and most of them have learned that trust is suicidal. The see other Wyrms as competitors, if not always hostile ones, and tend to view others as tools or slaves to exploit. How else to survive the destruction that rains around them? Common Talents:
Violence (Broad)
Destruction (Broad)
Bargains (Common)
Red in Tooth and Claw (Deep)

The Enforcers are half cop, half organized crime. They are happy to step in and break up any criminal activity they find. They end domestic disputes, arrest troublemakers, hold back mobs and imprison criminals...well, usually. They have to be paid first, after all. All rational folk fear the violent arm of the Enforcers. They once arrested a dragon who got too drunk, forcibly dragging her into the city's prisons. Those who get on their bad side are rarely happy - there's few gangs that can match the raw power of the Enforcers.
Duty: Enforce the rough justice of Sig.
Leverage: Police brutality and general thuggery.
Example Agenda: Arrest the Goddess of Tranquil Revolution for treason against Sig.

Eater-of-Worlds, Child of Oblivion is a feared Power in the Plane of Destruction, the Power of Chaos, DEath and Hunger. It is always hungry. It has always been hungry. When it is upset, it births forth one of its monstrous, gargantuan children, then sits the child loose to destroy entire Primes. Soon, the Eater-of-Worlds will emerge from the Oblivion Hole. Soon, it will feast.
Devotion: Never reveal your faith.
Ritual: The Famine-Touch curses someone to be unable to gain any sustenance until they devour the flesh of a specific person. If you do not spend Influence, the curse is transmitted to anyone bitten.
Example Agenda: Release one of its colossal and monstrous children into Sig.

The Ideological Plane of Order embodies the Belief that Laws are absolute. Everything about the plane is perfect harmony. Massive, interlocking cogs turn rhythmically. Strange expanses filled with rows of geometric shapes stand silently, while detailed patterns emerge naturally from a clay ocean. Fractal cities glow with syncopated light patterns, and researchers move like ants through massive set of libraries. Here, order is imposed on the 'verse, and patterns come alive. The Great Machine is a structure of interlocking, ever-moving gears. Its purpose is not known, even by the strange geometric constructs that maintain it. Because of course the Modrons are here, secretly. The Tablet Lands are a vast expanse of smooth clay, where massive fractal patterns naturally emerge. The Celestial Bureaucracy is housed in the City of Dockets. Here, in theory, all power in the 'verse could be gained, but for the fact that navigating the complex web of authority and procedures is practically impossible.

The Aesigilar are some of the strangest people of the plane. They are sentient runes, which meld symbiotically with humanoid peoples. They trace descent from star-patterns, and consider family kinship to be a matter of celestial proximity in those patterns. While they are intimately bonded with their hosts, Aesigilars seem to neither care about nor comprehend the ideas of ethnicity or gender. They also see complex relationships with a constellation of multiple partners to be normal. Most Aesigilar believe that bonding with their host uplifts their partner to true sentience. Most Primals disagree, and tend to see them as body snatchers. Common Talents:
Patterns (Broad)
Time (Broad)
Prediction (Common)
Mental Symbiosis (Deep)

The primary Faction of the plane is the Paper Guard. Without them, the City Betwen would fall apart. The PAper Guard manage the bureaucracy and public servants of the city. They have the STA program for tariffs on incoming goods, make PMFs for civic initiatives, establish policies for administration based on the PGD, work on strategic planning documentation and ensure that senior officials align with MAF. They rarely bother to explain what all their acronyms actually mean - you should know if you're interested, right? They can be terrifyingly effective at making things happen, despite this, and those that get in their way usually regret it. Not because of any violence - the Paper Guard are just able to bury people in red tape and paperwork when annoyed.
Duty: Manage the civic government operations.
Leverage: Wield the bureaucracy.
Example Agenda: Prepare a new official census and tax verification exercise throughout Sig.

The example Power is Edana of the Pact, Power of Law, Marriage and Politics. She appears as a woman with blue skin, six arms and a red blindfold over her eyes. She is the avatar of all contracts, bargains and treaties. When she looks upon someone, she sees not a person, but an interlocking web of duties, obligations and agreements that bind them to the rest of the 'verse. She is the diplomat, mediator and intermediary that the other Powers turn to in legal matters, and her blood, which is black as ink, creates unbreakable treaties. She dwells within the Celestial Bureaucracy, but often takes breaks to go get some chai in Sig.
Devotion: Never break a contract.
Ritual: The Blind Contract creates a spiritually binding agreement between any two willing parties. If you do not spend Influence, the binding lasts only for a random duration, unknown either to you or the parties involved.
Example Agenda: Establish a peace treaty between Markan, the Shepherd of Dreams, and the Merchant Council of Sig.

Next time: The Planes of Freedom, Dreams and Shadow

Be Free

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Sig: Manual of the Primes
Be Free

The Ideological Plane of Freedom embodies the Belief that Law is a prison for the soul. It is a place of change, chaos and spontaneity, full of gray fog from which anything might emerge. Mountains drift past, their lava-falls singing. Armies of frogmen abduct travelers who cannot call forth imagination-shields, which quickly change into stranger things yet. While the place is unstable, it is a haven for free spirits, revolutionaries and creators. All that is constant is change. The Mists are the place of raw chaos, whirling and flowing, where new things are sprung forth from raw nothing. The Freebooter Cities are probably the most normal place in the plane, floating cities inhabited by small communes of like-minded people. Occasionally, they will take on jobs to get resources that have not sprung forth from the chaos recently. The Wild is an environment of ever-changing wilderness, where jungle becomes desert becomes tundra becomes mountains becomes oceans, all melting into each other freely.

The most famous people of the plane are the Feral. They are people who, regardless of what they were before, are infused with primal chaos. This draws forth bestial features and instincts. Sometimes their shifts in appearance are minor – horns, hooves, fur or scale. More often, however, they become full animal hybrids, harpies, goatpeople, centaurs, lizardfolk. They form small communities based on what animal families they belong to, united largely by the instinctual behaviors their new forms have given them and the often cult-like religions the Feral practice. Passing wildstorms may warp the bodies and instincts of the Feral again, changing what animal they have parts of, and in these cases the Feral shift communities to match it. They are known for their total defense of personal liberty, which has come at the cost of any really coherent and unified culture or civilization. Common Talents:
Chaos (Broad)
Nature (Broad)
Bestial Form (Common)
Wild Sorcery (Deep)

The greatest Faction of the plane is the League of Exterminators. Many things make their way into the City Between, and many of these things cause trouble. The League has the dubious pleasure of rooting out and disposing of the worst vermin of the ‘verse. If they can be eaten, they are sold for meat. If not, they are burned. If they cannot burn, they are frozen. If they cannot freeze, they are thrown into a hole to some random Prime, where hopefully some hero can deal with them. The League’s work ensures the people of Sig don’t have to worry about imps, gelatinous pyramids or screamspiders – and that’s very important work indeed.
Duty: Control the vermin and eliminate the pests.
Leverage: Transporting vermin and pests to anywhere they choose.
Example Agenda: Clean up the faith-leeches that are infesting the Street of Beneficent Powers.

One of the notable Powers of the plane is Calla the Wise, Power of Chaos, Revelry, Headaches and Paradoxes. Nearly every culture has a trickster figure or chaos-spreader, a figure that spreads disorder and change in stagnant societies. Calla is the Power who teaches tricksters how to wield their chaotic might. They have infinite names and faces, and many clever students. They teach that all statements are at least partially true, sometimes false, often meaningless, true and false part of the time, true and meaningless maybe, false and meaningless when it’s important, and true and false and meaningless whenever you like.
Devotion: Never believe what you read.
Ritual: The Paradigm Shift lets you temporarily turn off a law, policy or procedure in the area. If you do not spend Influence, the GM temporarily changes one of their Beliefs for the rest of the scene.
Example Agenda: Frame another Faction for the explosion in the Port of the Moon.

The Conceptual Plane of Dreams embodies the Belief that Everyone is connected. The landscape shifts wildly, drawing on the dreams, memories and nightmares of travelers. Things shift without warning, as you enter your own dreams or those of others. Distance, place, time – none are fixed, for this is the realm of dreams. The Mad City is a dark metropolis, haunted by terrible nightmares. Here, the sleepless trade sanity for safety to fight off the terrible monsters. Amalgam is the place where all dreaming minds come together, sharing a grand unconscious tapestry. It is where the dreamwalkers lurk. The Pits of Pleasure are a place of purest hedonism, where mortal minds seek out every pleasure they could, quite literally, dream of. It is where any sensation, any pleasant dream or strange nightmare, can be found – for a price.

The most notable folk of the plane are the Cubi. They are well-known on the Primes, but usually by different names. As natives of the dream realm, they live vicariously via the emotions and passions of others. It is strictly forbidden for two Cubi to touch, love each other or even live together. Rather, they are expected to form bonds with planars and primals of other heritages. They have a reputation as tempters and seducers, but the truth is simply that they crave connection with others which they are denied at home. Their dream-bodies reshape themselves to appear attractive to whoever they interact with, entirely outside their control. Most Cubi have fixed gender identities; their actual physical forms tend to fluctuate wildly, however, with little care about their own identity or desires – just the desires of those they happen to be with at the time. Common Talents:
Dreams (Broad)
Connection (Broad)
Obsession (Common)
Emotional Chains (Deep)

The Sig Gazetteer hunts for news in the streets and alleys of Sig. Their skilled investigative reporters ensure that city people can learn all about what’s going on in their fair city even if they decide not to go outside and face it themselves. The Gazetteer is Sig’s record of note, recording births, deaths and all sorts of civil matters, as well as tracking news from across the planes and primes as best they can. The Planar Politics section has to deal with the infinite number of Prime worlds out there, and…well, they do their best, and do a surprisingly good job of it. The editorial staff are also known for their excellent analysis of breaking news from across the ‘verse…most of the time.
Duty: Provide investigative journalism.
Leverage: Critical media coverage and tabloid journalism.
Example Agenda: Publish an interview with the Maw of Eternity and reveal her obsessive goal.

Nyx the Oracle is the Power of Time, Memory and Dreams. She holds her court in the dream beneath the dream beneath the dream, in the deep pools of the collective unconscious. There, she pulls prophesies from the minds of mortals, glittering and shining. She spends much of her time in distant possible futures, only rarely returning to the present to grant her wisdom to her followers. She especially enjoys supporting ambitious mortals who have the potential for great deeds and accomplishments – if not necessarily good ones. Nyx is deeply fascinated with the potential for mortal emotion to shape the future in ways even she is unable to predict, and her followers whisper prophesies which can be heard only by the sleeping.
Devotion: Never stop someone from following their dreams.
Ritual: The Foretelling Blow grants a prophetic dream (described by the GM) to whoever is struck with it, when they next rest. If you do not spend Influence, the prophetic dream is a nightmare instead.
Example Agenda: Give the Reaper of Regrets a dream that leads her towards apotheosis.

The Conceptual Plane of Shadow embodies the Belief that Reality is an illusion. While there, a traveler can trust neither senses nor memory. Things not present are heard, smelled, felt. The landscape is glorious, but ever-shifting, revealing wonders false and true. All the riches and splendors of the wealthiest Primes can be found – for a moment, before they fade once more. The shadowlands are alive, hungry for new ideas, new memories. The plane uses these ideas and memories to create new things, change things, tear down the old. With sufficient passion and skill, one can even learn to shape the shadowstuff, making it into things for your own needs or desires. The Ruby Hall is a red palace where the finest gnomish jewelers can be found, cutting phantasmal gems into things of sublime, illusory beauty. The Emerald Markets are a trading house for experience and perception. Any feeling or experience can be found here, for the right price. The Umbral Delta is a river of dark reflections and murky channels. Here, strange shades offer up information in exchange for temporary respite from their shadow-prisons.

The Gnomes are some of the more common people of the plane. They are a small, intellectual folk with strong senses of humor. They are especially known for their skill in cutting, polishing and setting gems, which they imbue with living shadows and shimmering lights to enhance their beauty. The gnomes are crafters of amazing artifacts of strange utility and stranger power. They are also masters of illusion, able to cook with imaginary flavors, paint with illusory colors and call forth false sounds from the air. They are the rulers of the twilight, endlessly in pursuit of arts and crafts that mix real and unreal. Common Talents:
Illusion (Broad)
Crafts (Broad)
Gems (Common)
Phantasmal Forces (Deep)

The primary Faction of the plane is the Artificer’s Guild. Sig has many artificers, smiths and other crafters from across the entire ‘verse. The Guild of Artifice, as they are also called, represents these skilled workers and supports their interests, ensuring they can practice their crafts in peace. The guild rotates apprentices through many different areas, and most prospective crafters in Sig have spent at least a few months working a bewildering variety of trades – gem-cutting, goldsmithing, talisman-recharging, illusion-shaping, bookbinding, and more. The Guild maintains that broad competence is required, after all, not just specialization. (Though many do end up specializing.) Anyone truly serious about mastery of craft (who is also willing to pay the Guild’s dues) is welcome to join.
Duty: Create high-quality craft goods for use and trade.
Leverage: Clockwork and phantasmal servants.
Example Agenda: Repair the Eternity Tower, which stopped when the Silent Regent disappeared.

