Behind the Curtain: Designing Gurutama

One of my friends has an obsession with Skype chat groups. Skype lets you add people into a chat so you get a group chat.

I think most people just use that and then recreate the same group everytime they want to talk with those folks.

My group of friends creates chat groups for specific topics and then revives the chat when we want to use it again.

We’ve got a group for discussing our ongoing D&D campaign, a group for RSVPing to D&D, a group for discussing Hackmaster, another for Crusader Kings 2, another for Overwatch, and one for discussing our ongoing collaborative effort to develop Gurutama as a fun campaign setting.

We’ve been typing in the Gurutama one a lot lately, talking about things like Continue reading

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Money Monster Review

Money Monster

I saw Money Monster with my wife the other week and we both enjoyed it quite a bit.

George Clooney plays Lee Gates, the host of a financial show called Mad Money. Julia Roberts plays his director, Patty.

All seems like it’ll be just another normal day for the show until an armed gunman, played by Jack O’Connell, comes onto the show and threatens to shoot Lee if he doesn’t do what he says.

The gunman pulls out a suicide vest and straps Lee into it. The vest is wirelessly connected to a deadman switch that the gunman, named Kyle, holds in his hand. If Kyle lets go of the switch then the bomb goes off.

While arguing and threatening Kyle explains that he invested his entire savings into a stock named IBIS that Lee previously recommended. The stock has now tanked due to some unknown error.

Lee and Patty work to keep everyone in the studio alive until the police can deal with the situation. Eventually they come to
Continue reading

Shalemstead

ShalemsteadShalemstead is a small town of 3,500 people along the eastern bank of the Isdmir River. The town is growing due to its proximity to the Elves of Valor’s Forest. The Elves do not allow any non-fairy creature to stay in the forest, so they must find shelter in the Human settlement nearby or camp in the much less hospitable outdoors. Many of the citizens of Shalemstead have grown to rely on this tourism and their reputation for hospitality is well known throughout Cimmeria.

Shalemstead is self-sufficient and requires a lot of farmers to provide for its own citizens as well as the many tourist and trade caravans that pass through on the way to meet the Valor’s Forest Elves. The necessary professions in town are monopolized by guilds that are controlled by the descendants of the original settlers of Shalemstead. The guilds are named after their founding family member. All the blacksmiths belong to the Boris guild, all the innkeepers belong to the Shord guild, all the wainwrights belong to the Tama guild, etc.

The town’s government is solely composed of the guild leaders. This council of elders meets every three months to make important decisions for Shalemstead. They contribute all the funds for any necessary expenses such as paying guards, maintaining roads, or building bridges. These funds are in turn collected through guild dues, tariffs, and the personal profits that the guild leaders make on their own operations in town.

Many years ago the Shalemstead was attacked by a cabal of vampires. A fire started during the attack and dozens of people were injured or killed. The town’s only cleric at the time, George, also perished in the attack, but the small shrine he had built remained untouched by the flames. As the town has grown a new and larger temple was built. Regardless, many of the townsfolk continue to pay homage to the gods at this small shrine in George’s honor.

Shalemstead has joined the Second Alliance to fight the Xorians. The town cannot contribute much in the way of manpower, but their trade connections with the Elves have proved valuable.

-GoCorral

Phoenix

The original concept for this city was created by one of the players in my group. His internet pseudonym is Middle_Snu, so he should get some of the credit for making Phoenix what it is. I expanded on his ideas to write what you see below.

Phoenix

At the merging of the Curving Stream and Delain Tribute lies Phoenix, a city of some 120,000 inhabitants. Phoenix has always revolved around guilds. Every Phoenixian worth their salt belongs to one of the influential guilds of the city. Guilds are legally allowed to kill unlicensed professionals who fall under their jurisdiction if those individuals refuse a position within the guild. As a result, being blacklisted from a guild generally means a move to a new city or a change in profession. Strangely, even the thieves of Phoenix have an official guild. In actuality, “thieves” keep the streets clean acting as a police force, assuming that a sum of protection money is paid to them. Unlicensed thieves, in the meantime, are tortured for days upon being captured.

