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William Altman
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I've stood with giant robots, wrestled tigers, and been eaten alive by fish. I also went and wrote this game: http://krendel.net/
I've stood with giant robots, wrestled tigers, and been eaten alive by fish. I also went and wrote this game: http://krendel.net/

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Today's installment is a quick sidebar to address what may be some confusion due to a term used pretty liberally in Krendel.

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Demons

The histories and cultures commonly speak of demons. In the real world, the word demon commonly conjures thoughts of infernal creatures from the depths of hell. Those are not Krendel’s demons.

There is no one definition of what a demon is in Krendel; though, the terms is used liberally. It can vary by culture: Fandir’s history speaks of demons of liquid flesh, Merek’s tells of the demon lords who ruled the wilds and their hoards, and the T’Shan Maa’Therie guard the desert from what they call demons. But typically people are willing to view anything outside the norm as a demon. Unknown and vicious creature? Demon, possibly revised once it is dealt with. Demi-human? At best lesser demons, but usually considered in the thrall of demons. Drastic mutation? Demon. Comparatively minor mutation? Possibly possessed by a demon. Brellan? Demon. Spirit? Demon. Undead? Demon or possessed by one.

Where learned individuals are more discriminatory with their use of the term, it still remains a general appellation applied to the extreme, unknown, and/or dangerous other.

I've wrapped up most of Faith's mechanics (just need to do some species work for the summons), and so I took a look at bringing Sorcery up to date next. I promptly said nuts to that due to the number of powers I need to conjure since I'm now including Epics. So instead I did some work on mutations. The mechanics have been simplified some. The short version is that they still run off seeds and cores, but now that largely just means that the mutation is reversible or not. This also allowed me to usher in a bunch of minor, cosmetic mutations.

But what do mutations mean for you? Oooooh, you grew a tentacle in place of a 6th finger or your head now looks like a malformed lump. So what? The mechanics aside, how does that work out for you. Chances are, not good.

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Mutants in Society

Mutations are a very real part of people’s lives; though, their origin is poorly understood by nearly all but the most learned investigators. Most commonly they are associated with divine curses that mark despoilers, trespasses into the unknown, or, even the byproduct of sorcerous experiments. Some mutations so thoroughly twist their host that the person may be mistaken for a demon.

These mutations nearly always have a social impact, triggering a visceral fear of the other or just an easy scapegoat for society’s ills. Some mutations shift within the accepted norm for your species. It’s accepted that humans might have virtually any eye or hair color, and, in some societies, it may even be social norm to readily change these facets through dyes, magic, or more permanent means. Changes like pointed ears, extra joints, or extra fingers draw scrutiny and prejudice, to say nothing of more drastic mutations. Unfortunately, this sweeps up natural birth defects as well as unnatural mutations.

In most communities, obvious mutations are destroyed: extra fingers or disfigured limbs are cut. If the mutation cannot be removed, the mutant is simply killed. In more humane communities, such as the larger cities of Ravishan, these people are undesirables relegated to ghettos and otherwise abhorrent labor. Many volunteer to participate in experiments that might grant them release.

Few communities operate counter to prevailing thought. The most notable of these is Garviston, whose rulers purposely created armies of monstrosities, each more twisted than the last. There mutants are elevated or denigrated based upon the utility of their mutation, the least of the mutants simply become cannon fodder, where those evincing special abilities are honed into forces.

Some faiths may even exalt particular mutations; though, almost always behind closed doors. Bestial traits may be seen with awe by followers of Eleriad. This is more prevalent among the paefyn where animal-human hybrids are given deference in some societies.

Heading back to faith again today to look at a cult. As indicated previously, there's main religions, like Fandir. There's three big ones for that. Then there's specialty faiths with the main religions if they are polytheist. They inherit the base teachings, just tweak them a bit.

There's also cults. These also fall under the banner of the main religions. Like the specialty faiths, they inherit the base teachings with tweaks, sometimes, like today, tweaking hard. The only real difference between cults and specialty faiths is that cults promote multiple gods. It could also be said that cults are more likely to rub the main faith the wrong way as they tend to upend some of the teachings wholesale, so they are don't always operate openly.

