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« Reply #165 on: December 20, 2009, 07:57:17 AM »

Very well thought out stuff there. Too many settings treat racial prejudices as a fringe phenomenon despite population structures that would more likely place it in the mainstream.
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« Reply #166 on: December 21, 2009, 05:50:04 PM »

The White Desert article is the coolest thing, I love it. The Mered are scary as hell, they freak me out....
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« Reply #167 on: January 04, 2010, 06:04:20 AM »

The Channelers and the Bonetails

'Bonetails, we call them.  As their tails are painted white, see.'

'And what do they call themselves?'

The Umbril twisted its head around, giving Tzeko, walking behind him, a brief leer.  'You can ask them, if you like'¦ over supper, hm?'  The lilt in the Umbril's voice, sounding something like a leaking slide whistle, made its sarcasm very clear.  Tzeko opened his mouth to respond, but the retort turned into a loud grunt as nearly thirty pounds of Gheen landed abruptly on his shoulders.

'What our most mellifluous guide is referring to is, of course,' the Gheen said as the Iskite staggered forward to regain his balance, 'the supposed proclivity of the local inhabitants for feasting on the flesh of sentients, even scholars such as us.'  Hopping down from Tzeko's back, the Gheen made a smacking sound with his tongue, spat out a wad of chewed root mash, and continued.  'Unlikely, unlikely.  Though one never does know with flesheaters, hmm?'

Tzeko straightened himself and shifted his cuirass, his grimace reflecting his momentary loss of dignity.  'Well'¦ to eat flesh is one thing, to eat a sentient'¦ it's another.  Another entirely.  They're Iskites, not Hacklers.  Surely the Analects haven't been forgotten so close to the Circle?'

'The Prince has very little concern for the state of Iskite philosophy in the Maw,' replied Irem-Ur, the Ajen-Umbril guide.  'Your queertalking Outlander kindred seem to have scarcely more.'

'And a great deal you must know about the Prince,' replied Tzeko acidly, 'having been thrown out of his court and sent to guide Aik Rauyee and I through the most lightforsaken part of the Maw.'

Irem-Ur spun about, its gills flaring.  'Some tongue on you for a hardhead!' It wheezed.  'Some gratitude from a '˜stone off slithering about in the Maw with no reckoning clock from skyward without me!  You miserable mud-faced'¦'

Irem-Ur's invective trailed off as a tremendous cacophony erupted from the forest around them.  The sounds of great feet loping through the undergrowth seemed to come from every side, accompanied by a chorus of hissing and shouting.  Tzeko's saber was out in a second, but just as quickly an arrow whistled out of the undergrowth and slapped into the earth between Tzeko's feet.

'Put it down,' hissed Aik Rauyee, 'or you'll have us killed!'  The warning was unnecessary, for it was then that the pursuers issued forth from the jungle.  

A great reptile came plodding out of the undergrowth, looking like a cross between a snapping turtle and an iguana.  Its body alone was a dozen feet in length, disregarding both its long, twitching tail and its beaked head.  A three-horned shell enclosed the body, and around this was firmly attached a rope harness that secured a pair of Iskites to its back.  One held the creature's reins, while the other had a bow nocked and drawn.  The trio looked around apprehensively as another lizard pushed its way through the ferns, and then another, followed by Iskites on foot, painted in yellow and white and all bearing weapons.  Last of all came a final lizard bearing an open-topped howdah festooned with braided spider-silk and the tails of various savage animals.  Its occupant sat with her hands upon her knees, leaning forward intently.  She alone among her companions was clad in metal, wearing a lamellar coat seemingly cobbled from Cog-parts, shining and brassy pieces among the steel plates of varying sizes and shapes.  A scar was painted on her face in a slanted line across her eye, a narrow yellow band with crimson herringbone marks that ended in curling flourishes on her cheek and the center of her forehead.

Aik Rauyee elbowed Tzeko in the thigh.  Tzeko sheathed his saber as calmly and deliberately as he could manage, and then sunk to his knees.  Stretching his arms widely to either side of him, he bowed his head and lowered his hackles flat against his neck.

'Honored Master, your excellence and wisdom precedes you,' Tzeko said.  The foreign phrases, carefully practiced, came almost naturally.  'We seek an audience with you, but did not expect you here.  It is with great humility that we ask your forgiveness.'

The metal-clad Iskite squinted at the bowing figure.  'We are not Out-landers, trespasser, and neither are you.  Speak the Tongue to me.'

'Again, your forgiveness, Honored Master,' Tzeko replied without looking up, this time in his own native speech.

'Better,' she said, 'but you speak it like a drunken flatterer.'  She flashed a crooked grin at her own remark.  'Now what have I caught today?'

'Simple travelers, Your Concordance,'  Tzeko spoke deferentially as he stared at the ground.  'Travelers who have come here only with great travail, and now humbly ask your assistance.'

The Honored Master made a short hiss and trilled in a falling pitch, and her mount lowered its body and held its chin flat against the ground without another sound.  She stood from her platform, hopped down to earth accompanied by the jingle of metal scales, and walked slowly towards the group.  Upon her approach, Aik Rauyee copied Tzeko's bow '“ with the addition of a few twirls of his hands '“ and Irem-Ur made a pained face as he stiffly tried to imitate the pose.