Phoenix is a major trade center between Western and Eastern Cimmeria. Many things can be bought in Phoenix, including people. The Slaver’s Guild is a major force, though there isn’t much traffic in newly captured slaves. Phoenix imports a lot of metal from Jord, and grain barges moving upriver for the Dwarves are not an uncommon sight.

Spellcasters have a special place in the guild system. Sorcerers and wizards must register for the Mage’s Guild in order to be able to cast spells legally (costs 50 gp), but clerics, even those of the Titans, may cast freely. Because full members of the Mage’s Guild are required to create a certain number of magical items for sale every year, Phoenix has a booming trade in magical items. Arcane scrolls, potions, and magical items can generally be bought here for as much as 10% below market price. On the other hand, selling magical items without being a member of the Mage’s Guild or a member of the local clergy is a capital crime.

The Mage’s Guild and the rights of clergy were recently upset by the Xorian takeover of Phoenix. All resident clerics of the Olympian pantheon were given a choice, convert to Dragoviniysm or face execution. Most of the clerics chose to die rather than betray their gods. The members of the Mage’s Guild were given a similar choice, but they accepted. The majority of the mage journeymen were turned into Dragovinians to become the new elite of Phoenix.

There was an Adventurer’s Guild in Phoenix prior to the Xorian invasion. The members were simple individuals for the most part who hired themselves out to the highest bidder. Groups of six or more adventurers could be hired for contracts, although prices were steep. There was a ill-defined barrier between the Mercenary’s Guild and the Adventurer’s Guild as to the proper jurisdictions of each. This disagreement had sparked street-fighting in the past, but the difference between the two guilds were set aside when the Xorians approached the city. During the Battle of Phoenix, the Adventurer’s Guild was wiped out. Many of the mercenaries fought on to the last while the guild leaders of Phoenix escaped. Those who surrendered were given the choice of turning to Dragovinians. Many accepted this offer. The two headmasters of the Mercenary’s Guild, Gradorian and Junai, escaped and are rebuilding a military force in Jipangu to combat the Xorians.

Prior to the Xorian invasion the Thief’s Guild oversaw the day to day business of the city and, with the assistance of the clerics, arbitrated any disputes between the guilds. The laws of the city fluctuated based on what guild a person belonged to. Nonmember visitors to the city fell under the Thief’s Guild jurisdiction leading to a high pickpocket rate in Phoenix for people without guild membership. Since the invasion, the militocracy of Phoenix has taken over. King Jevaninada II has made Phoenix into a base to quarter his troops for the coming winter. Blendegad has also moved his throne to the main temple of Phoenix. Blendegad and Jevaninada II personally oversee the activities of the city.

The city’s supplies were already stretched thin during the protracted siege, but now they are forced to provide for thousands of additional Xorian soldiers who were once the city’s enemies. The Xorian supply chains alleviate some of this problem, but those same supply chains are also under attack by the Rebels in Gazeara. Not wanting his own troops to suffer, King Jevaninada II has taken food, clothing, and homes from the people of Xoria and given them to his own soldiers. Thousands of Phoenix citizens are left on the streets with food or shelter. The execution of most of the clerics in Phoenix has only exacerbated this issue. Winter will come soon and many malnourished people will die once the temperature drops.

The Innkeeper’s Guild continues to maintain only one inn in Phoenix, the King’s Rest. Spanning some three blocks, the King’s Rest has everything from a hard floor and gruel to the most luxurious suites with gourmet foot on demand. Prices range from 1 cp-100 gp a night. Stables are an additional 1 silver per night per horse. The Innkeeper’s guildmaster is Bernarda, a Human. The King’s Rest was used to house hundreds of Alliance soldiers before the invasion and now it holds a complementary amount of Xorian troops. Bernarda has taking a liking to Dragoviniysm. She attends services every week and hopes that her actions as the Innkeeper’s guildmaster will earn her immortality as a Dragovinian.