The example Power is Magdak the Clockwork Page, Power of Duty, Civilization and Animation. Magdak has been in service since the rule of the Primordials in the earliest of ages. It has never known its maker, but does remember something pulling it free of the Plane of Order. Over time, it has become worshipped by servants and apprentices, particularly in the City Between. This worship has allowed it to ascend to divinity itself, the Power of service. Magdak has very simple goals – it wants to advise and faithfully implement the plans of its master. It once served the Primordials; later, it served the Silent Regent. Since her disappearance, the Clockwork Page has dedicated itself to service of the city itself.
Devotion: Never disobey a lawful order.
Ritual: The Oath of Tireless Service allows you to not need food, water or rest while you follow the commands of a superior. If you do not spend Influence, you cannot eat, drink or sleep until the command is fulfilled.
Example Agenda: Create a massive clockwork statue of brass to defend Sig from attack.

Next time: The Planes of Lore, Life and Death

All There Is To Know

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Sig: Manual of the Primes
All There Is To Know

The Conceptual Plane of Lore embodies the Belief that Knowledge is power. Here, all things known are stored, and the wise study for eternity. Histories of lost dynasties, radiant walls that display current events across the Primes, mystic songs that teach the secrets of the lore-vaults – all can be found here. Terrible prophecies are kept safe in the ancient vaults, while living spells seek out unwary minds, hoping for a chance to escape the Plane and head into the Primes. Catalogues of scents and tastes store the cultural traditions of many worlds, and anything that someone seeks to know might be find, if the tithe of the librarians is paid. The Primal Library stores every book or scroll ever made. Whenever a book is published, a scroll written or a tablet carved, a copy appears here. The Culture Archives are grand vaults in which are preserved the food, drink, dress and religious traditions of cultures from across the ‘verse. The Spoken College is an academic institution dedicated solely to passing on oral traditions. Here, ritual invokers, bardic spellsingers and shamans passs on their lore.

The most famous people of the plane are the Elderskein. They are the remnants of an ancient people whom the Primordials spun forth from the golden threads of fate. While now but a bare remnant of their old glories, they have great power in the arts of wizardry. Have you ever wanted to play a Skeksis or Urskek? Good news! These twisted, vulture-like creatures are masters of the arcane, and on their naming-day upon reaching adulthood, each one pledges themselves to pursue a single scholarly field for the rest of their long life. Most content themselves with research, experiments and teaching focused on this specialty. Sure, they no longer rule the Primes as they once did, but their power remains great. Common Talents:
Song (Broad)
Wizardry (Broad)
Invocation (Common)
The Scholar’s Oath (Deep) (This is notable in that it gets explanation – when you take it, it represents your Elderskein’s extremely precise, obscure field of specialty, such as Kraken Breeding Habits, Planar Dysjunctions or similar.)

The greatest Faction of the plane is the Sage Collegium. In the Great Purge of Sig, many scholars and priceless books were burned. The Sage Collegium emerged from this with a single oath: never again. They came together with the shared goal that so much knowledge and learning should never be able to be destroyed as it once was. They created the Invisible College, a network of secret library-caches and meeting halls for the academics of Sig. By undergoing a series of semi-secret apprenticeships, the wisest or most cunning may be invited to join the Collegium, furthering the hidden shield that protects knowledge. Those who serve the Collegium well are often inducted into deeper secrets of wizardry or alchemy.
Duty: Offer information and research services to Sig.
Leverage: Revolutionary cells of well-read wizards and alchemists.
Example Agenda: Build a secret Archive of Fallen Powers under the Breeding Warrens.

One of the notable Powers of the plane is Brossien of Mystic Song, Power of Song, Lore and Enlightenment. Once, he was a mortal man, famous for his beautiful, seductive voice and his great parties. He traveled the Planes and Primes, creating stories so beautiful that even stones wept for him. In his quest to earn fame, he discovered a strange emerald lute bound in iron chains. When he took it and played the first note, his soul merged with that of the fallen goddess trapped within the instrument. Now, he is a full Power, creating songs that tap into the under-harmonies and call on the true language of creation. He still throws an amazing party, but some are disturbed by how many demigods he spawns.
Devotion: Never allow an evening to pass without a song.
Ritual: The Melodic Charm lets you beguile someone, temporarily convincing them you’re their steadfast friend. If you don’t spend Influence, they will remember being charmed when they next wake up.
Example Agenda: Capture the heart of Hdir, God of the Adamant Forge.

The Conceptual Plane of Life embodies the Belief of Grow or die. All things that live can be found on the plane, somewhere. Massive trees, silver-barked and immortal, stretch skywards. Thick vines coat them, forming a green web, and the ferns and shrubs whisper in the wind. The flowers are more vivid, the aromas stronger. By night, however, the apparent idyll becomes dangerous. Even the trees turn predatory, luring travelers to their doom or lashing out with vicious hunger. Even the fruits, nuts and seeds are no longer safe to eat, under darkness. The plane belongs to nature, and outsiders are not usually trusted. The Starlight Forest is a sacred ground, infused with divine light. Golden, silver and sapphire trees grow there, holding back the dark. The Worldtree is an immense thing, a tree that extends through the Planes, with roots and branches that connect to every Prime, if you know where to look and will brave the dangers. The Plentiful Lands are a place of many fruits, roots and vegetables which never run dry. Here, the crops are always ripe and ready for harvest.

The most notable folk of the plane are the Sylva, a people of tree-like sentient plants. They have three genders: male, female and noble. Male Sylva appear to be normal trees and rarely move, though they can talk. Female Sylva are similar, but slightly more mobile – they move at night to tend to the forests and gardens they’ve made. When they reproduce, the children are always noble. Noble Sylva are explorers, diplomats and adventurers because they take the form of humanoid trees. They scatter seeds behind them naturally, which then grow up into new groves of male and female Sylva. The only pure-blooded Sylva in Sig are noble-gender, as there is not really space for a Sylva forest to grow. (Except perhaps in the Garden, but the Garden’s management prefers to not give up space to house male and female Sylva.) Common Talents:
Plants (Broad)
Resilience (Broad)
Tree-speech (Common)
Regeneration (Deep)

The Farmers’ Association keeps Sig fed. The city is big, and it needs a lot of food. While the best food is imported from elsewhere in the ‘verse, the Farmers produce the majority of the City Between’s diet. Traditional crops are grown in rooftop farms, each a diverse mix of roots, leafs and grains. The sewers are home to thriving mushroom farms, and the Farmers also fish the Great River and its offshoots. The few parks or tree-lined streets (including parts of the Garden) are used to cultivate fruits and nuts. The Farmers also manage the rat farms, chicken roosts and dog kennels. All local food is guarded closely by the Farmers and their trusty polearms, because they have the duty to ensure everyone eats.
Duty: Produce food for the city.
Leverage: Control over the food supply.
Example Agenda: Introduce coffee to the residents of Sig.

Kestranna, the Harvester, is the Power of Life, Death and Agriculture. She is the bipartite goddess of the harvest, both Kestr and Ranna. Kestr is her friendly face, her skin dark as fertile soil, and she comes bearing a grand harvest in her arms, to feed all who hunger. Ranna, on the other hand, is her pale, vicious face, for Ranna is the scythe-queen who reaps those whose time has come. Together, she is both loved and feared across countless Primes, for she gives and she takes in her turn.
Devotion: Never refuse to offer hospitality to a guest.
Ritual: The Hungry Petition provides an abundance of delicious food and drink, direct from Kestr’s table. If you do not spend Influence, Ranna slays an innocent mortal nearby to sate her hunger.
Example Agenda: Destroy the rival cult of the Fisher King before they establish themselves in Sig.

The Conceptual Plane of Death embodies the Belief that Mortality is a blessing. Most primals are terrified of it, thinking it is a nightmare waste of the undead and their vicious kingdoms. Which it is, but not in whole. The Plane of Death is a safe harbor for the hurt and pained, no matter where they come from. Here, memories last forever for those that need them. The land is white as bone, and in death, mortals can find solace and comfort that is often denied in life. Whenever a minority group gets conquered, assimilated or destroyed, a necropolis rises here to house their souls and memories for all eternity. The Palace of Primordial Memories is the alabaster palace-tomb that contains the fragmented memories of the slain Primordials. The Ashlands are an endless ash-desert, gray and dim, where vengeful shades wander forever in a fruitless hunt for their loved ones. The Boneyard is a mountain of skeletons, made from the bones of every type of beast in the Planes and Primes. Some of these bones are still animate.

The Revenants are some of the more famous people of the plane. When primal mortals die before their appointed time, some of them are reborn on the Plane of Death as Revenants. Many of them consider their rebirth a divine blessing, converting to one of many religious orders found on the plane. Others focus on rejoining their undead cultural communities, communing with other dead souls from their mortal cultures in the countless necropoli. A few, however, cling to their memories of life or their drive for vengeance. These undead are the ones most often found out wandering Sig or the Primes, hunting for whatever they have lost. Common Talents:
Death (Broad)
Memory (Broad)
Gravespeech (Common)
Unliving Endurance (Deep)

The primary Faction of the plane is the Dustkeeper’s Guild. They are the City Between’s memory, and the keepers of much forgotten lore. They store the bodies of the dead and their relics in dry, dusty vaults. They manage the city morgue, where most bodies are taken for final disposal without much ceremony. Their vaults also serve as the city’s municipal archives and museums, keeping city records and historical artifacts in carefully cataloged safety. The Guild’s members are diligent about tracking everything, and often end up called into legal disputes as coroners or municipal historians.
Duty: Manage the dead and their artifacts.
Leverage: Undead servants and agents.
Example Agenda: Wake the skeletal remains of the dragon Wayrnar the Dreamer.

The example Power is Omulaub the Tranquil, Power of Death, Pain and Succor. He calls out to those who hurt, and his followers are the suffering, often with broken bodies or wounded souls. He offers his gifts to the abused, the victimized and the broken. While he is kind, he cannot return to them what they have lost. Rather, he offers them soothed pains and a chance to find their future. For those who need it, he offers the final sleep, without pain or suffering, but of all the Powers of Death in the ‘verse, he is the only one who respects mortals’ right and desire to live on a few more years before they must die.
Devotion: Never ignore someone in pain.
Ritual: The Numb Blessing allows you to remove physical, mental or emotional pain from someone. If you do not spend Influence, they are permanently numbed to that kind of pain.
Example Agenda: Smuggle thousands of vials of painkilling potions into Sig’s black markets.

Next time: The City Between

City Lives

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Sig: Manual of the Primes
City Lives

We get a set of lists of weird minor Heritages, Factions and Powers – all of them are just a sentence or two after a name, to give you inspiration for coming up for your own stuff. They can be pretty good, though. Some examples:
Cuttles, which are large squid people who are known for brilliance and snarkiness.
Dwarves, who are communal by nature, breed very quickly and are always digging out new warrens for their kids.
Hounds, large glowing intelligent dogs that hunt criminals and protect holy sites.
Weavers, friendly talking spiders who weave enchantments and historic events into their webs.
The Miasmics, a faction dedicated to moving bad smells out of the rich parts of Sig.
The Homewreckers, a faction that focuses on bankruptcies, liquidations and dissolving partnerships, financial or personal.
The Order of Babylon, a mercenary band of freebooter guides and translators.
The Living Forge, a Power once chained and forced to make weapons, who now only allows herself to build tools of peace.
Rarya, Empress of the Seven Thunders, a Power who hurls lightning bolts at oathbreakers across the Primes.
Ulu, the Satisfied Prince, a Power who teaches that the three holy virtues are comfort, self-interest and conflict avoidance
Dialect, a predatory language of ancient times that became a Power when it consumed the language of the Primordials.
The Choir Invisible, a small pantheon of minor Powers who have banded together to watch over their shared faithful by leaving secret messages and omens in graffiti

Anyway, the City Between! It is the platonic ideal of a city, thousands upon thousands of lives all crammed together into one place. Some locals have had roots here for generations, others are newly arrived. Huge amounts of resources are consumed daily to keep the place running, and all kinds of culture clashes happen. There are three major zones in the city – the Hive, which is the largest area and is home to the poor, abused and outcast. Tetherward, which is mostly working class neighborhoods and industrial areas. And Highspire, the home of the wealthy and the powerful.

The Hive is a place of poverty and squalor, and is also home to the majority of Sig’s residents. For all its wealth and glory, most live in broken-down shanties, refugee communities or rickety tenements. The Hive is not a nice place, and misfortune is the norm. Dozens of distinct ethnic and religious communities exist throughout it, some newly arrived and others long hated. Day laborers, beggars, plague victims and refugees rub shoulders here, and it’d be a terribly bleak place if not for its small joys. Those do exist, though – a good roasted rat, children at play, the occasional stroke of luck. Hope lives on, as best it can. The Hive is divided into four main neighborhoods.

First, the Breeding Warrens. This is a cesspit, the worst of the worst, where refugees, victims and orphans do their best to make their lives. This is the home of last resort, for the most desperate, even by Hive standards. The buildings are made of scrap and rubble scavenged from richer areas, and under the pervasive scent of wood smoke, there are the clear odors of raw sewage and rot. A viscous slime that appears to coat most of the area is the main reason why the Cleaners have yet to just burn the place down as trash. Here, unwanted visitors end up dumped. Refugees fleeing genocidal demons, those broken by horrors out on the planes, that kind of thing. A small orphan community has established themselves in a ruined guildhouse to keep themselves safe from crime, and the other people of the Warrens try to look after each other as best they can. Frequent if inconsistent donations from temples or former residents keep many alive.