'Which one of you,' the Honored Master sneered, 'is the prisoner?  I am guessing the Gheen'¦ he looks good and fat, and fungus is such bland food.'

This remark managed to make Tzeko look up with a stunned look, but he quickly swallowed and resumed his earthward gaze.  'We'¦ are traveling companions, all three of us.  The Gheen and I have sought you; the Umbril is our guide.'

'The Gheen's name is Aik Rauyee, most benevolent and perceptive mistress,' the Gheen added.

'Irem-Ur,' grunted the Umbril.

'Stop bowing, sawface.  Looking at you is causing me pain.'  Irem-Ur straightened, offering a strained approximation of a thankful smile.  A few hushed laughs came from the assembly of Iskite warriors around them.

'So,' she continued, 'it is my help you want.  I fear your great humility'¦'  She planted her foot squarely on the back of Tzeko's head and pressed it slowly to earth.  ''¦must be more great still.'

Aik Rauyee pursed his lips in disapproval.  'Mistress,' he urged, 'this display is not necessary.  We are at your mercy, merely-'

'Don't speak," she snapped, and looked back to the Iskite beneath her. "At my mercy!  You think I can't see that?  How stupid you must think me.'  As emphasis to '˜stupid,' she thrust her foot down forcefully, driving Tzeko's face into the dirt.  'Really, this is a good joke '“ where is your Tahr, to complete your little troupe?'

Aik Rauyee's mouth opened, but no answer came.  Instead, he inhaled slowly.  His eyelids drooped halfway closed, and his jaw clenched as he continued to breathe in, making the air hiss through his teeth.  It was not this, however, but a sudden cry from one of her white-tailed warriors, that made the Honored Master look up from the prostrate Tzeko.  The one cry turned into a general cacophony of surprise and dismay, for the Forest was dying around them.  The moss turned brown and dusty beneath their feet, while ferns wilted around them and petals fell from shriveling flowers.

'What-' the Honored Master's expression was cut off when Tzeko grabbed the ankle above his head with both arms and wrenched her to the ground.  She fell face-first as Tzeko rose; she kicked wildly with her other leg, but Tzeko easily evaded the blow and provoked a screech as he buried his knee in her lower back.  The scream ripped the attention of the encircling warriors away from the dying foliage.  Raising their weapons, they rushed to aid their leader.

Aik Rauyee exhaled, and a tremendous gust of wind blew from behind him as if on command, stopping the warriors in their tracks.  He stood as high as his stature allowed and spoke.

'Cease this!'  The Gheen's voice boomed like a peal of thunder.  Tzeko stood, having quickly won his struggle with the Honored Mistress, and held her in front of him with a curved knife pressing menacingly upon her throat.  'We have had more than enough of this childish theater!  We offer you peace.  You will take it.'

The warriors stood in place, though the wind had ceased.  They looked to one another and to the Gheen, less than half their height but with a voice like a Wyrm and a face that implied the threat he had left unsaid.  None raised his weapon.

'Urk'¦ we'¦ d-did not know, D-deep One,' gurgled the Honored Master.  'Peace'¦ it is p-peace.'  Tzeko looked to Aik Rauyee, who nodded back.  Tzeko pulled his knife away and let her stumble forward, gasping for air.

Irem-Ur, its ears still ringing, managed to scrape together a stunned query.

'What'¦ who are you?'

'I told you already,' Aik Rauyee replied, a slight edge of annoyance in his voice.  'We're scholars.'

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« Reply #168 on: January 04, 2010, 10:51:38 AM »

Excellent work. I think that shows a perfect example of the sort of player interaction one might find in the CJ smile
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« Reply #169 on: January 10, 2010, 04:21:06 AM »

Scar Painting[/b]

Iskites, as everyone knows, do not scar.  No blade or bolt will mar their scales forever, for so long as they are alive, they will eventually heal whatever has been inflicted upon them.  One might suppose that this is an altogether good thing, but this imperviousness to permanent markings does have its cultural drawbacks.

Note: Inspiration

I've had this idea for a while, but this thread made me decide to put it in words.  It was interesting to consider how a people who are incapable of scarring and tattooing would react to these customs among others who have that "ability."
Despite the pride Iskites often express in a 'pure' Iskite culture, their traditions '“ like those of all the civilized races '“ have been heavily influenced by those of their alien neighbors for thousands of years.  In particular, the Tahro have a long history of venerating scars acquired in battle or on the hunt.  Their scars are worn like medals, the focus of stories told to others that can't be fabricated like mere words.  A well-known Tahr chant of Szalk Kengal focuses entirely on the scars of Talutha, a renowned patriarch from Antiquity.  Each line describes a different scar on his body and in what endeavor he acquired it; the chant is a two-person one in a '˜question and answer' format and describes these scars as if they were works of art (e.g. 'and from whence came that noble line, flowing down his broad left shoulder like sable ivy?').  Tahro and Iskites have lived together in places like Scalemount and Gearfall since time immemorial, and Iskites undoubtedly observed such customs when dealing with (or, occasionally, fighting against) them.