-GoCorral

Jeutontic

Jeutontic

Jeutontic is a city of 120,000 people built on the very tip of Gaia’s Navel. The city is walled on all sides, but has one unbarricaded entry point from the canyon. Twenty inch high steps go all the way down to the bottom of the mile and a half deep gorge. The steps widen as they go down as well, being about five hundred feet across at the canyon floor and twenty feet across at the top. The steps are made from Lumite, a type of granite that has been magically altered to glow white. The steps can be seen in the canyon from as far as ten miles away at Gaia’s First Wrinkle. After that Gaia’s Navel turns and the steps go out of sight.

A great mystery envelops the origin of Gaia’s Navel. No river ever flowed through the ravine and no titanic battle ever took place to scar the landscape. Thus it is assumed that the spot is the actual belly button of Gaia, the Earth Mother. Many clerics have petitioned the gods about where the 125 mile long crevice comes from, but the Olympians remain silent on the issue.

Thousands of people have come to Jeutontic to “walk the navel.” The journey through the canyon takes about eight days by foot and there is a small reprovisioning post on the western end. No steps exist on the west side. Instead there is only a massive cliff face. The ledge is scalable, but the climb is extremely difficult, taking three days for the most experienced to complete. The cliff has been nicknamed Dragon Cliff because it kills more people than dragons.

There are many caves and connections to the Underdark in the walls of Gaia’s Navel. This territorial oddity has led to Jeutontic’s greatest problem, attacks from the Underdark, and the city’s greatest advantage, training and selling the flying animals that settle in the upper caves. Griffons, Hippogriffs, Wyverns, Pegasi, and even a few Nightmares, known collectively as aerials, have made their homes in Gaia’s Navel. The people of Jeutontic have been capturing and domesticating the beasts for hundreds of years. A few of the animals are trained to be exported, but most will not fly farther than two hundred miles from the city. They become sick and die if forced to, almost as if a geas/quest was cast upon them. This training regime was implemented to combat theft. Fewer aerial rustlers will take the beasts if they know they can’t be sold for profit abroad.

Despite the limitations of the aerials they are still used in the expansive import-export activities of the city. Outposts have been set up within the 200 mile radius that the city aerials can fly to. Aerials fly goods to the perimeter where they are transferred to land-based caravans. The aerials fly back to Jeutontic with commodities dropped off by earthbound merchants. Larger and heavier cargoes that are too big for a single aerial to carry are placed on aerial wagons. The aerial wagon is basically a large tarp draped between two or more animals. With this invention most of the goods that are traded with Jeutontic can be transported between the city and the outposts quickly.

Of course a few cargoes weigh too much to be carried even by the largest aerial wagon of six griffons. For these huge loads the people of Jeutontic have elephants. Elephants were originally imported from India as a status symbol for the upper class of Jeutontic. Eventually, one intelligent merchant, Sharlada, realized he could use the gigantic beasts to move his goods from his warehouses in the city to his shops. The practice eventually spread to other businessmen until elephants became the norm for transport of goods and people throughout the entire city. Sharlada opened his own elephant ranch in Jeutontic, so that the useful animals do not need to be imported from India. Sharlada’s descendants still own and administrate the ranch which proudly bears his name upon the entrance.

All these creatures being used for transportation and labor puts the people of Jeutontic in a mood for animals. Thus exotic pets of all kinds are popular with the people of Jeutontic. Pseudodragons, cockatrices, shocker lizards, and other slightly dangerous pets can all be found for sale in the marketplace. Jeutontic is the best place to go if a magician wants an exceptional familiar. The most prized exotic pet in Jeutontic is called the Kanroji. It is a magic type of fox that has nine different types of breath weapons, fire, cold, acid, sonic, electricity, force, sleep, positive energy, and negative energy. Kanroji are known to grow very large in the wild, but once placed in a mage’s servitude they will stay the same size until their master’s death.