Each neighborhood presented also has an example NPC, and they’re all interconnected. The Warrens have The Lost, a half-Revenant, half-Cubi member of the Teachers’ Guild and worshipper of Edana of the Pact. Their strengths are Face of the Departed and Sex Worker, their weakness is Disturbing. The Lost is weird even by Sig standards, born of a Cubi and their Primal lover, who died before their time. This mixture means that anyone who looks at the Lost sees one of their dead loved ones – perhaps a mother, lover or sibling. This rather disturbing effect offers many opportunities for the Lost, and often gives a second chance to those who feel they’ve lost everything. The Lost teaches orphans in the voice of their late parents, offers comforts by night to those who lost lovers, gives a chance for last words of all kinds. They have something to offer everyone. The Lost is angry at Brok the Damned, who is drinking himself to death. They long to comfort Brunet the Mythender, who clearly lost much. They are professional rivals with Calvyn the Shoulder, who offers a different sort of comfort.

The Stacks make up the majority of the Hive. They’re crowded even in the best of times, and space is a luxury. The area is well known for its massive apartment complexes, usually four to five stories tall. They are makeshift things, lashed together out of scrap metal and splintered wood, and the makeshift apartments within are held together by rotting walkways, fraying ropes and prayer. It will surprise absolutely no one when they inevitably burn down. The Stacks are basically a walled village or mini-city in their own right, with their own small market, surgeon, smithy and even community of potters. Childcare is communally taken care of, with all adults caring for all children. Rumors flow through the Stacks with amazing speed, and secrets are hard to keep in such close company. Grudges and diseases spread equally well, and the wisdom of community elders is required to prevent the easily triggered disasters.

Sachi the Aegis is a Devahil, independent of the Factions, and devoted to Morkanah, the Sheltering Stone. Her strengths are Intimidation and Honest Broker, her weakness is Overprotective. She grew up as an orphan in the Stacks after her parents died in a factional war, and she ended up essentially raised by the community, doing odd jobs to keep her apartment block together. She put out fires – real and metaphorical – and organized crews of kids to raid other, more prosperous areas of the city for resources. She kept the weeping plague out of her block, preventing massive loss of life. Now, she is among the most respected Stacks block leaders, representing their community in dealings with power outside the Stacks. She might be a bit overzealous in keeping folks safe from the factions, but can she be faulted for it? Sachi is currently looking to hire mercenaries to take down Ghreeju the Stump after he brutalized one of the local elders. She’s fast friends and drinking buddies with Kinish the Crow. She’s got a bad feeling about Dzini the Peaceful and her rumor-spreading.

The Rat Farms keep much of the city fed, and they offer jobs to many in the Hive. The farms provide most of the cheap meat and fur for Sig, because the rats are renewable and in great supply. The ratherds breed them and guard them against poachers, who are common in the Hive. It’s often the best work a refugee can get, if you don’t mind the occasional ratborne plague. The rats are kept in ramshackle houses with leaky roofs and molding walls, unfit for human habitation even by Hive standards and prone to collapse. Most of the rats are raised in a central apartment complex, known as the Cage, which the older workers tend to find very entertaining. The other houses of the area are used as worker homes or buildings for related industries, such as abattoirs, tanneries or furriers.

Kilku Ratface is a Feral wererat, a member of the Farmers Association and a devotee of Calla the Wise. His strengths are Ratwhisperer and Wererat, his weakness Judgemental. He’s quite possibly the ‘verse’s most fashionable wererat, a dapper and well-dressed man that runs the furriers and leatherworkers of the Farms. He is responsible for clothing most of the city and he’s a huge fashion snob with a particular love of broad-brimmed hats. His shiny black fur is a great contrast to his vividly colored scarfs, and despite overwhelming prejudice and frequent mockery, Kilku is now one of the city’s greatest authorities on modern fashion and clothing design. At his core, his love of fashion is born from his belief that it can be a path to respectability. No matter where you’re from, a well-made suit or elegant fur coat can make you important. Kilku is the personal confidant and fashion consultant of Ramella, the Golden Heir. He can’t stand Slichk the Slime because of her filthy, slovenly habits. He’s got a crush on Aradarai the Sharp but has been cruelly rejected whenever he’s made advances.

Scholar’s Folly was originally a neighborhood designed by well-meaning cultural anthropologists belonging to the Sage Collegium, but they ended up learning rather too much in the process. It’s a section of the city broken down into dozens of small cultural enclaves for immigrants, each of which is fighting its neighbors. Makeshift barricades and vigilant watches keep the communities relatively safe from each other, but every week or two there’s another border skirmish or romantic entanglement that threatens to trigger a street war. Each enclave uses various tools to keep their culture vibrant and alive – most speak their own private languages, tell stories of their lost homelands (usually either Primes long forgotten by others or Planes that have lost the tether) and cook their traditional meals of all kinds. Their music, clothes and dances are all firm expressions of cultural identity and shields against outsider cultures. As a result, the area is frequently visited both by curious scholars and wealthy tourists, who often become rather too meddlesome.

Calvyn the Shoulder is of strange and unclear heritage, a member of the Cleaners and a devotee of Myn the Questioner. His strengths are Counsellor and Memory Trader, his weakness is Tragedy Junkie. Calvyn is a listener, here for anyone with a story. He runs a small teahouse that smells strongly of jasmine and has a huge reputation for discretion. For those who have been through hard times, he offers a chance to share their story, no matter what it is, and a shoulder to cry on (hence the nickname), with plenty of tea to remain hydrated. Each week, dozens make appointments to see him and speak to him, leaving feeling much better. Not all of this recovery is his listening skills, though. As his mother before him, Calvyn has the power to extract memories from the willing. For those that want it, he removes the memories of pain and suffering, bottling them up for sale to collectors, enchanters or demons. He has not seen Brok, one of his best customers, for some time. He’s sold way, way too much bottled resentment to Dzini the Peaceful. He extracted Elakin’s memory of having a family, for they all died during a period when Destruction held the Ideological tether.

Next time: Tetherward

Wards of the Tether

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Sig: Manual of the Primes
Wards of the Tether

Tetherward is the set of neighborhoods that surround and deal with the Tethers that connect Sig to the Planes. They are vital trade conduits – and loci of conflict and conquest, because here, goods and people flow freely. The City is built around the Tethers, which are connected by the immense road known as Queen’s Way. The locals of the Tetherward are hard-working, rough sorts with a love of drink after their labors. There’s always work to be done, handling the warehouses, barges and stables, and the workers keep the goods and people moving and managed. Tetherward is mainly known for laborers, explorers, mercenaries and similar people who work hard for a living. Tetherward, like the Hive, is divided into four primary neighborhoods.

The Golden Tether is the first of the three Tethers, and it is the one tied to the Ideological Planes, those of ethics and morality. As a result, the area is a focus of the City Between’s political life, home both to political operators and firebrand revolutionaries. Here, the city’s courts can be found, the dueling grounds of the advocates and judges – both verbal and physical. It is also the home of the ‘verse’s best café, at least if you ask the locals. Ideas can be bought here from ruthless information brokers, recorded on all manner of things, from clay tablets to scrolls to stranger things. The are is often a metaphorical battlefield, where ideas clash often. Zeal and fury seem to seep out of the Tether, slowly driving even the most moderate souls to ideological absolutism. The ability to compromise or self-reflect seems to be slowly worn away by ideological infection over time, and more than one crusading hierophant has arisen here, their ideas pushed to utter certitude.

The local NPC is Brunet the Mythender, a Primal human woman of the League of Exterminators and devotee of Alius the Pure. Her strengths are Paladin and Godslayer, her weakness Paranoid. Brunet is a newcomer to Sig, having been a paladin on her Prime world who was busy fighting a dark cult of demon summoners. To give her companions time to seal the demonic gate, she pressed forward with her holy blade. Next thing she can recall, she was curled up in an alley in Sig. Terrified and self-recriminating, she made her way to the nearest holy shrine to seek guidance. There, she was met by Alius the Pure, who offered her a holy mission: slay the false Powers of Sig. Brunet has now become a mythender for the League of Exterminators, eliminating divine and demonic pests in order to build up the money she needs to make her way home. Despite her holy vows, Brunet has fallen in love with Simus the Balancer. She has failed to slay Sachi, Devil of the Stacks, because the fiend shielded herself with orphans. She is a frequent visitor of Calvyn’s teahouse, seeking answers and sympathy.

The Silver Tether is the second of the Tethers, sometimes called the Port of Power due to the large arcane community that gathers there. It is where energy is imported, fueling the mastercraft of artificers and wizards. Academics and scholars congregate there to study the effects of this power and the magical strength it fuels. Raw power of all kinds is brought in from the Conceptual Planes. Shadows are bottled to be used as the core of illusion-crafting. Forbidden lore is recorded and protected by the Sage Collegium. Prophetic dreams flow through the minds of sleepers, warping perception and time alike. Life energies trapped in roots and fruits are brought in to heal the sick and wounded or prolong the lives of the wealthy. Chained spectres are smuggled in to be bound for labor and municipal work. The resources of the Tether are great, but very tightly controlled by the City’s laws.

The local NPC is Kinish the Crow, half Winged and half Gnome. She is a Herald and a devotee of Ferrelux the Whisperer. Her strengths are Dreams and Illusions, her weakness is Flighty. Kinish is a genius who has the small height of her gnomish father and the black feathers and wings of her mother. She hunts out secrets and lore, as her father did, and gathers and hordes things that grab attention, as her mother did. Thus, she has become one of the most well-informed people in the City Between, always trading in secrets. By day, she is a Herald courier, specializing in the transportation of gems and artifacts. By night, she is half private eye, half gossip, flitting about the rooftops of the city or nesting near the Silver Tether. Kinish has a professional relationship with Elakin as the exclusive transporter of her relics. She finds The Lost fascinating, often secretly watching them as they work. She has pestered Cyathea the Tower too often, and is banned from the Garden.

The Brass Tether, third and final, is a source of endless raw materials. Ore, water, clean air, fuel and ice are brought in here, stockpiled in immense warehouses until needed. The Tether has been colonized by a number of heavy industries, from smelters and smithies to alchemical workshops and factories, who try to be as close as possible to ensure fast delivery of raw goods to be worked. Hundreds labor without end to turn these raw goods into the things the city needs. Miners might spend months at a time carving out huge blocks and slabs from the Plane of Stone for future construction projects, while furnaces sometimes channel the heat of the Plane of Flame to refine ores or purify things. Special channels redirect water into the River to resupply it, and windmills stand on top of the warehouses to harvest the energies of the Plane of Wind when it has the Tether. One immense, insulated warehouse serves as a dedicated icebox to keep produce fresh for the wealthy.

Ghreeju the Stump is a Wyrm and Enforcer, servant of the Eater-of-Worlds. His strengths are Brutality and Draconic Fury, his weakness is Drunkard. Everyone knows he is a monster. He is a massive man full of dragon’s power, endlessly enraged and in pain. All he touches is destroyed by his razor-sharp claws, and his every smile is full of bared fangs. His breath is flame and smoke. What else can he be? Well, he can be a broken, fearful man, at heart. As a child, he was relentlessly mocked and tormented by smarter, prettier peers. His resentment festered in him, twisting him into the brute he is now. His insecurities drive him to violence, leading him to join the Enforcers. Now, he is a squad captain, frequently abusing his power and shaking down locals for cash. Ghreeju is drinking buddies with Brok the Damned, whose suffering is far greater. He is in desperate love with Negasi the Planner and would do anything if it would win her heart. He likes to beat up Kilku Ratface whenever he gets a chance, as he dislikes how good Kilku is at talking.

The Docks are the trade port for the Primes and those Planes that lack the Tethers at present. Huge numbers of goods of all kinds flow into Sig, and they have to be stored somewhere. Then they have to be transported across the city. Barges, carts and porters, usually underpaid, base themselves out of the docks to manage this – as do thieves and extortionists who prey on them. Hundreds of people of all kinds work the Docks at any given moment. Some run warehouses, organizing them as best they can. Others move goods to and from the barges of the Great River or load the city’s carts and wagons. Still more run the stables for the beasts of burden, which range from horses and mules to giant flightless birds and draft turtles. Others fight pirates with the Riverwatch. The Docks are not an easy place to live, but the ale is cheap in the many bars.

Slichk the Slime is a Waterborn member of the Riverwatch and follower of Tritonous of the Hungry Seas. Her strengths are Dock Workers and Leviathans, her weakness Kind Hearted. Slichk suffered terribly as a slave in the depths. Her youth was spent hunting the Leviathans, immense demon-whales, and butchering them for their valuable blubber. When her master was slain, however, she fled the depths and became a free woman. Now, a decade later, she is a distinguished leader among the dockhands. Her brilliance, industry and generosity have made her a natural leader. She handles the scheduling, ensures the cargo gets unloaded on time and keeps fights from blowing up too badly. She might give her workers more freedom than is necessarily good for them, but that is only because she dreads becoming anything like her own cruel master was. Slichk is very worried about Ranella and her divine power. She is very sympathetic towards Brunet the Mythender and would do anything to help her out. She sees Sachi the Aegis as her heroic role model.

Next time: Highspire

Riverfront Property

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Sig: Manual of the Primes
Riverfront Property

Riverward is the mercantile heart of the city. Here, treasures are sold – any treasure, if you know where to look and how to ask. You can also find people willing to defend just about any opinion or tell any story here. Riverward is where the ambitious live, where merchants seek fortune and where the upper middle class of Sig tend to make their home. Their homes may not be large, but their meals are filling, and with some luck and good skill, they might even be able to get a place overlooking the river. If they fail…well, back to the Hive. Again, four major neighborhoods.