It is likely that this veneration of scars led to the current Iskite practice of 'scar painting.'  An Iskite's war wound stays with him only until the wound is healed, and then there is no trace of it left.  Iskite scales, however, are far more conducive to painting than the fur of a Tahr or Gheen (or the clammy, spongy skin of an Umbril).  Decorative scale-painting is an ancient Iskite custom that varies widely from region to region, but it is especially widespread before certain important events.  Sometimes the purpose is functional; female competitors in the Sesses eng Salej, the competition that determines egg-laying privileges in the community, often give themselves distinctive markings so that they can be identified easily by spectators watching at a distance.  Sometimes the patterns and colors are designed to be auspicious, laden with spiritual meaning in the hopes that they will bring good fortune.  Iskite warriors will often paint themselves before battle even though their scales will be almost entirely covered by armor for this reason.

Scar painting itself, however, is a more historically recent phenomenon.  It likely began among Iskite warrior castes who sought to show their well-earned wounds in battle long after they had faded away.  Early scar paintings were simple '“ just a line of color that traced a former wound.  As the practice grew in popularity, however, these lines became more heavily embellished (or alternately, more stylized).  Modern Iskite scar paintings are generally more 'aesthetically pleasing' than the scars they replaced, in keeping with the Iskite predilection for symmetry and geometry.  Some are not solid lines, but winding lines of text, flowing patterns, or other alternative designs.

Quite a bit of scar painting doesn't actually trace an old wound at all.  Some are 'relocated' scars '“ for instance, a line on the face to represent a wound taken elsewhere in order to make a scar obvious that would otherwise be hidden under clothing or armor.  Sometimes, such scar lines may indicate battles fought rather than actual wounds.  Other times, the wound itself is more metaphorical.  During the Fifth Netai War, a (false) rumor spread among the Right Orientation Alliance warriors that the Umbril had slit the throat of a Grandmaster of Anath after her village had fallen to the Confederation, and in the months that followed it became common for the Iskite fighters to paint scars on their own throats to symbolize that their solidarity with the Anathi Iskites who suffered under such supposed cruelty.

The practice of scar painting is sometimes met with dismissal or derision by the Tahro, who may see it as a superficial appropriation of their culture by those who can't appreciate its deeper meanings.  Most of them scoff at the idea of an 'embellished' scar (let alone a metaphorical one).  Certainly, such boastful ostentation would never be tolerated from a Tahr, though aliens are generally given more latitude (though they may be mocked for their people's 'scar envy' once they're out of earshot).  Not all Iskites are enamored with the practice either; a few see it as 'pollution' of Iskite culture with 'barbaric' practices, while others simply think that scars are nothing to boast about and take far more pride in a 'flawless' Iskite form, unmarked as nature intended.  As this practice is quite old, however, vociferous opponents are very rare.  Most Iskites don't even think about the custom's origins, and some may even assume that the Tahro appropriated the idea of praising scars to them rather than vice versa.

The other races have no real opinion on the matter.  The Gheen care little for scars, believing that they simply indicate one was not quick enough to get out of the way.  They do, however, paint and adorn themselves quite often, and see the Iskite custom in a similar light.  As for the Umbril, they accepted long ago that not everything the 'animals' do makes sense, and tend to be decidedly indifferent towards what they see as superficial trivialities.
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« Reply #170 on: February 01, 2010, 04:09:45 AM »

Progress and Dilemmas[/b]

After a period of fairly low-key work on CJ, I'm trying to get a picture of what has been done and what still needs to be done.  It helps me to write these things out, so if you're interested please to excuse the rambling style.

Places

I wrote very early on in this thread that the three main "areas of interest" were, in no particular order, the Black Circle, the Netai, and the Wash/Feathervale.  This is not to say that the rest of the world is boring or empty - far from it - but it was these places that I envisioned as being the sort of "starting area" where players would be introduced into the world.

The Black Circle probably has the most information about it.  Koldon's Well and Greythorn don't have writeups yet; Greythorn hasn't been done because while I have a good idea of the Solar Order and how it works, I haven't really settled on another city idea that "pops."  The other Circle cities are all very distinctive in look and feel - White Lotus has the "Marsh Arab Venice" theme going on, the Rookery has its dwellings wedged in the middle of forbidding limestone spires (now that I think about it, it's sort of a cross between Evan Dahm's Stonepalm and the Ivory Tower from the Neverending Story), and the City of Orpiment has its miniature jungle and layered city.  I don't have a real vision for Greythorn yet, besides the feeling that I want it to be an ex-Artificer city: ruins built up into a modern settlement.

Koldon's Well is troublesome for another reason that I'll get to in a bit.

The Netai is the second-most detailed, and it's what my recent work has been on.  I've started with city descriptions for that (Inembran is done and posted to the wiki, Teven is 80% or so and awaiting some editing and polishing).  I like how it's coming along, but it needs to be anchored in some sort of space - spending time on the settlements on the shores would be worthwhile.  Working on the Netai has also opened up the region to the counter-clockwise, Scalemount and the Sekah, which I've actually done a lot of work on (even though I haven't posted any of it).  It might end up getting the #3 slot from the last place on the original list...

...Wash/Feathervale.  Which, it must be said, was in the original list of "interesting places" not so much because the place was interesting but because of the people in it - particularly the World-Queen and her enemies.  The problem, it seems, is that a conflict alone doesn't hold my interest.  Conflict is a background of adventure, not a site of it, and there really isn't much to the site right now.  I need to get a better idea of the "conditions on the ground" before I work up to these sorts of struggles between good and evil (not that it'll be all black and white - I want to retain the Peril as the only bearer of the mantle of unquestionable evil).

