Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Game­ in Porto Liure

I've already talked previously about crime families in Porto Liure, and the skulduggery that they are up to.  Crime families and their skulduggery seem so gauche somehow, though.  The rich in Porto Liure don't really have their hands any cleaner, but somehow they make even their skulduggery sound high-brow.  They've even given it a label: the Game, and indulging in the twisted politics and machinations of the wealthy is their primary source of both livelihood and entertainment at the same time.

It's sometimes difficult to remove the criminal organizations from the nobility and parvenus who--let's face it, are also technically criminals, although they tend to consider themselves (and not without warrant) as somewhat above the concerns of the law.  There are a lot of crossover plots and connections; nobles who hire the Union of the Snake for an assassination, for example, or bourgeois parvenus who smuggle goods through the Fuzeta da Ponte family's enterprises.  But, as much as possible, this list of potential sources of intrigue is kept separate from the entries on the earlier post.  Just to give you more options to play with.  This isn't meant to be comprehensive and more will probably be added in future posts.

Segnore Claude Bonolva: A young, rakish, and handsome lord with an obscure title granted by Terrasa to estates in the south, but who has lived his entire life in Porto Liure, Claude Bonolva is notorious for both his ambition and his numerous, decadent, and even obsessive erotic dalliances with many, many ladies about town.  While his title is modest, his wealth is not, and his family has prospered greatly from the trade of hashash.  Trade of hashash into Porto Liure is controlled, but not illegal, but trade to the rest of the Terrasan sphere is highly illegal smuggling.

Motive:  Claude's overt posture is that he wants to ensure his fortune by protecting his ability to smuggle hashash throughout the region, and then spend it as fast as he makes it in riotous living.

Ulterior motive: In reality, Claude is a more shrewd and calculating person than he lets on.  He seems a dissolute man, who lets his subservients run his business, while he spends all of his time partying, but that's an act.  He actually knows and has direct control over his entire "empire" and aspires for more.  He's actually working on a plot to maneuver the ruling Lady into marriage, at which point he plans on marginalizing her and becoming the de facto Lord of Porto Liure himself.

Damiata Aldonça Bernat: As the current Ruling Lady of Porto Liure, on paper, Bernat is the most prominent and important and powerful people in the city.  However, on paper is tempered by reality; while Damiata is popular and puts a lot of stock in her popularity with the people, she is checked by a number of special interests and other powerful lords and ladies.  In addition, she has become addicted to a poisonous drug called brackbane, which she smokes from a thick wooden pipe, or rolled in brown paper.  This addiction was not of her own choice; Reimond Saulescu spent an exorbitant amount of gold with the Union of the Snake to arrange for her poisoning, knowing that the addiction would put her under his power.  The addiction is fatal if not fed--and in the long term, fatal anyway.  This addiction is, however, extremely secretive.  Brackbane is illegal even in Porto Liure.

Motive: Run the affairs of the city-state, play the various other factions from outside and inside the city against each other to maintain a prosperous status quo.

Ulterior motive: Find some way to remove the poisonous addiction and then cruch Saulescu for daring to put her under his thumb with it in the first place.

Reimond Saulescu: Reimond is a middle-aged, quiet nobleman with holdings in Icclezza (although he's rarely there), a fine villa in Terrasa and a posh row-house in Porto Liure--where he spends most of his time, when he can.  He seems quiet and unassuming, but in reality, Reimond is the hub of a great deal of intrigue in the city.  Conspiring with Bonolva to put the Lady of the Port under their power, he arranged for her to become addicted to brackbane via the poison-dealing Union of the Snake.  Despite this, he is not Bonolva's friend; he would like to see Bonolva become the true master of the city, with Bernat as his puppet so that he in turn can manipulate Bonolva into becoming his puppet in turn.  But Saulescu is not his own master; he is in turn a puppet of greater forces.  He appears to be powerful and wealthy, with wide holdings in the Mezzovian region, but in reality, he is financially insolvent.  Paying the Union of the Snake has completely broken him financially, and put him in the debt of a shadowy patron.  He doesn't know for sure who this patron is, but he is both terrified of him, and anxious to find a way to pay him back and not owe him any favors.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Depeche Mode "Heaven"

Newly released.  Wow, David Gahan is starting to look pretty old.

I was so disappointed in Sounds of the Universe that I'm not sure what to think about the release of a new album now.

