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31  The Works / The Cogs / If your setting is active, sound off! Cleaning up the ListOfSettings template on: November 02, 2010, 03:22:22 PM
Panisadore is currently on hiatus, though at some point I definitely do expect to get back to it for further development.
32  The Works / The Dragon's Den / If you use OpenOffice and FreeMind on: September 23, 2010, 07:37:59 PM
I found an OO extension to export from OOWriter to FM
33  The Works / The Dragon's Den / Wedding pix site on: September 14, 2009, 02:30:37 AM
Main pix on the photographer's web site. Just back from honeymoon on the coast.
34  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Having trouble coming up with a simple way to refer to a complex idea. on: August 28, 2009, 06:07:17 PM
35  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Brainstorming: Annual (Salis) Freeport University Scavenger Hunt on: August 21, 2009, 08:09:07 PM
The full answer to that was included in my last PM - I hadn't realized that back when I posted the SF material in the wiki I hadn't set up links to the rest of the pages - I need to do something here similar to the subpage menu I included in the Obsidian Portal players' wiki. None of the SF intel material is included in that one however.

To answer here briefly - this is a very deliberate choice reflecting the unusually close relationship between the Church of Behldamh and the city, initiated by a former mayor (at the same time the official agency was formed) for security reasons. Basically he realized that any organization the city government created would probably be infiltrated by a number of foreign agencies before the it was even fully staffed - actually the odds were considered quite good that many official posts would wind up being filled inadvertently by operatives in the pay of foreign powers who would be aware of the plans being made even before preliminary proposals were brought before the Guild Council. After all, many of the best spies in the world had been making The Verge their home for centuries. So instead, it has always been assumed that virtually everyone in the agency is spying for someone else and hence the real purpose of the official agency is that of counter-espionage - being a central clearing house and hub for the dissemination of disinformation. Of course no one in the agency (at any level) is ever told that.

The key to the real bureau's success has been its complete secrecy. On occasion the city has shown itself to be surprisingly well informed such that a very few do suspect that it manages to maintain some assets which they're not aware of at the agency's deepest levels, but no one has thought to look for an entirely separate organization - and if they did the Church of Behldamh is the last place they'd look. Given its nature, the church is universally disregarded as being any sort of significant influence in the world outside of keeping alchemical researchers from blowing the place up. So no one sees any reason to interfere with, or really even monitor, their activities (which it's assumed the sane wouldn't understand anyway). Instead it's generally considered safest just to let them go about their business unhindered - even in the Malenorian Empire (although the Emperor does maintain absolute control of alchemical research and production). On the flip-side however, the activities of many nation's governments give the church reason to monitor them. . . Bottom line is, as uncomfortable as the idea might be, SF knows full well that, for whatever reason, it is under Behldamh's protection. Given that the Lady's interests evidently include the best interests of the city it can be considered safe then to entrust the church with their pursuit. The bureau's structure is very diffuse and cellular. Most intel sources in the field are not church members nor even aware of who's paying them. Diversity of assets is high, obviating collective administration at lower levels and many field handlers have only minimal associations with the church. Only a small portion of the Temple itself is explicitly involved in (or even aware of) these activities - primarily those in contact with other branches of the church as a matter of course anyway. (That said, any church member with business outside of the Temple is still a potential source of intel.)

