Snippets from Calteir: the Rutter of the Pirate Sea

The Rutter of the Pirate Sea is a series of maps and notes by an unknown Morensian pilot from approximately 650 SR. The maps and notes are quite accurate, describing many places to the west of Morensia, and appear to describe locations as far away as Eastern Orsamos.

A few sample passages from the Rutter:

Do not accept coins from merchants of Erekios. Their coins are trustworthy, but they are not. Ask an Erekian man for 1000 coins and he will give you 996.

The Wine Festival of the Kina states is very enjoyable. Bring a good wooden mug. Pottery will not last more than five breaths. Do not venture into the festival with anyone you do not want to see naked.

Day 45. We come to a broad bay, flanked by flaming lights. This is the port for the City of the Incense-Eaters. The whole town is full of fragrant smoke. Many sailors wanted to linger here.

The people here use lion teeth for currency. Only great heroes can afford to buy anything of value. After haggling unsuccessfully, the sailors wanted to move on.

Here, 106 days into my journey, I met a madman who spoke flawless Morensian. He greeted me with a friendly hello, but could not tell me his name nor his history. He was not a slave, nor a pilgrim, nor did he seem especially poor. I could not determine what brought him here.

Had a pleasant chat with the pirates who had beset us. They discussed the Cult of the White Sun and how it had driven them to piracy. We exchanged a few secrets.

Fisherfolk here subsist on floating wood, fish spines and gravel. One of the locals invited us to a feast of bricks and dirty rags. The constellations were warped and unfamiliar. We left in great haste.

Day 240: This morning, a single feather was borne to us on the wind. About noon, another feather arrived. An hour ago, the same thing happened again. Yet there are no birds here.

To many Morensians, the “Pirate Sea” includes the whole Ocean as far as the Middle Sea. This is true of the Rutter, as well; this is why the book covers places as far away as Eastern Orsamos.

The notes are written in fairly hard-to-read Morensian Script. Some copies of the book try to faithfully reproduce the bad handwriting; others try to interpret it into understandable Morensian. There are at least a few different variants, depending on who is doing the interpreting. In fact, at least one modern scholar is trying to compile a Collected Commentaries and Treatises on the Rutter of the Pirate Sea.

Several scholars also purport to own the original Rutter. The Monastery of Mother Ocean of Peshinath in Gyrthbae has perhaps the strongest claim to having the original, with a detailed record of provenance. The notes on whose hands the Rutter has passed through is almost as interesting as the Rutter itself: the monastery’s copy has been owned by a Rhodian merchant who lost it in a bet with a pirate-queen of Yolatra, who in turn lost it shortly before becoming Queen of the Samorol region of Morensia.

Categories: Books, Sailing

Method Con 2

This past weekend was Method Con 2, this year’s MnStf fall relaxacon. As usual, it was a pleasant weekend of conversation, gaming, food and generally hanging out with a bunch of cool people.

Games I played

As a MnStf relaxacon, gaming is a major focus of Method Con. There’s a dedicated gaming room where people start gaming early and keep gaming late. Most nights, the gamers are the last people to go to sleep. And I bet that the gamers are the last people hanging out at the con, right now. I played quite a few games this weekend:

Our posters from Let's Build a World at Method Con 2

Let’s Build a World: In the same mode as I’ve done several times now, this was collaborative worldbuilding in the span of 75 minutes. We started with a few elements of atmosphere: Methane, Oxygen, permafog… oh, and perma-frog, too. It is permanently raining amphibians on this world. The mood was also set as ‘skeptical’. A common sentiment on this world is “That is awesomely wrong“.

I was again fascinated by the tendency towards goofiness here. The geology (seen above) was pretty straight: a nickel-iron core, a very old planet, the mountains were ground down by glaciers, the mountains were not crushed by frogs, etc. Yet there was, overall, a lot of gonzo detail, such as constant background music, the people being furry and yellow, and the volcanoes erupting green lava in time with the music. I continue to be interested in how this game tends towards gonzo.

Star Traders: We managed to get together a game of this, which was nice — we haven’t had enough lately, due to the main players being in different cities. The game was full of wild deals, hilarious laughter and memorable moments. I had to write one down:

Matt picked up a cargo, causing a race with Emily. Matt put an envoy on himself, then paid me to use a Piracy card on Emily as a Lose a Card effect (since I was playing the Pirate). Emily asked, “Does anyone have an Avoid Calamity card?” Matt and I both raised our hands and said, “I do!” Thorin sold Emily an Avoid Calamity card, which she then used. Matt was going to pay me to use a You Are Lost card on Emily, until Emily paid me to use an Avoid Calamity card for her, which I then didn’t do because Matt didn’t pay me to use the You Are Lost card in the first (second?) place.