For Fandir, I've got four (maybe going down to three) primary cults outlined in addition to the thirteen specialty faiths. I'm not sure if these will actually make it into the main book or get saved for expansion material. It really a question of whether they or Merek's state religion is presented as the opposition faith(s).

Today's cult is in no way related to last week's post. Not a chance, look the other way, fingers in the ears. lalalala. Can't convince me otherwise. Really.

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Agatin

Meaning quintessence, true nature, or true heart in the Fandir language, Agatin is the name given by a cult that celebrates the most decadent and base aspects of humanity. The cult preaches that humans were created for the pleasure and amusement of the gods, to provide entertainment and reward after their toils in the world. So it is a divine mandate that humanity embraces its true nature, releasing all inhibitions. Through indulgence the faithful give praise and worship to the gods and fulfill the purpose they were created for. Sex, dermal manipulation, drugs, insanity, slavery, even torture by and to oneself are mere indulgences.

As a cult that grew from Fandirian teachings, Agatin acknowledges the thirteen gods, but it is select in its reverence. It emphasizes Acothian’s revelry and lack of guilt, Eleriad’s abandonment of laws, the value of Erisia’s beauty, Kaliveth’s chains and trinkets, Merogrin’s taking, and Vanan’s appetite. Where Nilad simply fails to excite the passions of Agatin, the other elder gods are viewed in a similar light to Eleriad, venerated as forces of nature, the unbridled spirit of which is held in awe.

Agatin quietly hates and fears the brothers. Worshipers think the teachings of Laereth and Mykael directly oppose their own. This belief is not without cause as it was their Shadowdancers and Justicars that led the destruction the Great House Melare of Ravishan after its scions converted to Agatin and visited their excesses on the populace.

Agatin recognizes that society is naturally stratified. This is not a matter of wealth or law, but one of will and power. Those who are not consumed by their appetites are those fit to rule. Others are meant to serve, be it as cattle or playthings. The law itself, other than that of agatin, is at best a tool, at worst an impediment.

Members of the Agatin faith instigate and promote events favored by their faith, but do not openly promulgate or even admit their faith, even in Ravishan, where its presence is strongest. Potential members are exposed to all manner of vices. Those who partake and succumb are like flies stuck in the honey. These thralls are often moved about and traded as favors to further the cult’s aims without them ever truly knowing who or what they serve. Those who instead partake and rise are then offered the opportunity to actively attend the true faith.

As with many things, the Sunken Lands proves to be an exception. Agatin may operate openly and vies with other faiths for control of hearts and minds, especially in the few cities, save Qadisha.

Tenets:

As an ordained, you must abandon those not of the faith, including friends and family, whom you cannot convert.
As a sanctified, you must bathe in debauchery at least once a week.
As a sanctified, you must try to convert those not of the faith.
You must possess at least one of disorder, manipulation, play, or sensuality as a drive and indulge in it when reasonable.
You must indulge your addictions and mental disorders and in new sensations when given opportunity.
You must not pass up an opportunity to spread vice to the vulnerable.
You must give the wealth you cannot carry to the faith.
You must clean yourself at least twice a day.
You may not show or depict the face of the divine.

#RPGaDAY Day 31: What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

As lame as it sounds, actually gaming. Remember, I've been in the Republic of Georgia for about the last 27 months, and there was no gaming during that time. I'm easing myself into it at the moment with a larp, but that's more to reconnect with friends than actual gaming.

If I were to nail down something specific, I'd say playtesting the first draft of a revised Krendel with its setting built in. I'm just about done with the expanded Faith mechanics, which is needed to finish up the setting side of Faith. Its slow work at the moment, but its not a sprint either.
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#RPGaDAY Day 30: What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

The thing with question is that pretty much everything has been done, be it by a big name or small name press. Magic, time travel, space, cybernetics, whatever. Its out there. Boy is some of it out there.