Beyond this general outline I haven't developed bureau structure or resources further. Obviously the bulk of its external activities are HUMINT, but internally the bureau focuses its rather unique perspective(s) on analysis; magical and technical facets would not be overlooked. As to encryption, most really talented cryptologists and code-breakers don't think like "normal people" anyway. (Most theoretical mathematics are pursued within church walls, but very few outside are aware of this beyond a handful in the "ivory towers" of The Collegium capable of grasping the ideas. For that matter, virtually all purely theoretical researchers in any field tends to attract the Lady's notice.) The bureau's scope is rather small - its purpose being primarily to prevent the city from suffering any nasty surprises arising from the vast amount if espionage conducted within it. Consequently a great deal of information goes unreported - filtered out as irrelevant, e.g., the city doesn't really care if someone is plotting to overthrow some noble house thousands of miles away unless and until it effects city commerce or other interests somehow. Temple analysts are very good at predicting such developments well in advance and developing creative counter-measures before they become significant. In the absence of any sort of formal, government operated communications service, most general interception (distinct from targeted interception of specific communique,) occurs in the field and is permitted to pass onward without interference - usually simply being reported, rather than physically retained and passed on for analysis. This is true for most of the world, the Malenorian Empire (as usual) being an obvious exception, where they aren't even "black" rooms - they're just another public service the Empire provides for the well-being of its citizens. . .
36  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Brainstorming: Annual (Salis) Freeport University Scavenger Hunt on: August 20, 2009, 08:16:56 PM
Being essentially street gangs, few Sets, if any, have any interest in enhancing their public reputations in any sort of charitable, benevolent sense. Their interactions with recognized Masques in their territory during the event is business-as-usual (i.e., generally violent). Since all teams wear masks while actively engaging in the competition it can be difficult to distinguish Masques from other parts of town from other teams, although most guild and church teams at least where some sort of badge identifying the sponsoring organization. As there is little basis for conflict outside of general principals, the Sets will pretty much leave them alone (as much as they would otherwise at any rate - muggings are no more or less commonplace. . .).

One of the more amusing and potentially fertile sub-texts of this is the fact that SF's real (as distinct from their official and rather inept) intelligence agency is operated by the Church of Behldamh. Not even the Mayor and City Marshall know this, though they're aware that the agency exists and has at least some connection to one or more members with regard to channeling its reports to them. Otherwise, it functions entirely clandestinely and autonomously in order to prevent its effectiveness from being compromised. This is the reason for, among other things, item #13. The scavenger hunt provides them access to all sorts of things they normally wouldn't be able to observe readily. Further, the halfling PC is a penny-info eavesdropper with dreams of breaking into the big league. She has no idea that she (and any other PC's with similar ambitions) are about to spend a week under the close scrutiny of a member of one of the best intelligence gathering organizations in the world.
37  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Brainstorming: Annual (Salis) Freeport University Scavenger Hunt on: August 16, 2009, 07:09:12 PM
Well, unfortunately the game is on hold for further players - 2 (and one occasional) is just too small though I may well have a couple more joining soon. Anyway, the scenario still stands as a good one for a "pilot" - rather light hearted but with the potential to provide numerous plot hooks and subtexts - some quite serious.

Excerpt from Poets', Fools' and Madmen's Really All-manac

Of the many unusual celebrations and civic activities occuring regularly in Salis Freeport the largest and longest no doubt is the annual Freeport University Scavenger Hunt.Originally a University event, it has grown over the centuries into a city-wide affair lasting an entire week during the hottest part of the year. On the Third Stillness of Storming, promptly at sunrise, the Combined Desiderata List of Freeport University and the Temple of Behldamh is handed out to participating teams. The winner is determined as either the first team to submit every item on the list (as certified by the judges), or most often, by which team has submitted the most certified items by sunrise ending the Third Star of Storming. Final tabulations are then made during the day of the High Sun Salute so that total charities received by the University and Temple, followed by the winners (to five places), are announced that night at the High Sun Tattoo held in the Glowing Hall of Benaedrass in the Verge. An additional award is made to the team which submits the highest value in contributed items (and this calculation is used as well to break any ties for place). While winners must be present to claim their prizes, else they are forfiet, a formal invitation to this high society event is not included in team registration - it is instead the final item on the list. Teams failing to acquire an invitation must resort to crashing the party - some teams view it as a point of honor to do so (even if they have certified an invitation with the judges). Many visitors prefer to postpone business in Salis until the first week of Planting and many of the nobles occupying upriver estates take the opportunity to attend High Sun court as held by their respective lieges in either kingdom. Nevertheless, the event draws many willing to brave the heat to enjoy the impromptu entertainment it provides throughout the city. Gambling on numerous facets of the competition is common and the High Sun fireworks display provided by Alchemists' Guild is one of their most spectacular (surpassed only by the Grande Ovation Cannonade).

