Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Importance of Purpose

A rather philosophical headline, this article will bridge the deep waters separating the gaming hobby from reality - but in truth they are already connected more than what could be assumed at first glance. An observation perhaps even more true for roleplaying games in particular.

Apart from starting a thread in the debatable area concerning roleplaying games, the players and the many observations which can be made of these elements, the purpose of this piece of text is also to promote the reasons behind this activity in the first place. But before I launch myself into a meta-discussion concerning the purpose of discussing the importance of purpose - let's take a look at the practical issue.

The Issue

Both real life and the life of the imaginary characters created in a roleplaying scenario are filled with decision-making. What then fuels the decisions we make? In real life this might not always be clear, as the choice of bread at the supermarket might seem quite different from the choice of which career to pursue or how to engage in a relationship. In roleplaying the idea is generally to remove the day-to-day decisions and focus on the life-changing perilous choices connected with death-defying bravery or dilemmas concerning who to save and who to let die. It is decision-making brought to its extreme - but perhaps slightly defused by sitting around a table with lots of dice, pens and paper.

What then separates a good roleplayer from one not so good? I'm going to put myself in the line of fire by presenting a revolutionary opinion (or maybe not) that it is the ability to "stay in character" which defines a good roleplayer. To stay in character is the concept of acting and making decisions from the character's point of view, ignoring real life surroundings and information - even if such is of a beneficial nature to the character. But how is this achieved? The answer is: through understanding of purpose.

The Solution

Finally you say - the bugger got to the point of this damn article. Yes indeed, but there are a few more revelations waiting to be done so unless your life present an obvious better choice for how to spend your time you might concider reading the rest as well.

Purpose guides us, consiously or unconsiously, through our decision making - the purpose meaning what we ultimately aim to achieve. In the grocery store a great care for the environment and welfare of our planet will entice us to choose organic products. But if our minds at the same time is focused on the prospect of breaking even at the end of the month, money might turn out to be the determining factor in what we actually buy. A family to provide for might cause us to decline higher education, while the ambition for social climbing might cause us to seek it.

In roleplaying, thus, it becomes critical to grasp what purpose or purposes drives the character one is currently playing. One must form an image of the character, perhaps by asking a few questions, in order to grasp this. A very powerful and fast method for achiving this is through the use of personas - or archetypes as they are called in the Centuria rules. The idea is that characters can be divided into major roles based on their main purpose(s). More depth can then be added by delving into the minor or short term purposes which a character seeks.

Final revelations

As more revelations where promised I aim to deliver. Personas is an excellent way to find a way to portray a character and understand its driving forces in the situations he or she encounters. But it need not stop there. Back in the real world, personas is a concept used by, for instance, marketing firms to be able to understand their customers. It can also be used to better understand yourself and the people around you. And, reconnecting roleplaying with real life, it allows you to practice doing just that. Even through most roleplaying games assume you play someone else and not yourself it is an opportunity to ask questions - and perhaps find answers.

The Necromancer's Legacy - part 39

Kael, Azela and Geb is suddently ordered to return to the capital immediately. Hastily they arrange for their merchandise to be stored in a warehouse until they return. They then travel day and night on their way back to Zhend.

Meanwhile, a group of undead is marching south through the desert of Ten Makao. Among them is Zantana, until recently a quite successful courtesan and spy now finding death to be far more complicated than she had imagined. The group is led by Mingone who, as they at last reach the Zhend capital, singles out Zantana and brings her with him to his palace. Kael, Azela and Geb have already arrived and Mingone explains that the four will now be working together and that Zantana has further knowledge about the happenings in the human lands. He leaves them to be acquainted as he must attend to other business.
Zantana tries to strike up a conversation, but between the century-old Azela and Kael and Geb - who was a social misfit from the day he was born - she finds few emotions with which to connect. Awkward silence follows and as they try to pass the time Mingone returns to inform them the Emperor himself wants to see them immediately.

Emperor Zazao Tanung recieves them in his private chambers rather than the royal palace. He asks Geb at what he knows about a black orb - recovered from the underground complex he was examining before his turning to the undead. Geb denies any knowledge and through the Emperor doubts the truthfulness in his statement the four of them are nevertheless tasked with examining the orb to reveal its secrets. The four undead thanks the Emperor for his trust in the matter and return to Mingone's palace.
Once back, Mingone gives them some further information by revealing the orb is but one of Three and that their task will now include the mission of locating the other two - surely held somewhere within the Empire. The orbs are the most important pieces in a collection of artifacts known as the Necromancer's Legacy - and the Emperor wishes to have them assembled.

Determined to find out more about the orb before they return to human lands Geb orders one of their undead minions to grasp the orb bare-handed. The undead immediately starts acting strangely, apparently gaining a mind of its own. They are forced to reclaim the orb by force and Geb decides that it is best that he himself conducts the test. Grasping the orb he can hear distant voices - voices which gain in strength the more relaxed and less focused Geb is. However, when he focuses he finds himself in a dark place where the shapes and faces of dead people suddenly emerge like mist.