That Damn Queen

The World-Queen is also turning into a continuity nightmare.  It doesn't have to do so much with her as her Cogs.  The World-Queen has the Unfleshed Legion, a small army of Cogs she controls, and she's had this since almost the beginning of CJ.  The problem is that I've done a lot of revision since the initial days when this was basically going to be a D&D adaptation, and I have managed to retcon virtually any sensible means by which she has this control out of existence.

Originally I just assumed it would be some kind of Cog-controlling artifact that she found, but "magic" in CJ became something that is innately connected to life - there is no such thing as an inanimate "magic item."  The item could be nothing special in itself, just something that the Cogs were designed to obey (rather, the person holding it) but this raises the question of how the World-Queen would even communicate with the Cogs.  How does she make her wishes known, especially when they're on missions far away?  I feel it would sabotage my very idea of Cogs to give them some kind of "Cog language" that non-Cogs could learn.  Ideally, her control would be some method that she doesn't really understand (and maybe the Cogs don't either).

I could always go with the CJ version of "a wizard did it" and make it some kind of obscure channeling power, but even if this made sense in the magic system (it doesn't, really) it would require a massive retcon of the World-Queen's essential nature.  I imagined her as a Gheen Caligula, amoral, power-hungry, and a bit deranged.  Being a channeler requires intense meditative focus and mastery of the body and mind.  Making the World-Queen a master channeler is a bit problematic given the whole "wrathful, sociopathic narcissist" theme.  "Buddha Hitler" is not what I want here.

The Tahro

The Tahro are sort of the odd men out in the setting, which reflects the place where they are in my mind.  They were the last race I actually developed, considerably later than the rest, and I feel it shows in the amount of material I've devoted to them compared to the others.  I can generally tell when I don't have a good grasp of a character when I ask myself "how would X deal with this situation" and can't make a coherent answer, and I've been having that trouble writing about the Tahro.

This is the main reason that Koldon's Well isn't described yet.  The Well is supposed to be a sort of interface between the nomadic and traditionalist Tahro and their more settled and urbane cousins that participate in the culture of the Black Circle.  My feeling is that it wouldn't be a good idea to address this deviation from Tahr norms without really understanding what Tahr norms are.  On the other hand, I've done most of my work so far with aliens in the presence of aliens in urban melting pots, so perhaps the Well is a good place to start.

Regardless, I do want to do something focusing on the Tahro soon, whether that means the Well, the Black Blood, the Exiles, or the Kengal Tahro.

Demons

"Demon" is a term I've been using on and off to denote things that the people of the CJ think are weird, whether that means unquestionably real things (like the Caretaker, for instance) or dubiously real things (various gods and mythical creatures).  I'm not sure I'm happy with the word, but it does convey the feelings the characters of the world have about them - they don't fit into the natural order of things, nobody knows where they come from or whether they are somehow related to one another, and there is always a certain menace and foreboding that comes with their presence.  The Caretaker even creeps out the Grove's permanent residents, not to mention the visitors.

I like the idea of the Caretaker - the unique, strange, potent elder being who strides among normal people without even acknowledging them - and I've been trying to brainstorm more things like it, including things with more awareness of and interest in the real world.  I'm not exactly clear yet on the role that I want such beings to play: Whether, like the Caretaker, they have only a very local, limited effect on the world, or whether they have influence more commensurate with their age and power.

This Thread

I think I'm pretty much done with this thread as a means of conveying content.  I like the format of the wiki more for putting up the "articles" that I have throughout this thread.  I think what I want this thread for is things like this (designer's notes and dilemmas) and other non-encyclopedic things that can't really go in the wiki, as well as discussion in general.

With that in mind, I've given some thought to ending this thread and starting a new one.  There's a lot of horribly outdated stuff here, as well as plenty of stuff that's perfectly fine except for the fact that it's just duplicating what's on the wiki.  Discussion is too hard to follow when it's interrupted by big, random articles.

Setting Review

I appreciate the enthusiasm for CJ that people have, and it is really shameful that I haven't given more back.  There's some absolutely brilliant settings here that I have never jumped into because I was a bit overwhelmed just by all the content people have.  I want to try to do more (despite my currently more time-consuming job), though I'm not really sure where to start.  Wiki-reading might be a good idea, since I like it so much for my own setting content.

A Pretty Picture

Finally, I wanted to append a pretty picture I found on the website of Ursula Vernon, who you may know as the creator of that pear with the mouth.  You know the one I'm talking about (LOL WUT).  I trawl the internet for pictures of jungles and ruins (and ruins in jungles) all the time, but for obvious reasons this one stood out as "hey, that's like CJ."

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« Reply #171 on: February 01, 2010, 02:25:26 PM »

Hmm, if you have inexplicable creatures (your "demons"), then one could perhaps imagine an ancient creature who knows how to order the Cogs? Maybe the World Queen has caged that creature or struck a deal with it?
Just an idea...  
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« Reply #172 on: February 02, 2010, 12:11:50 AM »

>>I appreciate the enthusiasm for CJ that people have, and it is really shameful that I haven't given more back. There's some absolutely brilliant settings here that I have never jumped into because I was a bit overwhelmed just by all the content people have. I want to try to do more (despite my currently more time-consuming job), though I'm not really sure where to start. Wiki-reading might be a good idea, since I like it so much for my own setting content.

