Listing a Tyrant’s life

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

W.H Auden, Epitath on a Tyrant

When I first started thinking about S&T, I knew I wanted it to be political. I rapidly felt the need to have a kind of pendulum effect between two eras in the setting’s fake history: a strict authoritarian rule which would naturally be followed by a period of lawlessness and civil disarray. This leads me to some more (vague) thoughts:

  • some people are genuinely nostalgic about the period when there was stricter control and they forget or just don’t want to remember how it was so terribly oppressive
  • tyranny really is just around the corner, a few unfortunate events and a well-placed charismatic figure is all it takes
  • It’s all about scale,  local leadership is far more accountable
  • The absence of local leadership, be it forcefully removed or just lacking, is awfully detrimental to the people

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The authoritarian rule I mentioned is in fact divided between three tyrants, one after another. I don’t yet feel the need (or I’m too lazy maybe) to be very precise about these characters as the actual play will be at a point further in time, but I have to create some modicum of lore about them. Could come in handy.

So here’s a list of quirks I can use to flesh out these tyrants. I’ll keep the fantasy stuff for another time.  I didn’t invent anything new really, just stole eccentricities from a bunch of dead dudes (thank you Muammar Gaddafi, you’re malignant life helped my purpose).

The Tyrant has:

  1. burned down part of the city to make some space for a project of his.
  2. a harem with dozens of multiracial concubines.
  3. the habit of staging fake combat/sport/art performances where he can demonstrate his rather mediocre skills.
  4. female bodyguards in very alluring attires.
  5. written a treatise on proper behavior that is now set in stone everywhere.
  6. orchestrated a massacre of a minority group.
  7. the deep conviction that his people loves him, even with a rebellion raging all around.
  8. taken all of his armies in one big convoy to show off at a neighboring power’s frontier before going back.
  9. built a 50′ statue of himself.
  10. built a 50′ statue of his favorite pet animal.
  11. been pleased that the people chant whenever they see him.
  12. claimed that he received mandate from the gods.
  13. demanded that be erased all things concerning a famous hero.
  14. claimed to be the rightful successor of a famous hero.
  15. the habit of keeping exotic/dangerous pet animals.
  16. one or more secret prisons, nobody knows what happens inside.
  17. a few delusional pet theories that he likes to share in long-winded public speeches.
  18. the habit of receiving young virgins at least once a week.
  19. banned a long list of goods that he personally dislikes.
  20. a favorite sport team that doesn’t seem to be able to lose no matter how bad they play.
  21. a crush on a well-known beauty. She fled in exile.
  22. large portrays of him on the buildings of the city. Its a capital offense to put graffitis on them.
  23. the monopoly on a luxury good. It used to be available, now it’s his.
  24. once ordered a man to be executed. He didn’t chant with the crowd.
  25. once ordered a man to be executed, he wore a hat that was more ornate than his.
  26.  once ordered a man to be executed. He coveted the man’s wife. She killed herself.
  27.  once ordered a man to be executed, he was way too ugly.
  28. once ordered a man to be executed, he remembered him of someone.
  29. once ordered a man to be executed, he was his best friend.
  30. once ordered a man to be executed but then felt generous. He commuted the sentence to prison for life. The man was never seen again.
  31. built an extensive tomb to be buried with riches and his entire staff of (killed) servants.
  32. a bath made of gold.
  33. an artificial lake excavated in order to please his favorite concubine.
  34. often said that he doesn’t hold any power. The people have power. He’s merely the Guide.
  35. spies everywhere. Watch your words.
  36. no trust for spies. Not one bit.
  37. secretly helped the rebels organize so that he could better crushed them.
  38. named his half-wit older brother to the office of Minister of Public Health.
  39. banished his youngest son after a failed attempt on his life. He loves him very much.
  40. always consulted oracles before taking his most important decisions.

 

 

 

 

 

If I had Infinite Time: Cargo Cult Adventures setting

Okay, I’m gonna cheat with my own rules (not that anyone cares) and get it out of my head– some stuff unrelated *gasp* with Streets&Turmoil. Another damn setting… That, may I add, I won’t ever have time to try (maybe that’s for the best).

Cargo Cult Adventures

Here’s how it goes.