Consulting the books in their library they find little information to help them with the orb and Geb and Zantana join forces and heads for the city administratum to look for more clues there. Kael and Azela stays behind to plan their mission and consult maps of the Empire as to find possible locations of the other orbs. Azela finds herself unable to resist the curiosity awoken by the orb but failing to learn anything new she is discovered by Kael who accuses her of a lack of discipline.

Geb and Zantana has a run-in with the undead bureaucracy, but manage to get allowance for searching the archives of known artifacts. Zantana, frustrated that her former charms seems to count for nothing in this undead existence, steals a key from an administrator and proceeds to sneak into the office of the head administrator. She finds little of interest but Geb has more luck and manage to find  several books which he believes can aid them in their quest. While Geb discovers the administrators are not allowing him to leave with the books Zantana engages in conversation with another visitor who is more than willing to lend her aid - for a price. Zantana agrees and they part after the man tells her he will keep in contact.

As Zantana returns Kael and Azela have decided they must return to the human lands if they do not want to abandon their current disguise and assets and arrange for a new one. But planning the journey back is hard on Zantana who finds the experience of being undead to have a taxing impact on her sanity. Her displays of emotions brings back memories to Kael and Azela who start to warm up a bit by remembering a time when they themselves where alive and not in service of the undead emperor. In the middle of it all, Geb returns frustrated and empty handed and the four realize they must seriously consider how they intend to continue with their mission.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Necromancer's Legacy - part 38

Searching the wilderness for the missing key stone does not appeal to Charon, Horacio or Thriatos - so they send Mergus instead and go to sleep. The night is cut short as their servant returns after a few hours, informing them he has found the camp they are looking for. As it is located on high ground with good view of the surrounding lands they decide to go there immediately to use the cover of darkness to their advantage.

While experts in the fields of raising the dead and inflicting pain and injury on their enemies, moving silently - especially when they cannot see where they put their feet - is not the forte of the three mages. Still, it is night and hopefully a few small stones sent down a slope will not attract much attention as long as they keep swearing and cursing to a minimum. They all follow the road for the first path, but then they reach a steep slope filled with lose rocks and stones which they must climb. Finding this a bit too challenging they send Mergus back to camp to get some rope. He return after half an hour and they all manage to reach the top of the slope with no incidents. A small path winds itself along the narrow space between a cliff wall and the steep drop to the road below them. They start to follow it.

Mergus manages to find a tripwire and disarm it before it can cause any harm - but without warning harm is upon them as arrows starts to fly, fortunately deflected by their magical defenses. As the attackers are positioned above the path, Mergus climbs it to engage them. This places Charon in front when a steel-clad warrior appears and charges him with a two-handed sword. Luckily, Jamal is there to interfere and Charon can focus on his spellcasting without having to fear a sword blow to the head. A magical flame erupts from the top of the cliff and Charon, Horacio and Thriatos throw themselves against the ground and manage to evade it. Victor and Jamal are however set on fire by the flames - but this is more an inconvenience than a lethal threat for the time being. Thriatos responds with a fire spell of his own but are then attacked from behind and injured by a stealthy assassin with a dagger. Horacio comes to his aid with a wind spell which sends the assailant screaming of the cliff. The process is repeated against the attackers above and soon only the armored warrior remains as his only fighting companion is incapacitated by Horacio using a holding spell.

The warrior surrender so determining they only need one prisoner the mages execute the man held by Horacio's spell. Apparently not intimidated by this, the large man introduces himself as Goran and, as his employer died during the fight, see no reason to obstruct them further. He instead leads them back to the camp belonging to him and his former companions. There he produces the key stone they had stolen from Thriatos and returns it. Unfortunately, he does not know much about mission for which he was previously hired but offer to serve the mages instead as his contract is now void. They agree to this after a short debate - but seing Goran is in no good position to haggle they cut the price rather drastically. They then loot the camp for any valuables before returning back to their own beds. Goran sleeps outside with the three undead guarding the mages and keeping an eye on the new recruit.

The following day starts a bit later than usual, but with the clear goal of finding the third key stone. They leave Victor to guard the camp and go seeking the aid of the goblins who tell them of a cave which might have what they seek. They are proven right as the key stone is found on a pedestal within the cave. Expecting nothing to be easy they start searching the room for traps and Charon finds a hidden trapdoor in the roof. As it appears harmless and no other traps have been found they take the key stone and are relieved when this has no apparent effect. They cannot however leave the trapdoor alone so decide to investigate it by sending forth Jamal. The room above is filled with mummies, but Thriatos and Horacio employs their pyromancy skill to return them to ash. Unfortunately, most other things in the room are set ablaze as well so not much remains for them to loot. But they do find a door and decide to see where it goes.

Following a path from the door they discover a new tomb. The sarcophagus housed within is surrounded by large stone statues which they all find suspiscious. Their caution is wise as the statues comes alive as they enter the room. They retreat rather than face battle and are eventually forced to abandon the idea of exploring the path as the disgruntled guardians pound at the walls and thus cause the roof to start collapsing.