First, we have The Bizarre, the biggest market in Sig. The pun is wholly intentional, of course. Here, all kinds of wares can be found if you can afford them. In the early morning, things are quiet and the goods are prepared while the merchants gossip with each other about all manner of things and share delicious teas. Their friendliness fades fast, however, as the customers start to arrive. The crowds’ roar is interspersed with clever quips, outrageous claims and much haggling. The dozens of shops, stalls, display blankets and more fill the area, while more dubious goods are sold on the rough and rickety boardwalks that overlook the area. Anyone visiting is there to find something – food, spices, adventure gear, toys, mystic goods and more. There’s something for everyone, but the price can be dear.

The local NPC is Elakin the Runebound, an Elderskein and member of the Sage Collegium, devoted to Omulaub the Tranquil. His strengths are Artifacts And Relics and Psychometry, while his weakness is Greedy. He is a sage who speaks for the living and dead by means of their goods. His is one of the smallest shops, set behind a squid vendor and next to a loud fletcher. His stall always has a bunch of holy relics and small artifacts, and he is who you go to for appraisal, identification and trade of magical items. Elakin is deeply connected to his goods, because he has learned how to talk to them. His particular academic specialty as an Elderskein is cultural anthropology, specifically the analysis of artifacts to understand the lost cultures that created them. Whenever he’s between customers, he spends his time polishing and whispering to the objects in his shop, and he is always eager to hear more voices. He meets weekly with Kilku Ratface for tea and discussion of art and fashion. Elakin regrets that in their shared youth, he bullied and tormented Negasi the Planner. Once, he was business partners with Aradarai the Sharp, but they proved unable to work together.

The Oratory is the premier location for public speaking in Sig. Sure, there’s plenty of alleys and corners for private conversation, but when you want to perform or speak to the entire city, the Oratory is your goal. It is an immense amphitheater with huge granite walls and black marble benches, with seating for hundreds of people. A large wooden platform works as a stage for plays, concerts, rallies and even executions. The walls isolate the Oratory from the rest of the city entirely, preventing any sound from escaping to the streets outside, no matter what’s going on. More than one cult or revolution has been discreetly begun there – and more than one has been massacred there, with the neighbors none the wiser. The Performers’ Guild manages it ruthlessly, offering it up to those who do what they consider to be “good behavior.” Access is heavily coveted, for a performance in the Oratory opens doors. It is freely accessible to emerging artists, upstart firebrands and passionate rebels…but once they reach the halls of power and prominence, they owe the guild many small favors for that access, and speech becomes quite expensive for them.

The local NPC is Dzini the Peaceful, a Fireheart and member of the Performers’ Guild who is a devotee of Kalzak the Absolute. Her strengths are Demagogue and Mask of Kindness, her weakness is Hatred. She is famous for her message of peace and her kindness to others, and her preaching on self-improvement and care for one’s community have earned her a place of societal honor. She lives out of the Oratory itself, spreading her message to any who will listen to her guidance in keeping Sig safe from untrustworthy outsiders. She speaks out against foreign imperialist deities, who seek to impose their alien faith on others. In truth, of course, Dzini is a zealous follower of Kalzak’s dogma. Her preaching is carefully designed to build up fear of outsiders and distrust between different communities. She spreads hatred in the words of peace, her every sermon designed to make people fear and distrust those who are not like them. That she hides it in soft words only makes her more dangerous. Dzini is best friends with Cyathea the Tower, helping them tend the Garden. Her true nature has been revealed to Kinish the Crow, whom she now pays regularly to keep it secret. She has begun a whisper campaign against Slichk the Slime, spreading vicious rumors about the dark forces that she obviously worships.

The Isle of Spirits sits in the middle of the Great River, linked to the rest of Sig by bridges of gold and silver. The spirits here are less metaphysical and more liquid – it is the home of the city’s finest bars and pubs, where city-dwellers go to celebrate, escape pain or just drink heavily. It serves as a de facto entertainment district, full of trendy clubs, old eateries and pubs of great repute and hidden cellars and breweries for the creation of new and interesting drinks. It is a place of meetings, public or private, and no matter what strata of society you hail from, your appearance there will not bring comment, if you’re careful about who you talk to. Cults and religions mingle freely at the Chubby Crow even if they’d be at each other’s throats in Godstreet, and factional negotiations are frequent in certain establishments marked out as neutral ground. All are welcome, as long as they keep the peace.

Brok the Damned is a Giant, member of the Dustkeepers’ Guild and devotee of Aludra of the Frozen Tears. His strengths are Strength and Broken Things, his weakness Alcohol. Everyone knows Brok, the damned giant of the isle. He is a huge mountain of razor-sharp and broken slate, and anything he touches is marked, bloodied or scarred by it. None dare to come close to him, speak to him or ask him of his trouble. His only job appears to be terrifying other drinkers and stopping fights before they can happen. Only the bartenders that serve him ever really learn more. Brok lost it all, and it was his own fault. As a proud young Giant, he left his village to seek his fortune in the City Between. Greedily, he joined a team of adventurers that sought to plunder an ancient Prime world of the Serpent Dynasty. Shamefully, he abandoned both his team and his people to crushing retaliation from the Serpents. Now, only the bottle is his company in the darkness. Brok sought out Brunet the Mythender to kill him and end his suffering, but found in her instead a sympathetic friend. In his rare periods of sobriety, he discusses theology with Simus the Balancer. He was the one who slew Slichk the Slime’s cruel master, though he cannot remember doing it.

The Craft Quarter is the workplace of the best artificers and craftspeople of the City Between. Here, the obsessive, passionate and eccentric make their workspaces, etching the cobbles themselves with symbols to catch attention and advertise wares. The walls are coated with beautiful paintings by great artists, and the quarter is full of small clockworks of brass and copper doing many jobs. Skill is the only thing required to get a workshop in the Quarter – and lots of it. Primes, planar immigrants and Sig natives are all found there, and with so many artists and crafters in one place, drama’s inevitable. Ideological cliques form based on artistic philosophies, and rivals constantly seek to outdo each other. Countless insults, romantic entanglements and shouting matches are found on any given day, and even a few blood feuds to keep the place lively.

Aradarai the Sharp is half-Polari, half-Crystalian, and a member of the Artificers’ Guild. He is a follower of Magdak the Clockwork Page. His strengths are Artifice and Crystals, his weakness Perfectionist. Aradarai requires perfection in all things. His shop in the Craft Quarter is perfectly austere – a single featureless room for customers. Each day, he presents a single piece, some form of crystalline clockwork. Once it sells, he’s closed for the day. He spends all other time making new creations, and immediately destroying any that do not meet his exactingly high standards. Aradarai forgives others no more than he forgives himself, and literally all of his self-worth is tied into his creations. He treats any flaw as a personal failure and betrayal. His fear is that any weakness, even the smallest, might break him – and he might be right. Aradarai trusts Negasi the Planner more than any other. He is afraid The Lost and has hired assassins to eliminate them. He believes Ramella, the Golden Heir, is perfect in all respects.

Next time: Highspire, For Real This Time

Divine Mandate

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Sig: Manual of the Primes
Divine Mandate

Highspire is the home of the wealthy and the powerful. They have always been a part of the City Between – the Powers in their cathedrals, the factions in their mighty fortresses, yes, but the area is also home to many monuments and institutions meant to promote the cultures of various communities or commemorate their history. Demons, gods and wealthy nobles all make their homes there, as do the leading merchants, politicians and so on. It is not rare that these are the same beings, in fact. The mystic and mundane who demand respect and control valuable parts of Sig are the chief inhabitants of Highspire.

The Golden Spires are impossible to miss. They are immense towers of shining radiance, after all. The status and influence of their owners is unquestionable. Some are held by factional leaders as a sign of their power in the city. Others belong to potent archmagi, who use them for arcane workshops and containment for experiments. Some belong to Powers or their children, discontent with merely holding a temple in Godstreet. The Golden Spires operate outside the normal laws of the City Between. Each tower is legally considered an independent domain, subject solely to the authority of its owner. Some wizards even alter the laws of reality within their spires to suit themselves, perhaps binding them to shard-realms or establishing permanent planar gates. The spires are often home to rich treasure vaults full of coin, relics, artifacts or prized wines. Many get the bright idea of breaking into the towers and raiding them for wealth – but the risks are, of course, immense.

The local NPC is Ramella, the Golden Heir. She is a demigod, writer for the Sig Gazetteer and devotee of Brossien of Mystic Song. Her strengths are Divinity and Golden Blades, her weakness is Daughter of the Exile. She is herself a goddess, carved from solid, living gold. Her dreadlocks glow from within as they fall over her broad shoulders, and while she appears to be made of metal, she is weightless and floats a few inches over the ground effortlessly. On her head she bears a crown of golden blades that shines in the light. Behind her, she trails the scents of sandalwood and rosewater. Around her, the chaotic din of the City Between fades to silence. She is daughter of the Silent Regent, and that comes with baggage. She is bound to the city itself by ancient pact, and she alone can hear its words. She alone may access her mother’s mazes and command her cryptic servants. It is only a matter of time before someone realizes her secret (which is left undetailed, for GMs to fill in as needed). Ramella was raised in the Garden by Cyathea the Tower and often returns to visit. She was dumped by Simus the Balancer, and the breakup went badly for everyone. Ramella also secretly subsidizes the work of Calvyn the Shoulder as thanks for a favor he once did for her.

Tsarhome was the neighborhood from which the Silent Regent commanded the City Between until her disappearance, a generation ago. Under her, the Powers were exiled from the city and anyone that displeased her was imprisoned. Her rule was complete and total, her sheer will keeping the entire city controlled. Her palace was built of green marble and gold, a monument to her unending rule. When she was overthrown, the Paper Guard seized the place and turned it into a central administrative facility. Now, Tsarhome is the nominal center of government for Sig. It is a huge facility, full of bureaucrats and public servants. The surface levels house ambassadors from all of the city’s Factions as well, always busy with meetings and briefings. The lower levels are home to the high functionaries that control the daily administration of the city. Under them is the city morgue, run by the Dustkeepers. Rumor holds that the Silent Regent’s secret prisons also remain, buried deeper still.

The local NPC is Negasi the Planner, an Ancestral and member of the Paper Guard, follower of Nyx the Oracle. Her strengths are Prophecy and Bureaucracy, her weakness Overworked. Negasi is the head of the administrators and bureaucrats that keep Sig in some semblance of normal operation. She is an ancient spirit, bound for centuries to service of the city and its people. She appears as a small, slight woman with ebony skin and a beautiful smile, and her every move is accompanied by the gentle sound of bells. Negasi adores her work. She loves to feel useful to people and she loves being important to the city’s daily operations. She finds the network of rules that bind the City Between to be an elegant piece of art, and she is deeply involved in the details of daily maintenance, from road repair schedules to business licensing. Every time she can serve, even when no one else notices, fills her with pride. Negasi has been working with Sachi the Aegis to help improve fire safety procedures in the Stacks. She is in love with Kilku Ratface and hopes one day to be able to run her fingers through his glossy fur. Kinish the Crow is her current project, as Negasi wants to elevate her to a position of power and privilege.

The Garden is one of the few truly green places in the City Between. Most of Sig is barren, made of buildings and cobblestones and little that is alive. The Garden is quite the opposite – a grand park and refuge for living things, a symbol of the undying resilience of nature. It is a great redwood forest, its trees impossibly tall towers of living wood that simultaneously serve as useful structures. The place is a tranquil one, where locals feed the duckbunnies in the ponds. It is a garden of white roses and black lotus flowers, home to most of the few birds and beasts native to Sig. It is easily the most pleasant part of the city, and the rich and powerful prefer to spend much of their leisure time there, enjoying the fresh air and the greenery. The Enforcers forbid the place to commoners except during strictly regulated periods of time…unless bribed, anyway. Secret break-ins during the night are commonplace by lovers looking for a thrill.

Cyathea the Tower is a Sylva, member of the Guild of Toil and worshipper of Kestranna the Harvester. Their strengths are Gardening and Infrastructure, their weakness Meddling. Cyathea is a massive, walking oak tree who has become the pillar around which the garden stands. (Metaphorically. They are not planted in one spot.) They naturally found themselves drawn to the Garden long ago, and soon rose to become its master arborist. Now, they are in charge of the redwoods, bushes and flowers that fill the massive park. On top of this, they hold many other roles in service to the city. They are a social planner par excellence, managing all of the many celebrations scheduled in the Garden, and also work as a matchmaker that loves to set people up with each other. Most importantly, however, they are a spy that loves gathering blackmail on the nobles that constantly surround them. Cyathea is always there in the Garden, listening. They like to share a cup of tea and gossip with Calvyn the Shoulder. They’re currently seeking out someone that would be a good match for the lonely Ghreeju the Stump. They worry endlessly about Aradarai the Sharp and his isolation from the rest of the world.

Godstreet is the primary religious battleground of Sig. The Powers, ever status-conscious, constantly seek to prove themselves greater than each other. Dozens of temples, mosques, shrines and other holy sites line the long street. The most powerful and prestigious religions can be found at the top of Upper Godstreet, while the more unpopular Powers are relegated to the smaller sites of Lower Godstreet. The cults and priesthoods are always fighting and jockeying for power, each longing to move up to a bigger, grander site further up the street. Pride, faith and zeal are all common here, and the clerics battle over the souls of visitors. The streets are lush with the smell of incense and burnt offerings, and endless chants, gongs and singing prayers fill the air. Demons and divine servants are commonly seen going about their business, spreading the word of their eternal masters. The street is holy ground, and the people of Sig go there in search of miracles. Sometimes, they may even be willing to pay the price of one.