For me though, the question is also a fairly personal one because its what I'm working on right now: Krendel. The setting I'm fleshing out for it is one that I've run, but its also one that I haven't seen elsewhere (though it may exist). I try to sum it up as alien fantasy in the jungle, but that's a poor descriptor for it. Giant insects, mutations exploring the evolution of mankind, land squids, dreams that fold reality inside out, dead gods, forgotten cults, the Death Stain, potentially sprawling politics, sorcery, sweltering climate, and more. Its got so many parts that you could easily claim that its a mash up of a few dozen things, even when its not, and I'm OK with that.
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#RPGaDAY Day 29: What has been the best run Kickstarter you have backed?

Best run, meaning the Kickstarter itself, not the end product. That is an important distinctions. To understand my votes (and I'll explain some more later), you have to understand that I don't want an inbox flooded with crap, so updates need to be meaningful and not too frequent. I also want a campaign page that is absolutely clear about what I'm backing at each pledge level as quickly as possible. If I don't see that, then I'll scroll to the end expecting some sort of chart. Finally, I want the delivery, assuming it happens, to occur all at once, not piecemeal.

I was very pleased with early Dwarven Forge Kickstarters. They were very easy to understand, and the updates were frequent enough. Later ones saw the complexity of their product rise and consequently the complexity of their campaign. It took a while to figure out what a pledge meant what, plus there would be a few dozen add-ons. It sprawled so much that they released Excel files to help you plan your pledge. That's a sign that they knew their Kickstarter had gotten away from them, so they introduced a tool to try to compensate.

I've generally been pleased with small press folks. Dark Naga Adventures and Venger Satanis both ran really clean campaigns. The product was almost complete by time the Kickstarter was run, which meant quick turn around for delivery. The updates were just the right frequency with enough content. Its an excellent model to follow for small press folks. Those contrast sharply with others who still haven't delivered, but occasionally claim they are working on, their products 3 to 4 years later.

I'll also give a nod to Monte Cook Game's Kickstarters. They were clear about what you get, either at the top of the Kickstarter page or with a chart towards the end. They typically used splashy graphics for that, which looked great. Updates were arguably too frequent. Delivery, on the hand, was very piecemeal. However, it was handled not by blind shipping, but through their website, which helped you track the things you pledged and manage your own delivery. Now, not everyone can do that, but dang, that was nice.
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#RPGaDAY Day 28: What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?

I imagine there will be a lot of overlap in these posts. That's just the way things roll. My answers vary a lot by whom I'm with, but some sources include the Leroy Jenkin's video, Boondock Saints, Ghostbusters, Black Adder, Monty Python (usually only the Holy Grail), Big Lebowski, Spaceballs, and Blazing Saddles. Usually its just one or two lines.

Just as important, these sort of quotes are almost always used for humor, not for inspiration or cool moment. Predictably, it pretty much always quickly devolves and breaks us out of game for a few minutes.
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#RPGaDAY *Day 27: What are the essential tools for good gaming? *

Facetiously (and with input from +Kelly Berger): People, they're all tools. Mostly blunt.

More Seriously: The game and whatever it says you need. If the game says you need a randomizer, get a randomizer (not always dice). If it says paper and something to write with, get that.

Above all though, you need imagination and critical thinking. If you don't have these to begin with, that's OK. These games are generally designed to foster those tools. In fact, I'd even go so far as to suggest that gaming did more to help me develop them than school did, which really only tried to teach facts and linear processes.

Of course this is helped with liberal amounts of trust, fun, and all that goes into the social contract.
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Back to Ravishan for the weekend, we'll take a quick look at who sits on top.

House Quintin

Led by Enel Quintin, House Quintin represents nearly all the power and all the failings of Ravishan. Its wealth and alliances among the great and major houses maintain its position as the imperial seat.