Star Traders generates this kind of convoluted silliness quite naturally. That’s the main reason a lot of my friends like to play it. We discover new bizarre situations and make new tangled deals every time we play. It has a lot of the wonderful narrative possibility of tabletop RPGs. In many ways, in fact, it is an RPG.

The game is also part of an interesting group of games: those that include the entire universe as a subset of themselves. It is possible to make deals for anything in Star Traders: “Let me use your station and I’ll go get you some potato chips”, for example. This is not an especially strong inclusion of the entire universe, unlike other games, but it’s still in there.

Another thing I’ve noticed about Star Traders: the endgame is largely about who can outlast everyone else’s Calamity cards. And when we play it as inadvisably late as we did Friday night, it’s also about who can stay coherent the best with the least sleep. In two different ways, then, it’s a game of endurance as much as anything else.

Moneyduck: We had a few rounds of this Saturday night. This is another goofiness engine. Tons of hilarious NSFW comedy came out of this.

Blockhead: The last game Saturday night. This is about balancing things on top of other things, in the same general class as Jenga or Pick-Up Sticks. So, not a lot of intellectual stimulation, but a good game for playing late at night.

This is another example of games that contain the entire universe as a subset of themselves, in that you can use “any object on the table” to help set up the structure. We used a Kit-Kat wrapper and parts of a Sudoku-like puzzle as Blockhead pieces.

Timeline: I’ve reviewed this before. We played the Inventions version and again got into disagreements with the game about when a given thing was invented. Would you, for example, say that the water clock is more ancient than the sundial? The game does. Not sure I agree there — surely, the sundial is as old as the first time someone stuck a stick in the dirt and used that to tell what time of day it was. Still, the game was enjoyable and a good way to pass 20 minutes or so.

PDQ:A fast-playing word game that I hadn’t played before. Three cards are revealed; each has a letter of the alphabet on it. Everyone seated at the table tries to come up with a word that uses all three letters, in order. Longest word wins ties. It was pretty fun and got us saying some very weird words quite loudly.

Roll Through the Ages: This is, as I’ve described it before, a combination of Yahtzee and Civilization. It’s a fun little game that gets the flavor of a historical simulation while being pretty fast. It has a very well-designed record sheet that includes nearly all the rules, and it plays quite well solo. Our game ended up being very close: the victory point totals were 21, 20 & 15. (An interesting aside: the scores vary widely depending on the number of players in the game. In my experience, the total points scored equal ~60 points; and if you’re playing solo and you don’t get more than 50 points, you haven’t ‘won’.)

Seasons: I only played a little bit of this before I had to run off to dinner. It gets compared to Magic: the Gathering, and with good reason; it’s very much about collecting magical power and trying to cast spells. But the goal is victory points, not killing your opponent, and there are some interesting effects related to advancing the turn (year & season) track. It was pretty confusing, due to not having enough time to really learn the rules and due to some poor editing, but I’d definitely like to play it again when I get a chance.

We also played a game of my own devising that I still haven’t worked up the gumption to describe fully online. I will say, though, that it is the game that pushed Blade & Crown’s product number up to 3002.

Other things

JOFCon: This convention got announced at Method Con’s closing ceremonies. It promises to be both stimulating and relaxing: it’ll still be a relaxacon, but there will be a track of programming about running conventions that I think will be extremely important. I’m hoping to help arrange a training for JOFCon on how to recognize and reduce harassment at cons.

Food: There was a bunch of great food, including catered Indian food Saturday night, good Chinese food Sunday night and generally tasty stuff the rest of the time.

Conversations: As always, a major part of a con is just the conversations we have with friends and other fans. Lots of personal stuff here, nothing worth saying on this blog. But all well worth saying.

Snippets from Calteir: The Arothaem Road

A pilgrim's map of the Arothaem Road

A pilgrim’s map of the Arothaem Road

The Arothaem (Old Morensian ‘Road of Aros’) Road is located in the Kreshar region of Morensia. It runs from Aropash, at its southern terminus, to Chaegrae at its north.

The Arothaem is the only Rhodian road in Morensia. As such, it is quite good and mostly paved with stones, except where people have taken the stones to use in their buildings.

Popular history has it that Aros built the road in one night, when a surly mountain god challenged him to a foot race. Rather than ruin his new boots (freshly made from troll-hide) on the uneven ground, he paved his path and then proceeded to beat the mountain god easily.