Simus the Balancer is an Aesigilar, member of the Guild of Advocates and quite possibly the only atheist living on Godstreet. His body was fashioned from simple clay and animated by the living sigil that is his self. He is a large, clumsy fellow who lumbers about Godstreet each day, serving as mediator between the many Powers and their servants in an effort to keep them from coming to blows and starting holy wars. His job is not usually a pleasant one, and he has become the de factor negotiator for the many gods and devils of Godstreet. He is who the arch-demons go to when they want to make a peace treaty, and the one who must labor endlessly to stop the Powers declaring war on each other. He does it because, quite simply, he finds the Powers fascinating intellectually. He is always trying to learn what traits lead small cults to grow powerful and what purposes various rituals actually fulfill. He puzzles over why a mortal might worship a demon of suffering over a benevolent healing goddess, and many similar questions. His work with the Powers is entirely so that he can one day find out all the answers to his questions about faith and religion. Simus is very worried about his old friend, Sachi the Aegis, who hasn’t dropped by for a visit in months. He often confiscates religious relics, which he then sells to Elakin the Runebound for a profit. He finds Brok the Damned and his pitiful state rather disgusting.

Next time: The Primes and Their Infinite Glory

Prime Directive

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Sig: Manual of the Primes
Prime Directive

There are an infinite number of Prime worlds out there. Every potential world exists. However, not all can be easily reached, thanks to their drifting in the ethereal sea between worlds. Thus, you can’t just go to literally the perfect world for you at will – it just means that the diversity of any particular Prime can be shocking even to the most jaded of Planars or Powers. Secondly, despite their number, each Prime is [exceptionally valuable. The Powers covet them because they are a source of faith, sending forth their signs and miracles in exchange for mortal worship. The Factions see them as a source of trade goods, weapons and materials, which are needed to keep Sig alive. While the Planes provide much of what Sig needs, only three are connected at any given time, and the rest of what they need is usually easier to get from Primes than the untethered Planes. Adventurers, traders and mercenaries are sent into the Primes to serve the Powers and Factions or other agendas, while the interpreters and professional diplomats of Scholar’s Folly make a good living supporting the many expeditions.

Most of the Primes, given how many of them there are, are not explored by Sig’s people. Still, even knowing that, there’s research that can and should be done before you head out on expedition. Scholar’s Folly is usually the best place for it – it’s the most likely place to find a native Primal, after all – but the Sage Collegium can often also provide useful advice from their archives. Godstreet can also be a good place to start, as the Powers may well have extended their religions into the world in question. In practice for the game, primal “research” is collaborative creation at the table. You work together as a group to create a new world with three fundamental Beliefs and an evocative name. Then, having done that and come up with some basic info, you head out into the Prime world and play the game.

Step 1 of Prime creation is to come up with three different pieces of evocative media that you will draw on for inspiration. Books, movies, video games, comics, poetry, whatever you like. As long as each piece involved is interesting to at least several members of the group, it works fine.

Step 2, each person looks at the selected media and attempts to create a Belief based on one or more of them and the themes and conflicts of the media. Again, Beliefs should be subjective and controversial. Once everyone has created a Belief, the GM picks three of them to describe the Prime world. These are the core controversies and conflicts that will define the world.

Step 3, you look at the Beliefs and establish some basic facts about the world, plus give it a name or short evocative title, probably no more than three words long. The game gives some examples, some of which it goes on to describe later, and some of which are other games by the author or just…examples, undescribed further. The most interesting ones to me:

Next time: The Primes of Renown, eight example Prime worlds written by different authors. First up, Renee Knipe’s Age of Scales


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Sig: Manual of the Primes

Age of Scales, by Renee Knipe
Motion is life. Movement is freedom.
Not all caresses are tender.
The more one struggles, the tighter their embrace.

At first glance, the worlds that comprise the Age of Scales seem peaceful. And they are more than one world – they are an empire, the domain that is ruled by the Serpent Dynasty. The lands are rich and verdant, the air clean, the fields endless. The roads are adorned at regular intervals by immense statues of snakes. Really immense – a mile or more tall, and very long. The statues are perfectly, totally realistic in their composition, though made of stone, and they are monuments to the great serpents that rule over the Age of Scales. Hundreds upon hundreds of statues adorn each world, all to the glory of their kings. Every kind of snake is represented.

The Dynasty’s size is unclear. No one really keeps track. They have been around a long, long time, and their conquests stretch back a long way. They do not allow travel or similar freedoms, for they know well the danger that freedom represents if allowed to their subjects. Travel among their worlds makes it easy, however, to slip between them without noticing. After all, each world ends up pretty much exactly like the others, but with different plant life. The Serpents have preferences, after all. The worlds they conquer are warm, green and, once the work is complete, essentially identical to each other. The main difference is in the ‘active’ worlds, the worlds still being colonized by the Dynasty. These tend to be messy places. The Serpents enslave all life on their worlds, demanding them to perform labor – labor that leaves a lot of mess. Fields are trampled by hordes of workers, rock carved forth enough to level mountains, streams run thick with slag in the smelting pits used to make the tools. And then, of course, there’s the bones. When a slave dies, they are not collected. There is no time to do so, no freedom for burial. They are left where they fell. On the older worlds of the Age of Scales, the weeds grow forth from bones, left to lie among the silt and clay.

The wants and needs of the Serpents are the core of Dynastic society, and the source of the main tension within it. The Serpents want little more than lasting testaments to their grandeur, with vast slave labor required to feed their equally immense egos. However, they also need food. They are, after all, snakes over a mile long. Their perpetual drives, both for food and glory, are what drive them on to conquer new Primes. The older their colonies, the more still they tend to be. Go back far enough, and there is likely to be no life at all besides the plants – just silent, abandoned monuments to the Serpents. Newer worlds are abuzz with activity, however. In the early stages of conquest, violence is common, swift and without warning. The Serpents have no pity or mercy, though their acts are strictly calculated to subdue the populace with maximum speed. They are ancient sorcerers of massive architectural genius, and their greatest trick is their ability to shapeshift into humanoid form, allowing them to spread chaos in the societies they wish to conquer.

Once they achieve dominance, they turn their attentions to glorifying themselves. It is not clear if they have more than one active conquest at a time, but on such worlds, millions of workers move across the fields under the watchful gaze of serpentine overseers, lazing about on immense serpent-thrones, their bellies distended from their meals. The Serpents always dwell on worlds in active conquest, basking in their own glories…at least until they are no longer able to feed enough to sate their endless hunger. At that point, they move on and begin the cycle again. Between conquests, their spies head out to find new targets – not hard, given their shapeshifting talents. They seem to prefer killing people and assuming their lives, betrayed only by uncharacteristic coldness of demeanor and, of course, not having the memories of those they replace.

Visiting one of the worlds of the Age of Scales is dangerous. Anyone that isn’t a Serpent is a slave or a meal, after all. They know that mobility is freedom, so they do not allow it. A visitor must use stealth and trickery to pass among these worlds safely, the same tactics the Serpents use against their conquests. If they are detected, the Serpents will start to hunt them, for fear that they will stir up the slaves to rebellion. The Serpents know that while they control things now, it is only because they are swift and brutal in crushing hopes, and they could not withstand a rebellion of their conquered populations. If such a thing were to be threatened, they would turn their massive sorcerous power and their skilled assassins to crushing these threats. They encourage fear and paranoia, because they themselves fear that even this would not be enough.

It is believed that whatever home world the Serpents hailed from must lie very near to the Plane of Tyranny, given how strong their ideals of tyrannous rule are. The Plane of Freedom, however, also touches on the bounds of their empire in strange ways. After all, they cannot hunt and feed upon a thing without understanding it. The Serpents seem to almost seek out worlds near the Plane of Freedom and wrench them into the orbit of the Plane of Tyranny, if such a thing is possible. Their obsessive, implacable architecture and agenda of total uniformity in their worlds also suggests some kind of link to the Plane of Order.

Next time: Alucina, by Whitney “Strix” Beltran

The Land of Drugs

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Sig: Manual of the Primes
The Land of Drugs

Alucina, by Whitney “Strix” Beltran
We are not really here.
We are guided by invisible music.
There are no barriers between the living and the dead.

Alucina is a loud, bright place of strange patterns and distinctive noise. Being there is like being more awake than you have ever been, with all your senses constantly screaming for attention. The air crackles with power – electrical and magical. It is sweet and hot and wet, which according to the locals is due to the presence of their ancestors. The locals move to sounds that only they can hear – well, they and any who eat their foods and drink their drinks. It is a world both alive and dead, for when an Alucinian dies, their soul remains within their body. They just keep going on, their body now dead but still moving. After death, sometimes they vanish for a time, and if so, when they return they are recognized as elders. The bodies of the elders do decay, but it is a slow, dry decay that mummifies them. For this reason, the Alucinians are considered some of the wisest of peoples of the planes, for their collective memory and experience is very long indeed – longer than must like to think about.

Alucina is a warm, vivid world of many ecosystems. Most of the plants, if combined correctly, will produce hallucinogenic visions – as will other things, not limited to food or drugs. It is possible to walk into a vision entirely by accident, as one might step into a puddle. This is actually quite dangerous for the unprepared, as the visions may draw you away from the baseline reality and leave you unable to find your way back. The world is full of depth, hidden behind visions, and the more time you spend there, the easier it is to tell on what levels others are experiencing reality. They may be physically near you, but most of the locals see and hear things visitors cannot, operating on deeper levels than visitors ever reach. The deeper you go, the less touch you have with physical reality, and it becomes very difficult to communicate between these levels of experience, making conversation with the locals often puzzling, as they tend to be high as balls.

The deeper you go, the easier it is to hear the music that suffuses the prime. The music is like a kind of background radiation, louder the more you sink into the depths of the world. It is a complex, beautiful music that can be almost hypnotic, formed from the voice of all life on Alucina intermingling. It draws listeners closer to the world, giving them a sense for how things will act, how they feel and think. The locals say this understanding is why song exists, and why they cherish their songs so much – the songs of the local people serve as a counter to the natural music of the prime, keeping everything from collapsing into a single unified point.

Alucina is not really a unified hegemony. Instead, it is divided into the Yachacs – Drum Yachac, Stone Yachac, Feather Yachac, Patcha Yachac and many more. Some Yachacs are secret, forbidden to be revealed to outsiders. The Yachacs freely intermix with each other – they are not nations, but rather groups whose membership is advertised by identifying symbols, tattoos, colors or articles of clothing. It is possible for a local to belong to multiple Yachacs, though they do not discuss with outsiders how this works, beyond that an individual selects their Yachac or Yachacs during late adolescence. Which Yacacs you belong to influences every aspect of life, from what foods you can eat to what cloth you may use to what rituals you perform to what songs you learn – which is most important. Songs are what keep Alucinian society going. Each song is magical, curated carefully over generations, and they serve as guides for the locals to move in and out of the music of Alucina and the altered states that it controls. Songs can lead you deeper in or back out to normal reality, saving your life as needed. The best songs can even reveal the truths of mysteries you never realized. Needless to say, songs are carefully guarded. You may hear snatches of them played on instruments like drums or bells, or bits being hummed, but it is exceptionally rude to ask to be taught a song without express offer of teaching first.

The most guarded songs are personal songs. A personal song is unique to each Alucinian, and is also called an ikara. They encompass someone’s identity, and sharing an ikara is the most intimate act an Alucinian native can perform. Visitors rarely have ikara themselves, having never had need to develop them, but a great way to earn respect and trust is by sharing pieces of favored childhood tunes or other songs of personal meaning. Many Alucinians also wear wooden masks, typically bearing ghoulish designs. This is intended to help the living and the ancestral dead feel at ease with each other and blend in. While it is not safe to assume anyone wearing a mask is dead, it is also unsafe to assume they aren’t. Outsiders often prize Alucinian masks for mystical powers they are believed to possess, and so like the songs, they are sometimes stolen and sold for high prices off-world.

The greatest danger to visitors of Alucina is the chance of getting lost in a vision without a song to save you. While this is not physically dangerous, remaining out of touch with reality for an extended period can often lead to permanent madness. Because of this, the locals maintain constant drumming at specific waypoints around the plane, to help people focus and find their way out of unwanted visions. Secondly, the foods and drinks can be dangerous if underestimated – combined with the ease of visions, their effects can be tapped to enable even deeper trance states, and it is vital to take their power seriously. Anything bitter-tasting or brown in color, especially, should be treated with respect. Of course, these are also what tend to bring visitors to Alucina in the first place; few visit if they aren’t interested in exploring altered states.

The songs of Alucina cannot be learned for the asking, but it is essential to learn at least one if you plan to remain on the prime for an extended period. The easiest way to earn permission to learn one is to give a gift of deep personal value. If you don’t care about losing it, they aren’t going to want to teach you one of their sacred songs for it. If you gave something you cared deeply about, however, it is likely that the locals will return the gift by offering to teach you a song as a show of welcome. Insincere gifts, however, bring trouble.

The other main reason to head to the prime is knowledge. The ancestors know many things dating back hundreds or even thousands of years, and they tend to enjoy being asked for advice if approached with respect. They – and the prime itself – can also be relied on as teachers of musical magic. The world seems to draw forth the inner talents of musical practitioners, allowing them to unlock their true abilities. It is also a good place to seek psychic therapy, though such healing can be violent and painful. Alucina provides ineffable answers to unaskable questions, written in the movements of the world and the music of the prime…as long as you remember the limits of your mortal form and avoid being trapped in vision and song.