With the numerous pets, aerials, elephants, and people running around Jeutontic, waste disposal becomes a serious problem. The citizens of Jeutontic have come up with a rather ingenious solution, fertilizer. The city’s daily tons of excrement are exported to other parts of the Xorian Kingdom or used in the fields of Jeutontic to grow food to feed the inhabitants of the city to make more fertilizer. A wonderful circle of life.

Jeutontic is the biggest trading stop between Cimmeria and Persia. All commodities that travel by land have to pass through the city or risk the wild plains where bandits and monsters live. Xoria has levied a five percent tax on all goods that pass through Jeutontic except wheat and hay. Some smugglers try to sneak valuable goods through the gates by concealing them in hay, but all wagons are checked by the guards of the city. The city watchmen always seem to know when a merchant tries to smuggle something in. Magic is suspected, but no one dares confirm this theory.

Jeutontic is one of the most critical cities for the Xorian Kingdom and the one most at risk. It is the kingdom’s main source of income because of the numerous caravans that pass through it, but it is also the first city Persia would attack if the Great King decided to invade. In the unlikely event that a united Cimmeria successfully invaded the interior of Xoria, Jeutontic has been designated as a fallback point. Finally, Jeutontic is the logical expansion point for the creatures of the Underdark due to the tunnels of Gaia’s Navel. The city suffers near constant attacks from Drow, Svirfneblin, Duergar, Dromites, Mindflayers, and the other denizens of the deep. Jeutontic’s citizens have developed effective defenses against all these enemies.

For defense against the massive armies of Persia, Jeutontic relies on Xorian battle mages. Persian wizards are obviously not from Cimmeria where magic thrives and are thus inferior to those from Xoria. The Jeutontic division of the Xorian army has also perfected an aerial cavalry unit to be deployed in the case of an attack from Persia. This same cavalry battalion would be used against the city-states of Cimmeria if they invaded, harassing interlopers from up to two hundred miles away from the city walls.

The frequent attacks originating from beneath the city are stopped by liberally causing cave-ins. When the underdwellers bring tunneling animals the Xorian army has prepared a special type of freezing water to pour into the caverns beneath the city. The liquid is far colder than any natural water and it releases a noxious, unbreathable gas. The freezing water has killed many of those who live below the city.

Should an invading army ever breach the city walls there is an inner keep for the army to fall back to. The keep does not have enough space or resources to support the large population of Jeutontic. The civilians of the city are taught this from a young age and that if a conquering force should enter the city proper they are to arm themselves and fight with all their strength. Thus the potential risk of an armed civilian population revolting is turned into a militia that still serves the crown. The keep itself is defended with large ballistae, stone-throwers, and a contingent of battle mages.

Jeutontic, led by Duke Prusu, joined with the Alliance in the First Alliance War against Xoria. Upon losing, Prusu was captured and executed. The city was placed under the rule of the vampiric Rage, Havoc. Havoc vampirized many people within the city and their used their might to subjugate the mortals of Jeutontic. The vampires undertook many raids into the Underdark, destroying many of the previously aggresive communities that lived beneath Jeutontic. Slaves were taken on these raids and even forty years later it is not uncommon for a Xorian family to have an Underdark slave.

After King Jevaninada II came to power his first act was to end the vampiric occupation of Jeutontic. He and Blendegad singlehandedly eliminated most of the vampires from the city. The city’s jubilant cries soon turned to sounds of anguish as the old vampires were replaced with new Dragovinians. Many citizens tried to move to Persia, but Blendegad devoured all who fled the city. The people of Jeutontic bowed their heads and offered their necks to the new vampires while simultaneously plotting rebellion. The rebels’ efforts haven’t produced any tangible results yet and the introduction of Dragovinian beasts to ceaselessly watch the streets and alleys of the city hasn’t helped matters.

