Archive for the 'Severance of Heaven-Earth Confederation' Category

The Four Treasures

December 18, 2008

Sorry for the flurry of brainstorm posts, but this game is bursting out of my head.

Reciting the chronicle requires a set of implements, the minimum for which includes the so-called “four treasures,” one key implement for each master representing a given nation. The four treasures are:

The argent pittance is a handful of small silver coins insufficient to buy passage to the Silver City on the moon. These are placed before the master that sits to the North, representing the Nation of Doors. Among the common people, specie of any kind is often substituted, including worthless slivers of tin crafted just for the purpose of reciting the chronicle.

A revel chalice is a wine vessel raised in celebration during the summer carnival at the great capital, Njaluwe-in-Dreams. This implement is placed before the master that sits to the South, representing the Nation of Dreams. Among the common people, a cup or bowel is often substituted, though even the most vulgar storytellers ensure that the implement can be distinguished from other drinking vessels on the table.

A gilt trowel is the ritual marker of a monk or nun from Most Beautiful Cage, the monastery of ghosts. This implement is placed before the master that sits to the West, representing the Nation of the Dead. Among the common people, a hand trowel or spoon is often substituted, though the most esteemed storytellers refuse to use any implement that has not buried at least one stubborn ghost.

A witching stave is the primary tool of fate workers, used to follow and untangle the lines of possibility that lead to the future. This implement is placed before the master that sits to the West, representing the Nation of Fate, the keepers of the sun. Among the common people, a cleaned wooden stick, writing brush, or pen is often substituted.

Following Suit

December 18, 2008

The dead adhere to Spades (Swords), the suit of death, air, freedom, sudden change, military, strength, power, and suffering. The monks and nuns of Most Glorious Cage, the monastery of the ascetic dead entrusted to dwell in proximity to the living, carry gilded shovels which they use to bury ghosts that will not depart for the Dying Lands.

The dreamers adhere to Hearts (Cups), the suit of love, water, emotions, clergy, and religion. Um, maybe Shreyas can add appropriate imagery here.

The fated adhere to Clubs (Wands), the suit of war, peasants, farmers, fire, nature, simplicity, the will. The rod is the most basic tool of fateworkers, who frequently use it to dowse future events the way a water witch dowses for water. Thomas can add some more.

The keymakers adhered to Diamonds (Coins), the suit of wealth, earth, the body, possessions, merchants, traders. The lost nation, that may yet dwell in the glittering city on the moon, linked doorways through the use of small silver coins, ritual payment for physical passage. Though they rarely work for those not raised to understand the keys, such coins remain in rare quantities, the sign of a tradition long gone. Indeed, the keymakers’ remnants, those unable to obtain passage to the Silver City, are often called the “argent host,” for the coins they keep and use in reciting the chronicle.

Apprenticing to the Dead

December 18, 2008

If a new player wishes to apprentice to the dead, the dead storyteller takes that player aside. “Who are you, apprentice,” the storyteller says, “and where do you come from?” The apprentice is most probably a local from the place where the chronicle is being told, but could also be a traveler from somewhere else. “That will not do,” replies the storyteller, “because you are to play one of the dead and so you must ‘be’ dead. Take me, I am [the storyteller explains their own background as one of the dead, indicating that their identity may, in fact, be fictional].” Together, the apprentice and the storyteller construct an identity for the apprentice. If the apprentice already claims to be one of the dead, the storyteller may tell them that their origin “is not sufficiently convincing [again, implying that it may be a lie]” and help them “improve” it.

At the stage in play where apprentices are introduced, the dead storyteller says something like, “Masters, I would like to draw your attention to this youth to my left. While his appearance is very similar to the page who serves food in the local inn [or whatever the character did before], I would have you know that he is not actually of the living. Indeed, he is in fact [summarizes dead backstory of the apprentice].”

Afterwards, throughout play, it is customary for the other storytellers to remark, during lulls in the game, how the apprentice does not appear at all like one of the dead and, in fact, reminds them very much of [whoever the apprentice was before]. The apprentice, of course, must deny this strongly, insisting on being one of the dead and is defended in this by their master, though only after the apprentice has spoken for themselves.

Interestingly, this facade allows the dead to actually participate in reciting the chronicle, even though the dead and the living normally have nothing to do with each other. However, most storytellers of the dead tradition are not actually dead, but impostors from among the living who claim to be members of the dead, having either apprenticed to one of the dead or another impostor (and, most likely, they may not be quite sure which one their master was).

I also think that apprentices should have some role in actually reciting the chronicle, like cooperative play in a board or video game, to help them more quickly learn how to recite the chronicle and allow some interactivity.

Games Distributed Through Play

December 3, 2007

I just added a new project description to this site, The Severance of Heaven-Earth Confederation, which is a long-term project, not anything I’m going to complete soon. The idea of the game was to write something that can be transmitted through actual play, by teaching other players in person, rather than as a text, and also to create a game that would — due to the nature of distribution — evolve on its own, fully independent of the original creators putting out supplements or new editions or whatever. Games already do this, through house rules and hacks and whatnot, but this concept puts that right out there, front and center.

I may eventually write a small micro-game that tries out some of the ideas here on a much smaller scale, but no promises on getting to that soon, either. Right now my priorities are Push 2, Transantiago, Geiger Counter, Fingers on the Firmament, and the game about modern urban France. Which is more than enough.