I'd recommend starting with Crow's setting Broken Verge. I think it's similar in feel to yours and it's a manageable length... Not in that its thematics are similar, but it just feels like yours with a sense of wonder.

Then maybe check out Death From the Depths (in my signature) by Pair O'Dice.

If you posted your particular interests in setting-reading then I could give better advice.

...I'd rather you not move updates to the wiki, though-- I at least am much less likely to read any wiki article than a thread here. But if it works better for you, I support your decision.
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« Reply #173 on: February 06, 2010, 04:30:45 AM »

Cataclysmic Crow

Hmm, if you have inexplicable creatures (your "demons"), then one could perhaps imagine an ancient creature who knows how to order the Cogs? Maybe the World Queen has caged that creature or struck a deal with it?
Just an idea...

That's a really good idea.  Of course, it requires a few new things - a non-Cog capable of communicating with a Cog (such a thing doesn't exist yet, Ot being the reverse exception), a means for a mortal to communicate with a demon (haven't really touched that subject yet), and a reason for action - whether a threat or an offer - that a demon would actually take seriously.

Light Dragon - thanks for the tips.  I've got less time for both reading and writing now that I'm employed again, but I'm certainly going to make an effort to do more of the former on this site.

As for the wiki... I do like it better, but another way to reduce clutter without abandoning thread content updates might be to just spin off a discussion thread like many others have done/are doing.
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« Reply #174 on: February 28, 2010, 06:27:10 PM »

I've finally read through the entire thread, and I loved it all the way. It is by far the most in-depth campaign setting that I have ever seen (much better than any published one, in my opinion). You truly have a fantastic imagination.

Just a few ideas I've had: are there any snakes in the clockwork jungle? You haven't mentioned any yet, and I assume there must be some normal jungle varieties. I bring this up mainly because a cog snake would look really awesome. Animal cogs with legs are one thing, but a cog that can move and act like a snake? Not THAT would be some feat of engineering. I don't think anyone would want to be constricted by one of those.

For a while now, I was wondering what the world looked like, mostly imagining how it would look like if it were a planet. If this setting did take place on a planet, the Grandmother Mountain need not be on the planet's pole - rather, I think it would be far better if it were somewhere far from the pole (perhaps on the equator). This would help 2 things:
1) You wouldn't have to deal with the equivalent of an arctic circle day/night cycle, which would probably affect the entire obsidian circle.
2) It makes load stones seem more magical, reinforcing the idea that they do not work due to magnetism.

That's it for now, but if I think of anything else, I'll let you know.

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« Reply #175 on: February 28, 2010, 08:01:49 PM »

http://www.thecbg.org/wiki/index.php?title=Ambuscade_Spider

ambuscade spiders[/url] don't have poison, and neither would Cog snakes.  A constrictor, however, would only be improved on by being made of metal/wood/etc.  It's a good idea, one I'll return to sometime when I'm focusing more on the bestiary.

Quote

For a while now, I was wondering what the world looked like, mostly imagining how it would look like if it were a planet. If this setting did take place on a planet, the Grandmother Mountain need not be on the planet's pole - rather, I think it would be far better if it were somewhere far from the pole (perhaps on the equator). This would help 2 things:
1) You wouldn't have to deal with the equivalent of an arctic circle day/night cycle, which would probably affect the entire obsidian circle.
2) It makes load stones seem more magical, reinforcing the idea that they do not work due to magnetism.
seems[/i] like the world's axis.  They have every reason to believe that it is, and none to believe that it isn't.  They're not in a position to know about day-night cycles or make any deduction from that.

My long-standing policy on the issue is that there is no "official" answer regarding what the world outside the Forest looks like or what shape it is.  Any answer I could give would only be a limitation.  As it stands now, there could be a whole world past the Line of [lodestone] Influence, or the Forest could go on forever, or it could simply drop off into nothingness.  That's a decision I am happy to leave to other people.

That said, if it were a planet - which it certainly could be - your reasoning does make sense.  A traveler beyond the known world might eventually find himself somewhere "temperate."  That would probably be a rather surreal experience for someone who has never seen anything other than tropical forest (and the occasional barren mountain) in his entire life.
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« Reply #176 on: March 03, 2010, 02:28:40 AM »

The Bane of Kengal

Where I tread, there is clamor for an instant and silence for an eternity.  My footfalls are the final echoes of the drum that sounds Armageddon.  What I trample down shall never rise again.
- Thals-Tadun Nata, Umbril Warlord



The Kengal Tahro
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The Tahro are a scattered people, for roaming is in their nature.  Though some lands are known for a large Tahr presence, the Tahro do not dominate them with clusters of settlements.  They prefer their space, for the blood flourishes when it does not need to compete with its fellows for resources.  A dozen or so bloods meet once a year to conduct the business of the many, but until that time they live insular lives that seldom make much impact on aliens save those who seek them out for trade.

At least, this is what most 'scholars' will tell you '“ but like all generalizations of the four races, it is riddled with qualifiers and exceptions.  The greatest exception lies in the shadow of the mountains of the clockwise Wyrmcrown, where the Conclave of Kengal forms the nexus of a mighty and numerous host.  Kengal has neither monarchs nor subjects '“ it is not a state at all '“ yet its political influence and the power of its cultural hegemony are undeniable.  The elders of the Crimson Gate may not hold despotic dominion over their people like Iskite grandmasters or Gheen monarchs, but their name evokes respect and pride in the hearts of Tahro from the Circle to the Outlands.