Although both Chaegrae and Aropash have good stone bridges, the Road strictly speaking doesn’t extend to those bridges, so the Road itself only crosses water once: at the ford between Lomengab and Aron. The political atmosphere at the ford is usually rather tense, lying as it does between the demesnes of Earl Loroud and Count Dobros. Numerous bearers work there, carrying people and cargo back and forth. Both Bailiff Lothtol of Lomengab and Baroness Sermae of Aron agree that bearers should not threaten passengers with ‘loss’ or ‘tripping’ mid-stream, but it still occurs pretty frequently. Tolls are higher when going to the west, but neither side is exactly cheap.

As with many roads in Morensia, the road is plagued by bandits, many of them holdovers from the Interregnum. Perhaps the most famous is Uraen the Red.

Category:Roads

Snippets from Calteir: The Veil

The Veil, on a clear day, showing her right eye
The Veil is the Morensian name for the main moon of Calteir. It is the most prominent astronomical feature of Calteir, besides perhaps the Sun and Calteir itself.

The Veil is usually pure white. Keen eyes can sometimes detect whorls and trails in the whiteness. Occasionally, and unpredictably, the whiteness clears and shapes are revealed. The shapes are unclear, but there are sometimes blue and green areas, sometimes a vast orangey-brown pall. A common type of prophecy is based on this.

A common belief in Morensia is that there is a woman hidden behind the white, and that the whiteness is her wedding veil. For this reason, some people call the moon the Bride. There are different myths as to who exactly she is to marry. Her face is almost never very clear, but there are parts that seem to suggest eyes.

The Veil makes its way around Calteir once every 28.15 days. The Veil therefore makes its circuit around Calteir 13.1826 times per year.

In Sashtia, the moon is considered to be a manifestation of Zarai.

Unknown to almost all residents of Calteir, the Veil is inhabited. By who or what, though, remains a mystery to even the wiliest of Calteirans.

Category:Celestial objects

It’s over 9000!

Bundle of Holding masthead imageThe Bundle of Holding is well over US$9000 now. So I get to use that headline in all sincerity. (Edit: As I check now, it’s over $10,000!)

And Julia Bond Ellingboe’s Steal Away Jordan has now been added to the Bundle. That’s a game I’ve long since wanted to buy and play, and now I get it as part of the Bundle of Holding! And so do you, if you’ve already bought this Bundle or if you buy it now. So go check it out if you haven’t yet.

Blade & Crown: Getting Started

m4s0n501

Illustration of an open doorwaySince so many people now have Blade & Crown thanks to the Bundle of Holding, I thought I’d do a quick guide to getting started with it. Where to begin?

  • The example of play and How to Play: The Basics sections should help you get a good grasp of how the rules work.
  • The rest of the book is organized to be usefully read straight through, so it can’t hurt to just read all of it, if you want.
  • Download the sample characters to get a sense of how characters can vary, and a sense of what nifty characters you can make using B&C.
  • If you’re looking for a ready-made adventure using B&C, check out The Bandit Map. In it, the PCs discover a scrap of paper that leads them inexorably to an adventure through the dangerous western wilds, and eventually to conflict with a group of nefarious bandits.
  • Tenement Defense is another adventure for B&C, this time one where the PCs are all city folk defending their home against a couple marauding gold-seekers.
  • Read some of the many articles about Blade & Crown on this blog.
  • Talk about the game in the discussion thread.
  • Let me know if you have any questions I can help with.
  • Don’t be afraid to break it, change rules you don’t like, use it in ways that work for your group.
  • Have fun with it!

Bundle of Holding: now including Blade & Crown!

Bundle of Holding masthead imageThe mystery revealed –

The latest Bundle of Holding features a bunch of cool games: Awesome Adventures by Willow Palecek; Cogs, Cakes, & Swordsticks by Lynne Hardy; A Tragedy in Five Acts by Michelle Lyons-McFarland; Another Fine Mess by Ann Dupuis; Cartoon Action Hour – Season 3 by Cynthia Celeste Miller; Monsters & Magic by Sarah Newton — and Blade & Crown, by little ol’ me!

For US$7.95, you get the first three titles. If you surpass the (as-of-this-moment) $18.58 threshold, you get all seven games. Neato!

You may also notice that all the designers are women. This is not by accident.

And part of the money goes to two important charities: Amnesty International and Doctors without Borders.

Pay what you want. Donate to charity. Get a pack of great games. Support women game designers. What’s not to love? Go check it out!