The locals are not xenophobic, but they hate absolutely nothing more than song thieves – outsiders that come to raid their secrets and sell them on the planes. Being mistaken for a song thief or getting caught up in the schemes of one is extremely dangerous, for it will earn the wrath of nearly any Alucinian you meet…and their song magic can be potent indeed, honed over centuries of unlife. The plane is believed to be very close to the Plane of Lore, given how much forbidden and secret knowledge is found there, and the Plane of Justice, due to the presence of the ancestors. It is somewhere between the Plane of Life and the Plane of Death, but it is very difficult to figure out which one it’s closer to.

Next time: Crystalia, by Alex Roberts


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Sig: Manual of the Primes

Crystalia, by Alex Roberts
What is done can never be undone.
Perfection is the only peace.
You can depend only on yourself.

Everything in Crystalia is soft pastel, though the landscape is hard and sharp-edged. Quartz, amethyst and other crystals erupt from the ground, filling the landscape. Neither plant nor animal lives on this prime – only the Crystalian primals, beautiful and fragile as dolls. It is hard to tell their cities from the landscape, for their architecture follows the same precise symmetries as natural crystal growths, and their artificial crystal lattices are no less perfect than natural ones. What reveals them is the humming produced by the inhabitants. Crystalians all vibrate, each at a particular frequency, to produce sounds of precise pitch and volume. Each city thus gains a unique soundscape from its inhabitants. Outside the cities are small crystal monasteries, mounted high on cliffs. Many choose to live out their lives in the quiet monasteries, where the hum is softer and more intermittent. Out on the outskirts of the prime, beyond the mountain cities, there are great valleys of broken, fragmented crystal which the wind grinds down to dust, sweeping them out into pastel crystal dunes. These deserts, while beautiful, are empty.

Language among the Crystalians is a matter of vibrational frequency, which they use to express thought, mood and intent. However, their verbal language is imprecise and difficult even for them to be communicate exactly with, and so it is considered very inappropriate to discuss matters of precision vocally. Math and science are exclusively the domain of writing and carving. This is exacerbated by the fact that Crystalians vibrate mostly involuntarily, requiring great effort on their part to control. There is great respect and awe for the rare monks that can will themselves to total silence. One important concept in their language is ‘broken’ or ‘shattered’ things. This refers not only to objects that no longer function, but to dead people, ended relationships and disproven ideas. Things “break” often in Crystalia, and the locals find it fascinating. They have no concept of repair or fixing what is broken.

Broken things (including the dead) are ground to a fine powder with precise ceremony and swept into the deserts. The Crystalians have a massive taboo against physical harm to anyone, and indeed do not even seem to grasp the concept of deliberately harming other people. They refuse to discuss the idea one being killing another except as a mistake. They also seem to reject the concept of physical intimacy. Crystalians grow from underground caverns, emerging into life intact, fully adult and physically perfect. Each takes centuries to form, but their fragility likely leads to both their extreme taboo against harming each other and their extreme fear of physical intimacy. It’s so easy for one of them to break.

Crystalian poetry is admired throughout the ‘verse, as their rhythmic, humming language combines music and spoken word easily. They believe that poems are incomplete if not performed, and performances are generally highly reverent and personal. Many attribute them healing powers, both physical and spiritual. The world is also famous for its trade goods. The Crystalians don’t really understand the concept of clothing or decoration, of course, and wear nothing on their crystalline forms. However, their mundane tools are made from precious gems, these being the most common resource on the prime, and are highly valued elsewhere. Diamonds are used to make writing tools, rubies and sapphires as part of construction. Rock salt is the most common mineral, but the locals consider it largely an annoying weed that grows everywhere and must be scraped off and sent to the deserts.

What the locals tend to value are objects of personal or spiritual significance. While many gems will not be missed, it is wise for visitors to learn toe recognize the ones people use as keepsakes – if stolen, these will be viciously pursued by the Crystalians. They have no weapons, of course, and will not physically harm you, but the sounds they make in anger are unbearable to hear for most other species, both physically and psychically. The locals consider food and excretion to be deeply disgusting, having no need of it themselves, and become terrified at the idea of hair falling off. They find hair amusing when it doesn’t fall off, but they panic and think you’re breaking if it does. It is considered exceptionally rude and inappropriate to ask to go to the desert.

The perfection of the crystal mountains and the tense peace that rules over the cities suggests Crystalia is close to the Plane of Order. The sharp, perfect fragility of the people also suggests closeness to the Plane of Ice. While the place is very beautiful, it is also utterly barren of most life. The Plane of Death is very close, and the Crystalians seem to be obsessed with the absolute nature of loss, valuing silence as the highest spiritual gift despite their vibrations being part of their basic life cycle.

Next time: Dimming Twilight, by Liz Chaipraditkul

The Solar Graveyard

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Sig: Manual of the Primes
The Solar Graveyard

Dimming Twilight, by Liz Chaipraditkul
Sleeping giants dream.
Light dims among the stars.
To them we owe all.

The Dimming Twilight is the world where the stars go to die. When a star goes supernova, it is not gone when its light is consumed. Rather, it travels from its place in the Heavens to this world for its final journey. Each star lives until the last of its light is seen on the last world at the very ends of the universe, counting out its time in the Dimming Twilight. The world of the Twilight is an endless black expanse, with neither ground nor sky. The stellar behemoths hang suspended in the void, but a fraction of their former size. The youngest of them, those furthest from death, are about the size of a few city blocks. The oldest of them are small enough to be held in the palm of a human hand. Countless flickering lights dot the void, filling it with a faint light and soft hum. As you approach the corona of each dying star, you can hear ‘the song’ as the locals know it, as each star whispers the stories of the worlds that once orbited them, telling their tales endlessly until their light dies out. Stars in the Dimming Twilight are not hot, so they can easily be interacted with and spoken to. They no longer need to sustain worlds with their light, and so they revert to their basic state, merely shining rather than burning.

There is neither sky nor ground in the Dimming Twilight, which can be disorienting at first, but it does not take long for visitors to master the art of traveling three dimensionally in the dark void, as their bodies seem to instinctively grasp it. Besides the stars, three other kinds of being can be found there. The first are the talmorim, also called the Keepers. They are the natives of the Dimming Twilight, an eternal race of beings with grey skin and black clothing (when in their natural state) who care for the dying stars. Once they select a star to care for, they dress in all manner of clothes, mimicking the people of the star they care for. Besides the talmorim, many travelers come to the Dimming Twilight, seeking out the secrets and stories of lost and dead worlds. The last inhabitants of the region are star-thieves. These are people, often would-be deities, who seek to steal immortality from the stars. The talmorim maintain that taking the power of stars for yourself is the gravest possible sin, for it shreds the grace of the universe and drinks deep of darkness.

The dying stars are immortal, and this is not a contradiction. A star dies only when it chooses to, and may not die except of their own volition. They give up their immortal natures that other stars may be born and grow, that new worlds can be made. The Dimming Twilight is the final grace given to them by the ‘verse itself, a world apparently made to thank them for sacrificing their own eternal natures. Thieves come to steal their eternal essence in order to become immortal, as the stars once were. Technically, this is legal, because there are no laws in the Twilight. The reason for this is that the native Keepers live their lives entirely on their natural instincts. When a talmorim comes of age, they begin to wander the Twilight in search of a star to care for. When a star’s soul calls out to them, their skin begins to glow and their mood and personality change to fit the ways of the star they have been bound to, and they then care for that star until it dies – at which point they, too, pass on.

The talmorim are a hive mind of sorts. They are able to close off their minds, which they call seyedimm, to the group when they choose to, but they always maintain instinctive connection to the others of their kind. If one talmorim steals from another, they steal from themselves – and so they need no law, because all are, in a fundamental way, part of the same being. The only true crimes committed in the Twilight are done by outsiders, called lamort by the talmorim. Those lamort who commit what the talmorim deem criminal acts are taken before Thaed Rothme, the Queen of the Dimming Twilight. She rules from the center of the void, but can easily be found no matter where you are because she glows with a light brighter than any of the stars of the Twilight. She is surrounded by a large stretch of empty darkness, and only the talmorim may look upon her directly without being blinded, for their eyes have adjusted to her radiance over millenia. They give shadowed glasses out to visitors that wish to speak to her.

Thaed’s story is well known to the Keepers. She was the first of them to die, struck down by a god who wanted immortality. The star she had served wept at her death – and the tears of the stars are fire, not water. As each burning drop fell upon her broken form, the radiance of the stars passed into her. The star died to revive Thaed, singing its final story to her that she might inherit its eternity. Thaed was once more a Keeper with no star to care for, and so she bound herself to the Dimming Twilight itself. She used the new powers granted her by her former star to bind the minds of the talmorim into their hive unit. One alone might not be able to protect themselves – but all of them together? They could do it. Now, Thaed spends much of her time asleep, waking only when called for by the other talmorim. The years have worn her down. Stars are only meant to live for so long, and a talmorim even more so. Thaed, however, will not let herself fade until her task is done and all of the stars may die in peace.

The songs of the dying star-giants are the great treasure of the Dimming Twilight, the main reason people come there. They sing the tails of everything they saw as shining suns, revealing all kinds of information and knowledge that would otherwise be lost with the worlds that they once shone upon. Their songs are deep and emotional, burning with the fevers and conviction that only a star knows. They reach into the soul and kindle it, causing powerful emotions that often leave visitors feeling empty for a time afterwards, worn out and tired from the power of the knowledge they have gained. The main danger of the plane is the talmorim themselves – those who serve stars that shone on violent worlds. They take on the traits of the worlds of their stars, after all, and it is not unknown to run into vicious, cannibalistic Keepers in the dark, seeking to fight or devour visitors simply because it is the nature of their star’s history.

Besides them, there are the dangerous followers of Feil, the god that slew Thaed Rothme the first time. While his attempt at immortality failed, in a way, he is eternal now, for Thaed trapped him in a secret shard realm. He longs to escape from it and truly gain eternity, and to assist this he reaches out to the hearts of unbound talmorim, not yet chosen by the stars. He uses those who listen to his corrupting whispers to spread chaos through the prime and kidnap visitors that might be able to free him from his prison. The last major danger is star-poachers, who have begun to raid the world for elder stars that are small enough to be caught and bottled for sale in the Night Markets of Sig.

The Plane of Destruction is core to the Dimming Twilight, and its influence is what allows the stars to shake themselves free of eternity. The Planes of Life and Death are also near, as the plane hangs between them in delicate balance.

Next time: Hex, by Kira Magrann

Capitalism, Ho!

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Sig: Manual of the Primes
Capitalism, Ho!

Hex, by Kira Magrann
All deals are negotiable.
All paths lead to ecstasy.
All experiences lead to knowledge.

Hex is a flying city in a world of infinite sky, built on top of the skeleton of a long-dead monster. Entry into the city is through the beast's massive jaws, large enough to let through just about anyone or anything. The entire skeleton is strong as stone, yet much lighter, and of a scale that dwarfs even the most massive creatures of most other planes. Looking out over the edge of the skeleton to the massive sky beyond is known to induce vertigo in travelers, who are advised not to do it. Gravity is slightly lighter than on most worlds, and there is always the faint sense of motion, as if the skeleton were gently spinning around. The city itself has no official maps by design, to encourage travelers to get lost into it. It is hard to tell what section is in what part of the skeleton once you're in the interior - ribs and tail are much alike in shape. The place is packed with people of all kinds, both travelers and street vendors alike. Many scents and sounds fill the air, particularly the smells of sandalwood, myrrh, sage and tea. Tea flows freely from spigots installed into walls, typically with tiny cups offering travelers free drinks. Drumming and dancing are also frequent, as the celebtraitons never seem to end.

The bone skeleton of the beast that is Hex's frame makes up a constant in the architecture. The darkest, deepest regions, near the extremities, are home to many fragrant smoking parlors, their cushions ready for guests and their hookahs prepared with all manner of intoxicants. These areas are very warm compared to the cooler upper levels of the city. The middle areas are mostly cafes, casinos and open-air markets. Tile games are favored over cards, and items are not placed on open display. Instead, illusory holograms are used to advertise wares, which are kept hidden in shops. Every deal involves contracts, made in whispers and signed carefully - coin does not change hands in Hex. Not directly. The uppermost levels are built on top of the skeleton itself, full of pools, cloud viewing areas and gardens. In theory the area is for meditation, but given the various ingredients used in the tea of the city, much of this meditation is just being high as balls. Pillows and blankets can be found to rest in some areas, and the locals seem to not care about modesty, either, at least while high.

The natives of the realm are mysterious and often terrifying to visitors on first meeting. Their skin ranges from blue to mottled orange or pitch black, and their bodies have eyes in strange places much of the time. Wings, fanged maws, claws and similar are also not uncommon; the only true unifying features they all share are that they are broadly humanoid and made of meat. Artists often attempt to capture their likenesses, as in memory their appearance tend to blur and shift. The name these people go by is hard for must humans to pronounce, but 'daemon' is a close enough approximation that they accept it. They are highly conscientious hosts who like to welcome people, make them comfortable and offer them a chance to relax. Hex is a tourist-dependent city, and the daemons display little of their own internal culture for visitors. They keep their internal society to themselves, and they refuse to speak openly about their origins, though they're happy to joke around about why they won't say it.

The contract is king in Hex. Once someone has made a deal to do something, they will continue doing it until you tell them it is too much or not enough, whichever the case may be. Everything is a deal and exchange for the daemons, sealed by a whisper and signed in blood. Everything is documented this way to avoid future problems or disputes over the terms of deals. Somewhere in central Hex is a court to handle contractual disputes, though visitors rarely see it. Fortunately, they rarely need it - for all the secrecy about the daemons, their customers are rarely very unhappy. The terms of each deal are strict secrets between the parties involved, though some things are permitted to be shared in order to make the place more appealing to tourists. Daemons are universally nonbinary beings, using 'they' and 'them' as pronouns, and they are happy to trade any service they have - though what they want varies. One might ask for a secret from your childhood, never before told to anyone, for example. In return, it might give you a chance to use a hookah until you decided you'd had enough. (Or 'too much,' as the phrase goes in Hex.) Those who reveal more than the simpler deals they make are not permitted to return to Hex.