History

Kengal '“ the name is an Iskite one '“ was built as a szalk, a monument for an Iskite lord in Antiquity, before heredity and monarchy were abolished from their society.  Part fortress, part palace, and part tomb, szalks were built to ensure that their creator would be remembered forever, along with her great wealth and power.  Szalk Kengal was one of the largest ever constructed.  It was built to have no equal, boasting dozens of elaborate palaces ensconced in decoratively crenellated walls, miles of richly decorated halls and galleries, acres of lush gardens and orchards, and thousands of statues and fantastic reliefs to immortalize the deeds of its builder forever.

It is a testament to the vagaries of history that this great lord's name has, despite her best efforts, been utterly forgotten.  The writings of Kengal differ from Jalassan, the dead Iskite language used in most of Scalemount at the time, and have never been translated.  The massive shift in Iskite culture in the Age of the Prophets did away with the Blood-Lords and fomented a total rejection of their megalomaniacal projects.  The people she had once ruled moved away to more civilized lands, and mighty Kengal became an empty ruin.

It is not known precisely when Kengal was occupied by local Tahr bloods looking for a new seasonal camp.  In all likelihood, the ruin was used for temporary habitation not long after the Iskites left it, but it was only in the later Age of Prophets that it became a 'Red Camp' '“ a place where all the bloods of the region's tribe gather during the holy Red Season to hold their councils, share their stories, conduct their rituals, and win their mates.

The Tahro of Kengal were one of the few groups of their race to embrace the power of the Oracle Tree.  A Tahr known as the Grey Seer toppled the local patriarchs and inaugurated more than a century and a half of prophetic autocracy.  It is said (albeit by Tahro) that the Seer ruled over Tahro and aliens all the way to the borders of Scalemount and dealt with the Grand Authority on an equal footing, even at the height of the latter's power.  It was the race's brightest star in a time that saw many of their people marginalized and driven far from the civilized lands.
 
When the Recentering came, Kengal was luckier than most '“ at first.  Most of the bloods of the region were not present at Kengal when the Dominion Tree flowered and fell.  When they returned, the Tahro found their Seer dead and their beloved Kengal now a moss-covered lair of the Saffron Moss.  They stormed the szalk and purged the Peril from it, destroying many abominations that had once been the closest advisors, retainers, and family of the Seer.  They rebuilt '“ but it would not be long before Thals-Tadun Nata, co-leader of the Orange Horde, led its half of the bloody crusade to Kengal's walls.

The Siege of Kengal (EVP -4) was the hardest battle the Horde ever faced.  Determined to hold the home they had reclaimed from the Peril's grasp, the Kengal Tahro fought with everything they had.  The story as it was written by one of Thals-Tadun's followers is that it took seven assaults to finally take the outer walls, and that the Horde came within a hair's breadth of being routed when the Tahro unleashed eight Cog war-elephants upon them.  Thals-Tadun itself was wounded in the battle.  The Horde, however, would not be denied their victory, and their sheer numbers and fanatical ferocity eventually carried them through the beleaguered defenders.  Thousands of Tahro were slaughtered, and the priceless artifacts of the Szalk '“ Iskite artwork and statues hundreds of years old '“ were smashed and vandalized.  What remained of the Kengal Tahro fled into the mountain valleys of the Wyrmcrown.

Kengal remained abandoned for a generation.  As the Recentering faded, however, Tahr bloods began returning to the region, and the szalk was eventually resettled.  Since then, the number of bloods using it has increased steadily, and it may even be approaching its previous size under the Grey Seer's rule.

Kengal

Kengal is not a city.  It is best described as an immense, fortified campground.  All Tahr bloods are permitted to rest here, though special dispensation from the Conclave is required to stay longer than a half-season to ensure that local resources are conserved.  Tahro who are too sick or injured to travel with their blood may remain in the care of the White Palace as long as needed, and Tahro without a blood for various reasons may be allowed to stay as novice Wards of the Conclave, if some use can be made of them.

Kengal is composed of many different 'palaces' connected by paved avenues and interspersed with courtyards.  A series of curtain walls, more decorative than functional, separate the compound into distinct districts.  All of the palaces have names, though only the Patriarchal Palace, the White Palace, and the Palace of the Mountain are continuously in use.  The palace at the very center of Kengal, the Sepulchral Palace, is the resting place of the great lady who commissioned the szalk to be built, and it is left in peace out of respect.

The Tahro have done a great deal of renovation in Szalk Kengal since its was abandoned by its original builders.  The walls, heavily damaged by both neglect and the city's siege, have been repaired to functionality (if not always to their original beauty).  The palaces that see frequent use have been cleaned out and re-furnished to meet Tahr needs; some are used for rituals during the Red Season, while others have been converted entirely to the storage of food and goods.  The courtyards, once carefully maintained gardens, have been allowed to return to their wild state '“ the Tahr have no use for them, save for a few small plots around the White Palace which are maintained for growing medicinal herbs and other useful plants.