Friday, February 01, 2013

M is for Magic

I had earlier indicated my desire to discuss/share my Map for the letter M, and discuss magic under S for Sorcery.  I'm updating my plan, because the map is taking much longer to get done than I hoped, and I don't want this series to languish without updates for that long.  I'll get the map out there soon--I am working on it already--although it might not end up being part of the A TO Z challenge after all.

The mundane, regular world is the natural world. Things that happen here tend to happen for natural reasons. In this regard, the world of the DARK•HERITAGE campaign setting is very much like the mundane, scientifically understood world in which we live in as well. However, the world of the DARK•HERITAGE setting also intersects on occasion with many other worlds, and when energies, spirits, demons, or entities of unknown type cross over through these intersections into the mundane world, it is called supernatural rather than natural. Unlike some fantasy settings, such as those served by the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® game, the supernatural in this setting is rare, poorly understood, and often dangerous to encounter in any form whatsoever. Most people have never witnessed anything supernatural, and some few don't even believe in it. Most others do, but it is similar to how many people in our world are religious or superstitious; it is not because they have direct evidence that is convincing for its existance, it is because they have faith and/or fear in the potential power of the supernatural to disrupt their lives.

Because the supernatural seems to maintain a discrete stance on this setting, it is most often referred to as the Shadow; a force that can only be percieved indirectly, and only rudimentarily understood, and which stays out of the glare of knowledge and enlightenment. Mankind is simply not equipped to know and understand the supernatural, so to him, it will always be merely the Shadow; lurking in the darkness just out of sight, haunting his footsteps, waiting for an unwary moment. As H. P. Lovecraft said, "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."

But occasionally the Shadow does, indeed, intrude into the lives of mankind. Some have learned to control or harness a portion of the Shadow to increase their own power. These sorcerers and witches may wield power which is a trifle to the Old Ones, or the demons and spirits of Beyond, but they are perilous to mortals. Monsters and strange, alien creatures occasionally can breach the Gate and walk through the intersections into our world. The entire, dire location of Leng is one such intersection, and the slow seeping of Shadow out of that area has created the entire cursed and shunned region called the Forbidden Lands. In the distant past, an ancient god or demon named Tarush fell from the sky and was buried where he fell in the nation that became Tarush Noptii. While he is now perhaps dead or dreaming, his influence has spread, infecting some of those in the region with the curse of vampirism. The hellkin and the jann also claim to have ancestors amongst them who come from the Shadow; although that is as much legend as fact. And in some way poorly understood, the curse of lycanthropy infected those who lived in the Shifting Forest anciently. While the curse is now believed to be greatly diluted, and the great and terrible werewolves of old no longer exist, their descendents in the form of the changeling race still bear the mark of the Shadow on them.

While many people remain largely ignorant of the Shadow--even changelings, hellkin and jann give it little thought, for the most part--still it lurks, just out of sight, a secret world which surrounds and infiltrates the more mundane world. While most people in this setting have few encounters with the Shadow, player characters (PCs) and others are exceptional; and as such, are much more likely to encounter the Shadow in the course of their travels. For the most part, this will come in a few categories:

• Monsters of the Shadow may be discrete, and some may doubt their existence, but they are all too real. Vampires really do roam the streets and rule the kindgom of Tarush Noptii. Dog may be torpid and asleep for years at a time, but he really does come out and eat sacrifices on the edge of Porto Liure. Strange creatures like the river gods or the thurses lurk in the wild places of the world. Unscrupulous sorcerers summon creatures through the Gate into the world from Places Beyond. Alien creatures wander from Leng, or other places of natural weakness in the Gate, and find their way to places they do not belong.

• Any character can learn to cast an Incantation or Ritual, assuming he can read and speak the language that the ritual is in. The rules for doing so are found in the Arcana section of the MSRD right here. In theory, I (as GM) should provide you with Incantations that are available; you mostly have to find them in forbidden tomes like The Prophecies of the Daemon-sultan, or The Book of Eibon or somesuch. The rules for creating incantations are for GMs, not for players. Eventually I'll get around to it, but the urgency is not there at present, so look at the examples in the Arcana section of the MSRD to see how they work and what a typical Incantation looks like.

• There are two advanced classes that provide some access to the Shadow--as well as some that are focusd on hunting and rooting out its influence. The Occultist and the Soulknife have very different approaches to dealing with the Shadow; the Occultist advanced class being much closer to the traditional archetype of a sorcerer or witch.

• There are a few feats that can give access to any character to a few minor spells and a familiar--most "world class" sorcerers start here while learning as many Incantations as they can get their hands on, before advancing into levels of the Occultist advanced class.