The biggest danger facing visitors to the city is their own knowledge of their boundaries. If you do not know when to stop, the daemons won't stop for you. Those who push themselves too far are treated in medical areas through Hex, where salves, bandages and comforting words are prepared for the wounded. They care for anyone and do not shame them for any deal they made, no matter how strange or painful the thing they were seeking. Anyone who leaves the daemonic medics receives a gift - a sign, the daemons say, that they learned something new of themselves. Those who try to take unfair advantage of deals and any visitor caught making bad deals are kicked out of Hex unceremoniously and quickly. Some try to get away with scamming and last a few weeks without getting caught, however. The daemons warn visitors to avoid making deals with shady humans.

The Plane of Shadow is very close by, bringing secrets, whispers and mystery. With it is the Plane of Lore, which ensures that it is a rare visitor who leaves without learning something new about themselves. The nearest plane, however, is the Shard Realm of Ecstasy. The nearness means that sensation, experience and especially joy and delight are vitally important to the daemons of Hex.

Next time: Iron Cities, by Emily Griggs

The Soul of Iron

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Sig: Manual of the Primes
The Soul of Iron

Iron Cities, by Emily Griggs
Society is more important than the individual.
I against my brother, my brother and I against strangers.
War brings honor and glory.

The Iron Cities are not, perhaps, the safest prime. They are distrustful of outsiders on first meeting, though they are aware that Sig exists and, if you can manage to explain you’re from off the world, they’re not going to enslave or kill you out of hand. (You will likely spend a bit of time being questioned by the guards before you can get that information across, however.) The eponymous cities themselves are nestled in black mountains, and their thick walls and high towers are often built right into the mountain stone, blending easily with it. Within the fortifications, the buildings are a mix of stone and worked iron for the finer ones and clay and reeds for lesser ones. Frescos and carvings decorate every building, displaying scenes of glorious battle. The locals eat heavily spiced, simmered meat and a sort of nutty grain that grows well in the mountain soil.

The Cities have been at war for as long as any can recall. Each city-state brokers peace treaties and alliances, but at any given time, each is at war with at least one other. All citizens are expected to be fit and able to handle a weapon, and nearly every aspect of the Cityfolk culture is influenced by war. Their art, poetry, politics and even fashion are all touched by their martial focus. Despite the unending conflicts, however, the Cities share a consistent culture (broadly, anyway) across the entire prime. While they differ on details, to an outsider, each city-state is very similar to their foes. Social roles are strictly based on gender roles, but not the genders recognized by much of the ‘verse. As children, the Cityfolk are divided into male and female based on their bodies, as so often happens on less enlightened primes. However, boys and girls are not raised with any noticeable difference. This is because at age 15, their childhood gender is discarded as part of their coming-of-age ritual, in which they choose their adult gender: hon or tae.

The tae are marked by sharp and angular facial tattoos. Their role in Cityfolk society is to be the warriors, leaders and quick thinkers. They are those that do. Only tae may become soldiers, and all tae are expected to enlist. Tae earn honor by combat, by which ter names live on. (The pronouns for the tae are ta/ters/terself.) Officially, only tae may be appointed to public positions of any power, but pretty much all tae politicians are heavily assisted by equally capable hon spouses. The hon are marked by soft, swirling facial tattoos. Their role is to be philosophers, long-term planners, crafters and home-makers. Hon wield power and gain honor in Cityfolk society via homs family, and surnames and inheritance pass through the hon. Only the hon are permitted to become artificiers, and those with a talent for magic are educated in the art of unlocking the power that lies in metal. (The pronouns for the hon are hy/homs/hyself.)

For non-locals, it is acceptable to use they/them to refer to either tae or hon. This is considered to be a mark of low intellect, as you are unable to recognize the facial tattoos, but outsiders are permitted to be idiots. It is preferable to them being offensive. Using male or female pronouns is exceptionally offensive in actual practice; it either implies the person you are talking to is being immature, which is a grave insult, or implies you are interested in reproduction, which is a very audacious come-on. Outsiders are recognized as usually using male or female gender, but are seen as perpetually immature as a result; it takes many years before one’s friends will honor an outsider by giving them an honorary adult gender. (There is, of course, an extensive genre of Iron Cities comedy revolving around misunderstandings of gender and pronoun usage. Outsiders rarely learn to grasp its subtleties until they’ve had quite a bit of time among the Cityfolk.)

The locals prefer outsiders who “know their place,” which is to say, who do not attempt to draw too much attention and who apologize readily. These are seen as interesting curiosities and possible friends. All other outsiders are dangerous threats. While some outsiders believe they can use the rivalries between cities to their advantage, they’re usually wrong; the Cityfolk are far faster to unite against a common foe, even if it means working with a city they’re at war with, than most outsiders expect. Why, though, would you care to be liked? Well, typically, it’s for the magic items made by the Cityfolk, which are unique in the ‘verse in that they grow stronger over time. Tools forged of Iron Cities metal absorb the skill of their users. Thus, when they are passed on to the next owner, that skill can be tapped. A child wielding an antique blade of the Cities will fight like a trained soldier, and a soldier will fight like a legendary warrior. Obviously, giving an aged and well-used artifact to an outsider is unthinkable, but it is possible to convince the Cityfolk to trade freshly made ones.

The only religion of the Cityfolk is ancestor worship, but they do so with such passion and fervor that many Powers are eager to make inroads into the prime. As yet, no religion has ever been able to supplant the hero-cults and ancestral veneration of the Cityfolk, but some theorize the nature of the Iron Cities metals is drawn from a divine source. This theory suggests that the metals are a physical part of some secret, hidden god, a god that gains power from being forged and exalted in combat, and so the use of the weapons and tools in honorable means may itself be a form of worship. If so, the Cityfolk do not know of their secret patron, and the theory isn’t really testable by easy means.

There is a cultural conflict within the Cities that even outsiders can see looming. The younger generation of Cityfolk are generally concerned with the closemindedness of their culture, and many locals believe that the time has come to make changes to their ancestral ways. While more conservative forces, especially in leadership, are afraid of outsiders who do not make themselves properly apologetic, others want to bring in more travel from off-world. The conflict between the powerful conservative elders and the younger, more openminded Cityfolk is, thus far, not yet truly begun. Many hope it will remain relatively peaceful, if they can show that outsiders do not actually threaten the ways of the Cityfolk, but the Iron Cities are prime of wars.

The Plane of Stone is very close to the Iron Cities, its power enriching the mountain ores and hiding many secrets within the high stone. The Plane of Tyranny is likely relatively close as well, given the xenophobia and aggression the Cityfolk have historically been known for. The Plane of Shadow is more distant, but the nature of growth in the Cities’ artifice suggests some manner of connection.

Next time: Mountain Royal, by Jason Pitre

Oh, It's Just This One Joke, Over And Over

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Sig: Manual of the Primes
Oh, It's Just This One Joke, Over And Over

Mountain Royal, by Jason Pitre
Power corrupts.
Those who bend do not break.
You are your culture.

Mountain Royal is...easily the least well-written prime. Because it''s a city on Earth. There's cars, there's paved roads, there's electric lamps and skyscrapers. Everyone is human, but there are two distinct language groups there. There are many stone churchs, empty and ignored. Groups of youths in V For VEndetta masks shout against Austerity, which the author-mouthpiece assumes is a demon. The entire thing is literally 'some rando from a D&D world wanders into Earth and gets confused.' This is not fun to read. He mistakes the cars for weird mechanical beetles and has no idea what's going on. He assumes 'Austeritae' is some kind of religious demon. When the cops show up, he calls them Guardians and assumes they serve Austeritae and watches as they use tear gas, tasers and guns on the mob.

There's not a lot to say here. The guy talks about how the place is cold and snowy, and he likes pizza and thinks the art and performances of Earth are cool. Also he likes the beer and cheese, and thinks the cops' weapons would sell for a high price on the Night Markets. The book claims Earth Mountain Royal is close to the Plane of Ice, visible in its cold winters and delicate art scene. ITs regimented, linear structure suggests closeness to the Plane of Order, and the many colleges, universities and libraries of the city of Mountain Royal also suggest a tie to the Plane of Lore. And...ugh.

I am really disappointed with Mountain Royal.

Next time: Whispering Sands, by Hannah Shafer

Water Is Life

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Sig: Manual of the Primes
Water Is Life

Whispering Sands by Hannah Shaffer
The Oasis hides from prying eyes.
Desire brings absence.
Water is a precious illusion.

Many seek the Oasis of the Whispering Sands to gain power…but that’s easier said than done. The Oasis cannot be found easily, and seekers will be torn apart by the heat and the wind. Physical distance means nothing to the Oasis – it is not able to found by physical searching. Rather, it must be sought in the mind. Only upon giving up all hope of finding it will the chance of discovery begin – and the more you want to seek the riches and the glory of the Oasis, the further away it gets. The bones of lost seekers litter the desert. Those who truly seek the Oasis are best served by picking a direction at random, clearing their minds and just walking. Don’t look back, don’t care what you find. When all hope is finally lost, that is when you have reached the place.

The world of the Whispering Sands are kept together by mass hallucination. Focusing too hard on any given thing tends to make it disappear. Where you go to sleep and where you wake up have no real relation to each other. Much of what you will see in the sands is nothing but illusion and mirage. There are settlements, markets and villages – but they are rare, far between and have very little worthwhile. The Oasis, despite being so hard to find, however, is neither fake nor valueless. It is not particularly large, though – you could walk around it in maybe ten minutes or so. The locals call it Movoda, and it is full of small, silver-scaled fish, strange silver-feathered birds and dense seaweed that forms a staple of the local diet. Unlike the sands beyond, the shores of Movoda are cool and pleasant, smelling faintly of peppermint oil.

Silver-leafed palm trees encircle the Oasis. In the life of each tree, it produces a single ubami fruit, perfectly spherical. These pink fruits are protected by a waxy, transparent shell. While fibrous and very astringent, the ubami is quite edible. Not necessarily good, but edible. The moon-shaped seed at the center is the real prize, however. The seed has some relation to the continued existence of the Oasis and the Whispering Sands as a whole, though scholars don’t agree how. Legend has it that the seeds turn trouble into mere illusion. The locals speak in roundabout and indirect ways, so no outsider is entirely sure if this is metaphorical. The seeds might calm the mind, or might actually grant the power of reality-bending. Some say the seeds create the illusion of the desert around the Oasis – or the Oasis in the desert. The truth is closely guarded, but the seeds are not. The locals do not protect them. Only the nature of the Oasis does. Anyone that feels strong desire for wealth or water is cast out of Movoda, unable to find their way back from the sands.

It is unclear how many people actually live in the Whispering Sands. Many nomadic tents and dwellings can be found around the Oasis and through the Sands. Over time, they often vanish and reappear elsewhere, in entirely new locations. Pretty much all dwellings in the prime are built with this impermanence in mind. They are typically woven linen, sand or glue made from the skin and bones of the fish of Movoda. Ownership of land or dwellings are largely not concepts the locals understand. Because of how often they disappear into the sands, the locals just use whatever building is closest. It is not particularly rare for vanishing structures to reappear in strange, unstable places – on top of trees or houses, or even partially in the lake. When this happens, they are quickly dismantled and rebuilt more safely. The locals don’t even need to talk about it anymore – they just work together to take apart and rebuild the dwelling.

Communication with the locals isn’t easy. They don’t respond well to direct questions and sometimes just vanish. They dislike discussion with people who hold strong desires, and it often takes meditation and great patience before they will respond. While they do have a spoken language, they use it only rarely. Most of their communication with each other is via subtle body language, primarily eye contact. They possess some strange power to disorient with their stares, which they generally employ when outsiders begin to pry into their private lives. They have no words for desires, wants or hopes. They understand the concept of passing time, but have a strange relation with time and the constancy of existence. Rather, they seem to measure time based on strength of emotional experiences and their fading memory. The only times they speak at length are when telling stories. Their tales are strange, fantastic and often impossible, and after storytelling sessions they begin strange meditation while linking hands and staring into each other’s’ eyes, often while holding ubami seeds. When this happens, the world around them becomes more vivid and colorful, suggesting they wield some deep power over the reality of the Sands.

Travel in the Sands brings strange visions, drawn out of your past and dreams. Nothing you see there is very permanent, and anything left unwatched and uncared for is likely to vanish. Items of significance are important to keep with you, allowing you to return to reality from your visions without getting lost in the desert. Focusing on things you value anchors you – but you have to be careful. After all, desire and hope are what drive you away from the Oasis and into the killing desert. Despite this, many seek out the ubami seeds for their potential power over the nature of reality itself. That said, fetching one is much harder than they realize. It would be very difficult to gain access to the seeds if you know their real worth – and so, those seeking their power must make use of the naïve or unaware, who do not realize what they do.

The Planes of Shadow and Freedom are strong in the Whispering Sands. The swirling, hallucinatory nature of the terrain indicates their closeness. The Plane of Dreams is also strong, and it is often hard to tell dreams from reality while in the Sands. The Plane of Waves has a surprising amount of influence, however, given how rare water is in much of the prime. Rather, the waves ensure that things of value become buried in the sands, that evidence becomes lost, that nothing can be settled. The riches are hidden in an ocean of sand, and water is precious and important.