-GoCorral

Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 24

Previous: Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 23

More maneuvering in this post by the merchants attempting to circumvent the Great Blockade set up by the Merfolk. And King Hrotomak expands his Empire. Hrotomak and the aftermath of his kingdom were never fully resolved in our Dawn of Worlds game. That resolution will come in future campaigns we play in Gurutama!

Another important part of this update is the civilization of the Hobgoblins. Up until now they were essentially bogeyman in the forest. By the end of this post they have a city and are members of the expanding Hykman League.

724 NA: Construction on Prestounasi was completed. At the end of the Freedom Road the Hykmans raised the resplendent city of Prestounasi and built a fleet to protect her. Along the new trade route they also built The Bastion at the eastern side of the Homestone Bridge.

725 NA: The redirection of Dwarven trade into the heart of the Hykman league brought even more fabulous wealth to Hykma and the Revered Administration. The city continued to grow in size, splendor, and wealth.

The Rana of Pulchrito fell in love with the thriving shanty communities that continued to grow along the western river, between Pulchrito and Hykma. Wealth from Hykma enriched the Shanties, but the poor could only see the widening gap between themselves and the rich. All the new advances meant nothing if those at the top continued to discriminate against the poor.

726 NA: Enamored with the heroic image of his ruby adamantine plate, King Hrotomak planned another invasion within the ruins of the Najar Empire. He formed up a new army and set off for Alixria. The city and her twin yielded quickly. King Hrotomak toured his Empire on a victory parade and the gems on his armor shimmered like rolling lava.

727 NA: The Hobgoblins in the north allied with Giants and Trolls. Another army formed. Communicating across the Freedom Road through the mystic power of their shamans, the Northern and Southern Hobgoblins planned an invasion of the only place unprotected by the Elves’ magical defenses in the Lower Maw, the city of Prestounasi. The armies formed up and attacked. The Elves hurriedly placed a few defenses around the city before the hordes arrived. Traps flared up destroying some of the Hobgoblin forces, but the rest got through and raided the city. The people fled and the Hobgoblins set up camp on the ruins of the city.

728 NA:The Frugal Profiteers, gleeful that the Hykman League’s route was interrupted, finished construction on their own land route around the Blockade. Roads were built to connect the cities of the west, Tylaniria, Syluk, and Cynelle. With a bit of prodding from other secret Profiteer members, the Dwarves built a port to receive the ships coming out of Tylaniria. The port was named Bronze Port.

The Elves offered their assistance to a Hykman expedition to reclaim Prestounasi. The response of the Hykman League was swift. The League raised a great host among her cities: soldiers were sent from Crolodan, The Bastion, and Hykma to deal with the troublesome Hobgoblins. The force was impressive – an army gilded in gold with a magnificent caravan behind it. When they arrived in the ruins of Prestounasi and confronted the Hobgoblin tribes, the Princes of Hykma named themselves gods. They were convincing, their show of wealth and power was well beyond anything the Hobgoblins, Trolls, and Giants had ever imagined.

After a little skirmishing, the Hobgoblins were subdued by what appeared to them to be divine beings. Not only was Hkyman technology superior, but the temptations of Hykma were overwhelming – succulent meats that seemed to melt in the mouth, fine wines and beer from around the world, honey, spices, and of course gold. Proper swords, shields, and spears. And greatest of all… A home. Coaxed from the city, the Hobgoblin tribes and their allies were taken to the mountainside below the ruins of Nanatok. On that site the skilled masons of the Hykman League built a new city and gifted it to the Hobgoblins for oaths of fealty, loyalty, and fervent fanaticism to the revered gods of the Administration and the Hykman League.

-GoCorral

Next: Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 25

Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 23

Previous: Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 22

Most surprising part of this update is that I didn’t need to edit it much! The focus of this update is how people begin to try to circumvent the Great Blockade. Engrenildo goes eat. The Profiteers build a new port that bypasses the mouth of the Maw. The Hykmans do the same thing in the Lower Maw. And a little bit of politicking in the Upper Maw signals the return of the Black Prince!