The Great Conclave

During the Red Season, all the bloods of the region may come to Kengal to take part in what is easily the largest meeting of Tahro in the world.  Technically, a standing invitation exists to all Tahro everywhere, though it is rare that a blood from another region travels this far.  For two weeks, around than 12,000 Tahro (somewhere around 500 bloods) reside at Kengal and take part in the Great Conclave.  The attending bloods are divided into tribes (usually about 20 bloods each) that hold their gatherings in different districts of the compound.  Though each tribe is responsible for its own business, it is common and accepted for individuals to attend other gatherings as well during their time there.

The Great Conclave is very similar to the gatherings Tahro all over the world have at their Red Camps, only more so.  The religious rites are grander, the feasts bigger, and the chants louder.  The Great Conclave is also a site where far-reaching decisions are made.  Here, the patriarchs of the bloods discuss their routes of migration and their plans vis-à-vis the aliens of the region.  Offers of trade and peace are discussed here, and raids against offending aliens are organized here.  Though the bloods of Kengal never act in true unison (sheer logistics make it impossible), the theoretical amount of military might that can be leveraged by the Great Conclave is considerable enough that the mere threat of taking a grievance to the gathering is often enough to quell a blood's belligerent adversaries or force them to come to more generous terms.

The Great Conclave is also host to the Honor-Market, a sort of 'free exchange' where the bloods leave gifts for any who desire them.  All bloods make a contribution if able, and any blood may take anything it wishes from the Market.  A system of honor and reputation prevents the Market from being abused.  It is considered a great honor to give more than you take, and a mark of shame to take more than you give.  As a result, there is always a large amount of 'leftover' gifts, which are collected by the Conclave at the end of the gathering.

The Conclave

The Conclave (not to be confused with the Great Conclave, which refers to the Red Season gathering) is the organization that maintains and administers Kengal itself.  It occupies the Patriarchal Palace year-round; the curtain wall around the palace is painted red, and the Conclave is for this reason often referred to as the Crimson Gate.

The Conclave is not a traditional blood.  It is composed of twenty-two members, one Venerable Elder and twenty-one Stewards chosen from the tribes of Kengal; each tribe nominates one of its members for the position, and the empty seats of the Conclave are filled from these nominees by casting lots.  The term of a steward is three years, and their terms are staggered so that a third of the seats are open every year.  The venerable elder is not chosen in this way; he serves on the Conclave for life and selects his own successor among the many blood patriarchs of the Kengal Tahro.  His role is not to make decisions, but to be the ultimate guardian of tradition among the stewards, a voice that even they must listen to with silence and respect.

The Conclave is served by around two hundred Wards of the Conclave, Tahro who either have no blood or willingly chose to leave their blood in order to serve the stewards.  Wards serve as 'novices' for one year, and if they find this service suitable, commit themselves for life (though the Conclave sometimes grants them temporary or permanent leave for a variety of reasons).  Wards do many duties for the Conclave '“ they may be scribes, cooks, servants, guards, messengers, emissaries, or anything else that is required of them.  They are granted tremendous respect by their kin, for there is no greater gift than one's own life.

The central duty of the Conclave is to organize and prepare for the annual gathering, but they also engage in some degree of foreign policy.  Though the Conclave commands no bloods, it does carry considerable weight with the tribes and is often able to sway the decisions of the patriarchs.  Normally, these decisions are made in the Great Conclave when all the tribes are assembled, but if there is a true emergency during the rest of the year, the Conclave is empowered to pronounce an Edict of Absence, a binding declaration that all the tribes of Kengal must follow to the best of their ability until the Great Conclave can meet and consider the situation.  Such edicts are very rarely used, and usually only when there is a grave threat to a tribe or the Conclave itself that cannot wait for the Red Season to be dealt with.  This is partially because, come Red Season, the gathered patriarchs of the Great Conclave must pass judgment on the legitimacy of the edict '“ and if they find it was spoken in vain, the entire Conclave is subject to whatever punishment the patriarchs see fit, up to and including perpetual exile.

Historically, the Conclave has refused to become openly involved with conflict between aliens.  The bloods trade or fight as they wish, and the Conclave has no authority to stop them.  During the recent Netai Wars, the Confederation sent several diplomatic missions to Kengal, presumably to enlist their aid in the Confederation's struggle.  Despite the sentiments of the bloods being overwhelmingly with the Confederation because of the large Tahr population of the Isles, the Conclave chose to remain neutral, perhaps fearing that a pro-Confederation stance would damage their relations with Scalemount.  This did not stop several bloods from aggressively raiding Iskite caravans heading towards the Sekah, which developed into a minor but intense conflict called the 'War of the Road' that ran concurrently with the 5th Netai War.

People, Culture, and Language

'Kengal Tahro' is a fairly nebulous term.  In its narrowest sense, it refers to all Tahr bloods that make the annual journey to Kengal for the Great Conclave (which is still a large number).  There are many bloods, however, who only make the journey occasionally, and still more who never travel to Kengal but share camps with bloods that do.  Kengal is thus at the center of a cultural sphere that extends from the foothills of the Wyrmcrown to the Tahro of the clockwise Vinetrough, the inner Clawed Thicket, and the borderlands of the Rainbow Road all the way to the Sekah.

These are not 'Kengal lands' by any stretch of the imagination '“ Kengal is not a state, and it controls no territory outside its own walls.  The influence of culture and tradition is powerful, however, especially when shared among hundreds of bloods from all over the region.  The Conclave may not have an army or levy taxes, but Kengal casts a long shadow over every neighboring land with a Tahr presence.