Where House Quintin has some agriculture, mineral (notably gold), and manufacturing holdings in Ravishan, the majority of its wealth comes from trade, specifically sea trade. House Quintin boasts the largest navy and the largest merchant fleet of any house. It conducts trade all throughout the Cerulean Sea and beyond, as far south as Telron and east into the sunken lands, importing a variety of goods, including slaves. The more exotic and decadent of these simply feeds Quintin’s and Ravishan’s growing lust.

House Quintin’s most important recent contribution to the empire was its invention of a new cement that allows it to construct large edifices and build underwater. Where this has opened new markets for the house, it has generated unwelcome friction with House Derthin. Some wonder if the invention was Quintin’s at all; perhaps it was stolen or just an accident the house has capitalized on

No matter House Quintin’s power, it is not without challengers. Where other houses have always had a place on the sea, House Quintin’s dominance has never been in doubt until House Kaladon’s recent expansion. Moreover, the river trade that moves the vast majority of the empires internal economy remains too fractured and too resistant for any one institution to seize control, a state that continues to baffle this house and others.

The house’s name is also synonymous with luxury and debauchery. Many of its members regularly bend the law in pursuit of personal pleasures, something the great wealth of the house has thus far been able to allow. This has earned it the moniker “House of Appetites” behind closed doors. To one degree or another, this same attitude infects the house’s allies, who continue to support Enel Quintin as emperor, who in turn supports their proclivities. The events he hosts are said to be legendarily lavish affairs that set trends in fashion and art among those who can afford them.

House Quintin’s arcane mastery of water and relative command of the air is a natural fit for mercantile pursuits, but, as the house has discovered in recent years, those aren’t the only powers that can grant competitive advantages as Kaladon’s greater knowledge of fortune and vision sorcery has garnered it contracts that once would have been Quintin’s.

House Quintin is represented by a gold squid on a purple field.

Objectives: Maintain the imperial seat, enjoy life, prevent more power from seeping through its clenched fist

Reasons: What is power and wealth if not used for personal enjoyment?

Disposition: Corrupting, invasive

Tools: Alliances with houses Basrad, Derthin, Lebeus, Rahel, Sogor, Tyndra, Vashti. Vassal houses Lursyn, Kadak, and Tekel. A large navy, water sorcery, and excessive wealth.

Schedule: The scions of House Quintin have no set schedule, no real forecasting beyond their next indulgence, and those of their friends. Meanwhile, other elements within the house compete with each other for favor while promoting individual projects, each at their own pace.

Domain: Every port, fresh water or salt water, feels House Quintin’s presence.

Results: If the scions have their way, Ravishan would simply become a platter for their appetites, or maybe more so than it already is.

Questions: What new thing might tantalize the interest of the house’s scions? With such detached interest in daily affairs, how long can the scions hold the house together? How long will the other houses and the faiths continue to allow House Quintin’s indulgences? What is the true origin of Quintin’s cement? To what lengths will House Quintin go to maintain its control of the sea lanes? Why can no one get control of the riverways?

#RPGsDAY Day 26) Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

Useful. There's a loaded term. The bandwagon would say that I should anoint one of the D&D 3.0 derivatives since there's so much out there, but so much of it is crap. To phrase that more kindly, it is a lot of derivative work from 3rd parties that churns forward without considering power creep or, in many cases, common sense.

The excessive power creep keeps me from saying anything of World of Darkness either. Though, wow, some of those supplements were amazing reads that added so much flavor an opportunity to games.

So I guess I have to go back to an old standby, AD&D 2nd ed. It had its cracked out moments, but the depth and breadth of information it provided was amazing. Each monster gets at least a full page write up so you can see how it fits into a world? Sweet. Books on historic settings? Yes, please. In depth write ups for regions in game settings? Cool, even if I didn't use that setting, there's some cool ideas in there. Books with options that can show you how to stretch the rules well beyond what they were ever intended for? Oh heck yes.

That was the story of 2nd ed though: Unbridled imagination that you could use however you wanted. Very rarely was a book known for its mechanics, and then it was only because it was broken. Unlike other game lines where books were known mostly because they contained specific crack.
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