712 NA: The Maw was shocked by the new tariff imposed by the Merfolk. Reasonable as the tax was, people will always balk at a tax that was never present before. Many merchants accepted the tax and continued to trade with the Dwarves. A few others, with help from private investors or governments, refused. Plans were enacted to bypass the blockade. One particular man named Engrenildo had crazy dreams filling his head of the world being round. Few believed his ridiculous story, but enough did that he outfitted a small flotilla of ships.

The Metal Dwarves accepted the blockade. They would survive with the reduced amount of trade. However, they could not accept taxes on supplies and passengers sent to Proaxium. A Dwarven transport ship filled with supplies, books, and scholars for Proaxium, met with a Mersian captain at the blockade and explained the Dwarven situation. If taxes were lifted solely on ships traveling to Proaxium with supplies for the island, then all is well and good. If they were not, then the Dwarves would appeal to the Human cities for help, the cities which were already pissed off about the blockade and just needed an excuse to end it.

713 NA: The Merfolk refused the Metal Dwarf delegation. The blockade would only be lifted if Proaxium was given over to the Merfolk people. The Metal Dwarves paid the tariff and passed into the Maw. The Dwarves sent boats out to the Sisters, Balkus, and the Hykman League asking for assistance in breaking the blockade. The pleas for assistance were denied. No Human city was foolish enough to risk naval war with the Merfolk.

Engrenildo secured funding for his expedition. He left in the middle of summer.

The Frugal Profiteers attempted to circumvent the blockade by organizing the Humans to the west of the Red Peaks. A new port city was built on the western coast, Tylaniria. Fearing a Grez attack, the Profiteers enticed many different clerics to set up temples in the city. An army of priests was formed should the Grez move against the city. The Profiteers planned to build a road across the Red Peaks, but the warfare between Syluk and Cynelle prevented construction.

The Hykman League decided to circumvent the blockade by utilizing the already existing Freedom Road. With Human funding, the Elves began construction on a Western Freedom Road.

714 NA: King Hrotomak of the Syluki Dwarves finally marshaled enough strength to siege Cynelle. He marched on the city with his forces, but received an unexpected welcome. We have enough, and more!” the Princes of Cynelle told the conquerors and showed them the splendors of the world. Surprised, but pleased, King Hrotomak accepted the surrender. None knew why Cynelle gave up so easily save for members of the Brotherhood of the Living Immolation.

715 NA: King Hrotomak forced Tylaniria to swear fealty to Syluk as well. He declared himself King of the Western Red Peaks. The Princes of Cynelle raised Syluki captains up into magnificent wealth and they showered King Hrotomak with resplendent gifts. Notable amongst these was the gift of Hrah-Sulesh, whose blood was that of the Holy City of Najar, who gave to King Hrotomak a suit of dark adamantine plate inlaid with glistening rubies that shown like a thousand, fiery eyes – terrifying, radiant, and volcanic…

716 NA: The Elves completed the Western Freedom Road in record time with Human funds and architectural ingenuity. Magical traps were placed upon it to keep the Hobgoblins out just as on the Eastern Freedom Road.

717 NA: The Elves cleared a site for the new League city on the edge of the Lower Maw. The Elves named the city Prestounasi and the Hykmans assisted with its construction. The Hykmans began construction on a new city at the eastern edge of the Homestone Bridge as well.

718 NA: The Hobgoblins were infuriated that their precious woods were cut in half. The Southern Hobgoblins could not reach their brethren in the mountains, the Northern Hobgoblins. They attempted to breach both Freedom Roads and Crodolan, but the magical traps turned them back. The Hobgoblin shamans sat and thought. An answer would come in time.

-GoCorral

Next: Gurutama Timeline Revising Part 24