The Kengal Tahro do not share a single language.  The bloods are largely either speakers of the various Kalath languages or the Seekers' Chant, a mix of antique Outlands Tahr speech and a dead Chalice Gheen language that is spoken beyond the Pass of Thorns.  Kalath languages are more widely spoken among the Kengal Tahro, but the Conclave has no 'official' language '“ indeed, the language spoken at the Conclave tends to change from year to year as newly appointed stewards change the demographic balance of the council.

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« Reply #177 on: March 03, 2010, 03:31:38 AM »

Immersive and wonderfully crafted as ever.
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« Reply #178 on: March 05, 2010, 04:46:33 PM »

Polycarp


I think I'm pretty much done with this thread as a means of conveying content.  I like the format of the wiki more for putting up the "articles" that I have throughout this thread.  I think what I want this thread for is things like this (designer's notes and dilemmas) and other non-encyclopedic things that can't really go in the wiki, as well as discussion in general.

With that in mind, I've given some thought to ending this thread and starting a new one.  There's a lot of horribly outdated stuff here, as well as plenty of stuff that's perfectly fine except for the fact that it's just duplicating what's on the wiki.  Discussion is too hard to follow when it's interrupted by big, random articles.



I think you should do whatever you want to do. For me, I prefer reading and discussing things on threads. If you are starting a new thread, it would be nice if you could announce it on this thread (so people that are reading this thread can continue onto the next one).

Perhaps you can post updates on the Wiki, and have a thread purely for discussion purposes. If you do so, It may be good to post links on the Discussion Thread that point to new updates, similar to what you have done in some previous posts (like how you linked us to the Tea and Slavery Wiki articles).

That being said, I have some ideas for the Clockwork Jungle that you might want to look at. They are a little long, so I'm going to write them in their own, individual posts.

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CARPS!

« Reply #179 on: March 05, 2010, 04:47:55 PM »

You've mentioned that you had some trouble with the Tahro, so here are some of my thoughts on the subject:

I think the Tahro are a very interesting race, and I've liked what you have done with them (they are actually one of my favorites). They are unusual compared to the other races because they are semi-nomadic, which in turn gives them a distinctive mindset that the 'settled' races lack.
To me, I see each Tahro blood being different from each other due to their isolation from their own kin. In the same way that Iskite villages can be different from each other, so too are Tahro bloods. Think of each blood as a separate community, each with their own personality, reasoning, and mindset. The only things really keeping the Tahro together are their traditions and the Red Season. Tahro that share a Red Camp tend to have similar mindsets, but each individual blood can differ greatly when compared to all other bloods. Each blood is unique in it's own special way, yet clings to the same old traditions.

A good example of Tahro culture would be High School. All the students go to the same school, yet students are all divided into different classes. You get to know everyone in your class far better than anyone outside your class, and sometimes students transfer to different classes. Each class, however, has it's own personality, it's own qualities, it's own mindset: some get along well, some divide themselves into sub-groups. Some are rowdy, while others get along with each other extremely well. The classes all follow the same basic agenda and rules, but the students themselves cause a class to have it's own unique experience. No two classes will ever be the same, despite their similarities.
Now look at the Tahro: they are divided into different bloods (classes), yet all get together periodically in the Red Season (just like recess or lunch break). Some join other bloods, and may or may not be as accepted as they were in their former blood (just like transfer students). Bloods who go to the same Red Camp tend to share a lot in common with each other, while at the same time can be quite different than the bloods of another Red Camp (just like comparing two schools with each other '“ they share the same rules and regulations, more or less, but can be quite different from each other even to the point of school rivalries).

I think what I like the most about the Tahro is that they can be so different from each other, yet they share similar traditions. I like this sort of duality in the race. The idea of all Tahro bloods keeping the same traditions, even though two bloods could be thousands of miles apart from each other, speaking different languages and living different lifestyles (simply due to the natural resources and the seasonal camps they visit). Tahro are so different from the other races simply due to the fact that two bloods can be so different from each other. While the same could be said for other races (no two Umbril communities are exactly the same), to me it seems much more apparent in Tahro culture because each Tahro blood is incredibly smaller than the size of another race's settlement. A race divided in very small groups are more subject to change than a race divided into groups the size of a town (and towns have an easier time communicating with each other than very small nomadic groups do).
So why are the Tahr seen as traditionalists who dislike change? The way I see it, the only thing keeping the Tahro together are their traditions. If they lose their traditions, how can two bloods ever relate to each other? This is why the Tahro don't readily adopt new traditions/ideas or let go of old ones.

So how would a typical Tahro deal with a specific situation? If it isn't covered in their traditions, then perhaps the question you should be asking is, 'How would this blood deal with a specific situation?' While answering these types of questions are certainly more difficult than with other races, I think this is where the Tahro can truly shine. Show us how different they can be from each other. Perhaps different bloods even argue with each other, which can lead to some interesting historical events. Assume that anything not listed in the traditions is open for the bloods to decide for themselves. Every patriarch is different, so every blood should be different in it's own way. When you look at it from this point of view, it isn't too crazy to say that some bloods give up the nomadic lifestyle in favor for a more 'settled' lifestyle.

I didn't intend to write this much, but that's probably because I like what you did with the Tahr and can't wait to read more about their culture. I hope this helps.
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CARPS!

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