The FU Scavenger Hunt began 473 years ago when lists from various colleges/departments of unusual but needed items which the faculty had been unable to acquire before the start of the new semester were circulated and posted thoughout the campus. The newly formed (and masqued) university fencing clubs began competing with each other as to which could provide the most items on these lists. This competition grew to be quite fierce as well as wide-spread over the ensuing decades as more and more masques were formed which, while unaffiliated with the University, took it as a point of honor to out-do the "old school" masques in the endeavor. Apparently many of their members were also members of various district Fraternal Lodges which became aware of the "charity drive" and these, being essentially benevolent societies, as a whole began to compete with the masques in "contributing to the cause." They began displaying their lodge colors and badges formally in the activity and, not to be outdone by the lowly lodges, their visibility soon spurred the Guilds Proper to do likewise. The University organizers had already begun awarding prizes to those groups who provided the most material on their desiderata lists and the whole affair was eventually formalized as a city-wide contest. In keeping with the concept of anonymous charity, (or more likely, to hide the identities of participants from The Bronze when seeking to acquire items by less than legal means or engaging in the inevitable public brawls which would occur over them between teams) all teams began to wear masks and badges in the colors of their sponsoring organizations. Over time various churches and orders operating in the city began to participate as well and the number of teams grew considerably. The record for the most teams was set 286 years ago when a total of 503 teams registered.

A number of records were set 152 years ago which resulted in a few changes being made to the contest. The records for the most individual participants and the largest team were set simultaneously when the entire Temple of Behldamh (including the Alchemists' Guild) turned out, numbering well over 200 physical team members. (There's much confusion as to the actual number since many team members registered more than one identity and quite a few also registered the same identities. . .) Not surprisingly, the records for the most propertyt damage, both in terms of physical space by volume and geographic area as well as cost of repeair, where also set that same year. In order to prevent a recurance of this the University, knowing better than to try and ban the Lady's Children from participating in the event, instead invited them to assist in running it. The length of the desiderata list was set at 101 items, 50 of which being desired by each institution plus a formal invitation to the High Sun Tattoo. (While it is fairly obvious as to which list most items are from, numerous side bets are made regarding which is seeking some of the odder requests as well as how many, if any, will be found.) While the University still handles the overall administration of the event, judging the qualification of items turned in by participating teams is performed by the Alchemists Guild while the Church of Behldamh provides proctors which accompany each team. Team size is now limited to no more than 10 members and teams may be disqualified for excessive property damage, injury to non-participants or causing grievious injury or death of rival team members (outside of legitimate self defense). These days most teams, particularly active Masques, accept the Masquers' Honor Dual for non-lethal resolution of disputes arising in the course of the event. It should be noted that for the initial acquisition of an item, theft is defined as a form of property damage, but acquiring an item from another team before it has been turned in to the judges is not defined as theft. All dueling on campus grounds during the event is forbidden and will result in immediate disqualification of all teams involved.

Now as plot hooks go, the list of course provides 100 potential McGuffins, but beyond that I'm looking for potential plot hooks arising from the nature and/or activities of participants over the course of the event.