Back in the cave where they found the third key stone the mages ask themselves what the stones are actually for. They realize they probably open a seal of some sort, but they know of no place where such a seal could exist. Thriatos summons his imp to speak with the goblins again and they learn that the goblins keep a temple in their underground complex where they worship some kind of creature with sacrifices and prayers. They are given permission to enter the temple, but appart from wall decorations suggesting it is some kind of large lizard creature they find no further clues. However, exploring a nearby cave they stumble upon an old carved staircase leading downwards. As they reach the base they find themselves in a very large cave - the ground covered with clawed tracks and the marks of a massive body dragged along the ground...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Necromancer's Legacy - part 37

As Azela, Kael and Geb arrive at the western side of the mountain they find the remains of the camp used by Geb and his former associates. Tracks point to two groups having visited the site, but with Azela and Kael quite out of touch with life as mortals they decide to brush up on their social skills rather than pursuing unknown people. The three undead leave their entourage in the caves behind them and heads towards the closest town - Javibara.

Marsching for two days and night they reach Javibara and manage to gain entrance into the city. As Azela doesn't speak the language they decide to rent a room for a week to learn and study local customs. As the situation in the province appears tense and outlanders are seen with great mistrust it seems like a good decision. As Azela starts to learn to speak cira they discover the town is fairly calm and quiet, despite many of its soldiers having travelled east to join with the army rebelling against the Empire.

To avoid attracting too much attention the group decide to pose as merchants seeking to find wares. As Javibara mostly imports from the rest of the province they find weapons to be the only viable alternative as the city produce more than enough to cover its own needs and war makes setting up such business seem more believable. While Geb is left to set up a contact network Kael and Azela head back to Zhend to fetch their treasury. Two weeks later they seal a favorable deal with the local commander of the garrison, Daccarim, and equipping themselves with mounts, wagons and an escort of mercenaries they head north towards the city of Lao-Din. The journey is uneventful but Kael learns from the soldiers that the pantorian army has been victorious and the threat from the Empire is neutralized - at least for the time being.

Lao-Din proves to be a city rich in contrasts, apparently suffering more from internal conflicts than the ongoing rebellion. To avoid getting dragged into the city's politics they rent a room only for the night and plan to leave on the following morning. They learn the trouble in the city is due to an ongoing feud between the city's lord, pasha Jaccarin, and the grandmaster of the local wizard house, Kanadir. The mages have apparently been confined to their own estate and shut out from the rest of the city.

Before they leave they sell their mounts as they'll be going by river boat and prefer a light load. They reach the next major city, Sunn, in three days and make arrangements to stay for another two. Introducing themselves as merchants from Sarinia they receive little attention from the quite preoccupied citizens. As this suits them just fine they settle in and even work a bit on their social skills - with mixed results as the undead soon find themselves in the gutter after a meal and drink due to their lack of working bodily functions.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Necromancer's Legacy - part 36

After the devastation of the mages' camp Charon and Horacio decides to the corpses littering the ground to good use. They decide to create a greater undead using the assassin's soul which Charon has kept bound to a dagger for some time. This will however require their full attention, so after rescuing a few of their belongings from the loot collected by the goblins they go to sleep, leaving their existing undead servants to guard the camp.

The following day Charon and Horacio start working on their Creation and while initially quite interested Thriatos soon becomes bored and retreat to study the texts he gathered at archmage Karachen's place back in Pantoria. The hours pass and soon a new undead has risen and joined the group. He recalls his name as Mergus, but this undead existence is taxing on his mind and he requires some time to cope with the situation, which Charon and Horacio gives him. His sole orders are to guard the camp with Victor and Jamal once night falls.

As a new dawn comes they decide to return to the mission at hand. During the discussion as to exactly how they indend to do this, Thriatos imp lets slip that it, through some powerful friends, could be of service. The mages conclude it is a good idea and the imp start instructing Thriatos in how to cast the summoning spell required. Charon and Horacio use the undead to clear away the corpses, which have started to smell, and prepare themselves for the show. They must however wait another day as it is getting dark and Thriatos does not want to perform the ritual at night. The imp is banished back to the Abyss to be able to convey Thriatos' wishes before the summoning.

As they do not know quite what to expect the mages gather closely within a pentagram ward set up by Thriatos. The spell summons a djinn and Thriatos attempts to start a friendly conversation, but the creature is difficult to read. It offers to scry for the two key stones the mages believe that they need - one stolen and one yet to be found - and to deliver the results as a message on a rocky wall close to their camp. In return the demon demands 36 hours in the Mortal Realm and for it to be summoned close to a city, to which the mages agree. Awkwardly the mages then realize they have no means by which to banish a demon of this Power and the demon must thus wait for Thriatos' summoning to end before it can return to the Abyss. It uses magic to travel quickly from the site as the desert hold little of value to it. The mages then tries to pass time as they wait for the demon's response through studies and sharing a few spells.

As dusk begins to arrive a message, written in what appears to be blood, becomes visible on the mountain side. It puzzles them as one key stone is supposed to be in a nearby cave, which they had anticipated, but the other is in a camp not far from theirs. Who are in that camp and why have they claimed one of the key stones?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Big update!

A big update of the Core Rule Book has just been uploaded, adding descriptions for those items in the gear chapter lacking such (weapons, armors, shields and drugs). Check it out at the downloads page!