Next time: The Night Markets and the Shard of Empire

Rise of Empire

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Sig: Manual of the Primes
Rise of Empire

The next section is an example overarching plot you might run in Sig that also doubles as setting information. It talks about how the true wealth of Sig is not from the resources that flow in from the Tethers – though those certainly help – but from its access to the infinite Primes beyond. Gates to the Primes are hidden throughout the City Between, their keys collected by those in the know and sold by groups like the Crasher’s Guild and similar – usually for prices that are high but worth it. Primal societies produce unique art, which is itself valuable, plus foods, crafts, stories – all things that deeply enrich the City Between, sometimes at the cost of the primes themselves. However, things can become much worse for the primes if, for example, the Shard Realm of Empire parasitically latches itself onto Sig.

The Shard of Empire embodies the Belief that ‘Everyone has their place.’ It is both the concept of Empire and the core of one. The Empire has neither beginning nor end; it is eternal, filling those who live within it with a metaphysical euphoria of patriotism. It tends to the weak and defends against savage outsiders. It grants heart’s desires. It is tempting. Its drums beat in the heart, its towers rise in glory. Its walls divide its conquered peoples into the territories it appoints, and its soldiers march out endlessly, moving through the Imperial gates to tame the “wilderness” beyond. That is – the entire universe. All exists to bring glory to the Empire, after all. The Eternal Citadel is a massive granite fortress-city where the imperial courtiers feast on the plunder they derive from the rest of the ‘verse. The Divine Order forms most of the Shard, a maze of endless walls within walls, constantly patrolled by imperial soldiers. They are there to keep the peace – and to ensure no one gets ideas above their station. The Borderlands Keep sits at the edge of Empire, a beachhead for the Imperial forces to head out and “civilize” the “savage” lands outside.

The Spiked are the main people of the Shard. They are those who pledge their souls to the Shard of Empire via the Ritual of Submission. This transforms their bodies and minds fundamentally, changing them from whoever they were into a true servant of Empire, their identity torn free and replaced by a sense of duty. The Spiked are easily spotted by thick gray hides and by nasty bone spikes that emerge from their thick flesh. Due to the ritual they undertook, they feel no pain, no fear, no grief. They are supernaturally resilient to damage, impossible strong and are exclusively able to access the halls of Imperial power – no others are trusted to do so. More subtly, however, the Ritual of Submission instills them with a love of the Empire that cannot be broken. The idea of revolution or revolt becomes impossible to them – the most they can consider are slow, gradual reforms and improvements. Nothing more would be acceptable. Thus, the Empire lives forever in them. Their common Talents are:
Empire (Broad)
Resilience (Broad)
Bone Spikes (Uncommon)
Untouchable (Deep)

The Shard’s major faction in Sig are the Night Barons. The Night Markets existed before them – they are the black markets of Sig, where the dealings of crime and plunder are sold. Each prime offers immense wealth, for those that are bold or ruthless enough to capitalize on it, and the Night Barons are the boldest and most ruthless. They believe that “savage” primals are ignorant of the true value of what they possess. The Night Barons know they don’t value their own languages, art and mysticism as much as the refined peoples of Sig would. They make relics and artifacts prized by the wealthy collectors of the ‘verse, and some of them have praiseworthy, useful skills – skills that make them worth transporting out of their benighted backwaters. The Night Barons represent the Empire’s Merchant’s Guild, and as representatives, they are now looking for associates to assist their mercantile expansion into new markets. They have moved to take control of the Night Markets already, and they’re well on their way to doing so.
Duty: Wheel and deal in goods from across the ‘verse.
Leverage: Acquire goods and services from the prime worlds.
Example Agenda: Establish a triangle trade route involving two prime worlds.

The local Power of the Shard of Empire is Palnayas the Chosen, Power of Hierarchy, Colonialism and Law. Palnayas is the face of Divine Order, the top of the ultimate hierarchy. They are a god of shining alabaster and radiance, devoted to the growth of their Chosen People. Those few unworthy sinners who offer their devotion and service to the Divine Order are raised to become Chosen, and the Chosen will rule over the unwashed masses, their virtue inherent to their service and their divine blessings making them inherently superior. Palnayas grants wealth, privilege and legal power to the Chosen, exalting them over all others. They preserve the worthy and punish the savage sinners. There is only one choice – join the winning side. Become Chosen.
Devotion: The sinners are inferior to the Chosen and must be treated as such.
Ritual: The Chosen’s Burden twists the minds of mortals that listen to it, granting the user status and respect among these mortals equal to that of their greatest noble or hierophant. If you do not spend Influence, however, they will seek your aid with difficult problems facing them.
Example Agenda: Recruit primal leaders from eight worlds to join the Chosen.

All of the things coming from the Shard of Empire are driven to expand. When the Shard binds itself to Sig, it infects the City Between with its colonialist influence. The Merchant’s Guild rises to prominence, led by the secretive cabal of Night Barons. They formally ally with Palnayas the Chosen, though their goals are not actually identical. The Night Barons want to expand their trade networks and use the wealth they gain from this to take control of the other Factions of Sig. Palnayas, on the other hand, wants to colonize and assimilate the primes, ruling them all via the Chosen. The Spiked are a byproduct of their scheming in the Shard of Empire, serving as loyal soldiers and visible signs of the imperialist infection.

In the early days of an Empire infection, the signs are subtle. The Night Barons establish themselves in the Night Markets, where pretty much any primal treasure can be gained if you can afford it. It’s not clear if they founded the Night Markets long ago and are returning or the Night Markets are meant to be new, but I’d favor the former – having a black market is useful even when not running this campaign seed. Those who visit the Night Markets get to see all kinds of strange and bizarre drugs, spices and objects, brought in from exotic worlds. The place feels like a constant celebration, with children given free candy and plenty of light shows on display to entertain the masses. The Night Barons are hard at work in this phase of infection to build a positive reputation for themselves. They’re throwing all these festivals constantly and trying to avoid questions about how they pay for it all. If not for the mysterious crates in the alleys, guarded by the Spiked, few would question anything.

As the celebrations go on, the second stage of infection begins. The Night Barons negotiate with the Crashers and other groups that collect gate keys. It is expensive, but the Barons consider it worth it. They spread through the prime worlds they get access to. Sometimes they send in agents first to trade planar goods for local treasure, while others are approached by Chosen agents that offer power to those leaders who will convert to worship of Palnayas. Others get invaded by Spiked armies that quickly set up beachheads for further attack. The initial efforts are still able to be resisted by the locals, if they were to be warned by brave adventurers. These initial efforts prove profitable for the Shard of Empire, however. The Night Barons collect resources from across the primes and planes, and many mortals sign on as Chosen or Spiked. This will, if not stopped, bolster the Empire for what is coming.

In the third stage of imperial infection, the primal worlds that the Shard has invaded are taken under control. Valuable goods of great power are available on the Night Markets now – including weapons, religious artifacts, mystic drugs and primal slaves. The damage the Imperial forces are dealing is becoming evident. The Night Barons are now spending their ill-gotten gains on buying the loyalty of the Enforcers, who serve them as a kind of private guard. The Chosen have grown bolder, and their temple now sits near the top of Godstreet. Palnayas feeds on the faith of the primes they have taken, and the Chosen now begin to evangelize in the City Between, spreading their message of superiority in the Hive to gain more followers. They wield divine blessings and miracles, driven by the influx of primal worship. The GM will at this point select one Face that has been hurt by the Empire’s growing influence. Other Faces have likely been influenced or affected, but this Face has suffered greatly.

The final stage of imperial infection sees the Empire grown strong, practically irresistible. Half the Factions of Sig are loyal to it now, either thanks to Night Baron coin or the church of Palnayas. The other half are kept in line by the hundreds of Spiked soldiers that now regularly patrol the City Between, hunting dissidents. The Empire is very controlling, but not wholly cruel. The Chosen tend to be free with private charity, giving food to the poor and ensuring that the necessities of life are available. However, they expect certain levels of obedience in exchange for this; many give it willingly. The GM now identifies one Face that has assimilated into the Empire, and a second that has rejected them and been brutally punished for it. At this point, everyone will have chosen sides; by the time the Empire has reached this level of dominance, neutrality is impossible. The more time passes, the harder the Shard of Empire will be to fight.

Each of the example Prime worlds is listed now, talking about how the Empire infiltrates them and takes control, and what goods the Night Barons use them for if the Shard is allowed to take over. The Age of Scales is a natural ally of Empire; they have devoured many worlds and want ever more. The Serpent Dynasty are essentially agents of Empire in their own right, and the Spiked happily defer to them in their worlds. They are happy to trade goods for access to Sig by Serpent agents. Primarily, the Age of Scales produces terrified and obedient slaves, the services of serpentine assassins that can wear human skin, bone-white and attention-grabbing statues and secret keys to over a dozen Dynastic worlds. Alucina welcomes the Merchants as they do most travelers, and the Night Barons take advantage by raiding their ephemeral wealth of ancestral blessings and prophetic visions. The Night Market offers up the sacred songs of Alucina, the blessed wooden masks of the ancestors, the bitter brown drinks that grant visions and the forbidden songs that open gates that should not be opened.

Crystalia is a seductive prize for the Empire, targeted by the Chosen for infiltration. They offer power to key leaders in order to set in place a brutal class structure over the once harmonious prime. Those who follow Palnayas are known as the Strong, while unbelievers are dubbed the Fragile. The Chosen ship various treasures to the Night Barons, such as healing poems that shatter once recited, diamond-tipped pens that allow permanent scribing into nearly any substance, ruby hammers that can shatter anything, and sapphire roses which can store magic within themselves. The Dimming Twilight is raided by mercenaries in service to the Night Barons, who seek to poach the treasures of the dying suns. The Chosen make their way in and take over the cult of Feil to serve them. The Night Markets gain access to star-tears, which burn away weakness, the Keepers’ Garb, which are ever-changing black robes, the Twilight Songs that cannot fade from memory, and bottles containing elder stars, which can be tapped to steal their immortal essence. Hex is a beloved prime of the Night Barons, both for its wealth and the hedonistic joys it can provide them. They set up shop there and make tons of trade deals without much worry. They bring in fragrant and glowing incense, infernally produced drugs, dangerous secrets and daemons skilled in various sensual services.

The Iron Cities are infiltrated by the Chosen via subtle disguise and quiet corruption. They manage to turn one city-state, establishing their divine hierarchy there, and use that city to conquer the others by gifting them divine strength from Palnayas. The Night Markets gain intricate stone and iron carvings, the swords that bear the skill of ancient warriors, iron standards that mystically inspire armies, and metal masks embossed with patterns that bear the skills of artificers that wore them. Mountain Royal gets infiltrated by the Night Barons, who purchase vast amounts of goods in exchange for gold, with only a few losses to car crashes. They import guns, tasers, poutine and beer. (Yes, the joke continues for this section. No, it’s not any funnier this time.) The Whispering Sands receive Night Baron caravans, setting them to wander without destination. By the time they reach the Oasis, which takes a while, they have firmly established a physical trading post. They import the sustaining fish of Movoda, ubami seeds that can calm minds and erase ambition, ubami seeds that can control reality to your will, and Oasis water that wipes away suffering.

Finally, we get a list of sources and inspirations for the game. First up, obviously, Planescape.


This is the biggest inspiration for Sig, by a wide margin. In some ways, this setting is the reason I got into game design. It describes a cosmopolitan fantasy city in the middle of the D&D multiverse. Any place that’s home to philosophers with clubs is good in my books. Check out this mind-blowing original setting, beautifully illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi.
Next, Saga.


A comic set in a space-fantasy setting, focusing on the importance of family, relationships, childhood, and parenthood. It’s a wild tale of distinctive (odd) cultures and social commentary, and one that will bring a tear to your eye.
Planarch Codex: Dark Heart of the Dreamer


Jonathan did a fantastic job of interpreting Planescape through the lens of cultural diversity in the multiplanar melting-pot city of Dis, which is literally assimilating the rest of the universe. Freebooters, heritage moves, and all sorts of other goodies abound in this fantastic supplement for Dungeon World.
Kill Six Billion Demons


This is a fantastical and mythologically rich comic that reveals the city of Throne, Domain of Kings, Kingdom of God, and center of the Omniverse. Demon-kingdoms and mystic orders fighting on the fossilized bodies of the massive angels. This will captivate you.
The Complete Priest’s Handbook


None of the divine and infernal powers found in these pages would have been possible if not for the Complete Book of Priests. It’s a guide that showed how diverse faiths can be motivated, what gifts their spiritual patrons can provide, and how society can be shaped by belief.
Polaris: Chivalric Tragedy at Utmost North


This game features haunting beauty in a world of ice and starlight. The system distributes GM authority amongst the players and uses ritual phrases for great effect. If you love the Plane of Ice, Polaris is your game.
Don’t Rest Your Head


Those who can’t rest eventually find their way to the Mad City, hunted by nightmares. This game explores this terrible realm, nestled in the plane of Dreams. The elegant twin death spirals of Exhaustion and Madness make for an unforgettable experience.


Robin Laws began an experiment in 2010 on his Livejournal where he crowdsourced a world-building experiment. During the process, countless fascinating ideas emerged in this somewhat coherent setting, which was released into the public domain in its entirety. The Aesigilar were introduced here.


The gods are cruel monsters, and someone needs to end them. This game features those mighty mortals who rise up to overthrow the terrible Powers and seize their place. If you want to stab Thor (or Kalzak) in the face, check it out at

The End.