473rd Annual FU Scavenger Hunt List
38  Campaign Creation / Meta / The Consulting Project on: July 30, 2009, 07:18:26 PM
Thanks. I suppose we might as well include the  wiki link. Um, send Ishy a list of what?
39  Campaign Creation / Meta / The Consulting Project on: July 30, 2009, 06:32:56 PM
I'd like to add Panisadore to the list - after a long dry spell I'm starting to look toward further development. Changing to GURPS (from D&D) necessitates more krunch than I'd been doing in the past (GURPS krunch explicitly requires customization to campaign/setting) but flavor will still drive development. Setting is fantasy reflecting a sort of "High Middle Ages" to Renaissance feel with some distinctly Asian influences and a definite global awareness and thought among its major movers and shakers. Magic and religion have been strong influences on cultural and technological development and manifest in a variety of (frequently intertwined) forms. Races and their cultures attempt to take "standard" fantasy tropes and give them a distinctly new twist - to be both easy to recognize and get a handle on while at the same time presenting unique expressions of the basic ideas. As for other settings, I'm open to consult on any outside of system krunch.
40  Campaign Creation / Meta / Setting Census (All active settings are to sign up) on: July 30, 2009, 02:21:21 PM
Panisadore is a fairly homogeneous world on the surface of things, with many layers of complex and interwoven history, variety and intrigue. Things aren't necessarily as they appear when that appearance can be shaped in many different ways by one's background and experiences. . . The world that I've imagined for this setting is very "political" on a number of levels, from the macro cosmic interplay of the deities to the microcosmic conniving of many of the guilds. Since story is largely character driven this may or may not be readily apparent in play, but offers a coherence to the larger story arcs and events that shape them. I've taken primarily a top-down approach, starting with the deities, races and general cultures to create a framework and leaving large portions of the map rather vague for now. Character concepts remain initially more fluid as there is more room to play with them, open spaces in which they can fit. The overall cultural milieu has a vaguely Asian feel to it - Taoist and Buddhist influences are, I think, easily recognized, especially around the equator. The major power in that region is the Malenorian Empire - a large nation of islands similar in many ways to (the worst aspects of) Feudal Japan coupled with the (again, worst) Imperialist ambitions and naval power of the height of the British Empire and displaying a cultural arrogance even greater than both combined. However, I'm not trying to recreate Asia - it's not an Oriental Adventures setting. Actually, I've wondered for a long time what would have happened had the Dharma spread westward rather than eastward. . . The Deities of Panisadore are *very* attentive and the interactions of the various Churches, Orders and Societies, both public and secretive, play a significant role in the world.
41  Campaign Creation / Meta / Setting Census (All active settings are to sign up) on: July 29, 2009, 07:15:24 PM
Well, I haven't updated Panisadore in the last month, but it's far from dead. . .
42  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Building the Underworld (Help Wanted) on: July 17, 2009, 08:16:29 PM
Not much to contribute at the moment - but here's some appropriate inspirational theme music
43  The Works / Contests / The 2009 Guildies! Now voting! on: July 17, 2009, 08:08:24 PM
Well thanks for the nomination! I'm kinda surprised since I haven't been nearly so active here this last year, but happy to accept it.
44  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Brainstorming: Annual (Salis) Freeport University Scavenger Hunt on: July 04, 2009, 07:44:48 PM
Using Gurps: fantasy setting, Panisadore - the city is near the equator about 100 miles from the coast (with a huge swamp in between) - kind of a cross between New Orleans and the old Moroccan InterZone - full info is in the wiki. Technology is roughly Renaissance - ranging (globally) from late ("High") Middle Ages to just prior to the Industrial Revolution. So, for instance, "a pair of spectacles" would be a good item on the list- not common, but possible to acquire, however expensive to purchase. . .
45  Campaign Creation / Campaign Elements and Design / Brainstorming: Annual (Salis) Freeport University Scavenger Hunt on: July 04, 2009, 07:28:49 PM
Finally getting ready to start a table top group. It looks like the party will consist of a human con-artist, a halfling eavesdropper and an elven druid acolyte (probably attache to an elven diplomat mentor) - none of them look like they'll have any appreciable combat skills. . . So for a "pilot episode" game I'm thinking of involving the characters in the Annual FU Scavenger Hunt - I need a list of 100 things for the teams to gather over the course of 1 (10 day) week.
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