First, Cargo Cults is something from real life: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult, and not so surprisingly, it’s weirder than most fantasy stuff we can find.

So Cargo Cults, in short, turns around a myth device invented by insular and low-tech societies that believe that foreign goods (strange and magical as thay appear to be) really should be theirs to own and, in fact, would be theirs if only they’d demonstrate the proper behavior to earn it. That means adopting the same « rituals » that seem to work so well for the foreigners,  which includes building planes, airport strips,  having military parades and such, but, huh, using wood and hay instead of anything else.

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So based on that weird premise, how about adventures? What if the cargo cults weren’t that delusional? What if planes are indeed sent purposefully by the gods. every now and then, to bring otherwise unavailable goods to the faithful? The gods are generous indeed, but you know, maybe a little bit fickle? So inconveniently the gifts from the sky are bound to land miles away in the dangerous jungle…

It starts with a myth-dream

Of course it does.

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The nutjob- I mean-  the Seer of your small jungle village had another vision:   « Behold,  a holy gift from the sky from the Great Douglas C47A! I’ve seen it falling slowly, like a feather, and landing somewhere err, near a high cascade! and… I’ve seen a cave too, dark and deep, and… ugh! scaly, fierce monsters… But don’t you worry, the ancestors will help you on this quest. You youngsters, must find the shipment! Go! And don’t you dare come back empty-handed… »

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There you go for the MacGuffin. Explore, fight some nasties and find the treasures. Should work well on a hexcrawl too, methink.

Also, rival tribes compete to find the precious shipments and violence isn’t out of the equation.

Strange shipment

Could be anything, from the seemingly useless, to powerful high-tech/magical stuff. But even the prior would bring prestige to a tribe that manage to bring it home.

 

 

 

 

 

Urban Myconids

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Myconids In SiT! They’re street cleaners, removing offal, dejections, basically any organic waste. Sometimes they get a little less discriminatory about the unmoving quality of their sweepings.

That’s something I came with while reading Jeff Vandermeer’s book:

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What I’m stealing for my setting is only the cruder idea of the Gray Caps of Vandermeer, whom aren’t even mushroom creatures as such, but are fuzzily described as smaller humanoids with a weird civilization based on advanced fungi technology.

The total creepiness and sinister threat of the Gray Caps I leave out, only because it won’t do thematically for my setting, but it was a very good read!

District Invasion

As if the numerous troublesome gangs weren’t enough, outside parties often invite themselves to the woe of the inhabitants.

Gargoyles from the Folly

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There’s many clutches of gargoyles living among the Folly’s dizzying heights. They’re very territorial and constantly at each other’s throats. They mostly keep to their high above ground perches but recently, the Covellites gargoyles, under pressure by an alliance of Realgars and Pyrites, have started making forays into the Harlequin.

Thrill-seeking Enclave Elves

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Boredom can be a powerful driving force, suffer a couple of centuries of it and I’m sure you’ll agree. A manifestation of this is expressed by those elven interlopers going for a stroll in the « bad neighborhood ». Most of the time, such a group is escorted by hired arms and the elves themselves are comically clad with antique (and mostly useless) armors.  Less often, these Enclave Elves want to really test themselves and get some action. Some are actually quite good at it.

Kwaggers from… the Kwag

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Be they of any races, kwaggers are kwaggers. Crazy, violent slum people who don’t even seem to want to better their lives. But then, the Kwag is literally a nexus of bad energy. Folks who live there don’t stay sane very long. Sometimes things spill out, a gate gets destroyed or a levy-bridge breaks, slamming down, and the Kwaggers swarm over, howling and clawing like madmen.

At a leisurely pace

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Yeah… Okay, maybe not like that but palanquins? Definitely.

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You’re someone important? That’s how you go around!

After all, what better way to display your status?

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Yep

If you can’t afford having your own palanquin and its carriers, rent one!

  • The Steadfast Twenty: the smoothest ride in town is offered by this group of indistinguishable bare-chested dwarves.
  • The Hobgoblin Stompers: Iron-booted, dressed in spiked leather armors, the Stompers get you through a crowd without even slowing.
  • Mother Sigma’s Crew: If you don’t mind the putrid odor, this lady necromancer and her tireless minions offers the cheapest ride in town.
  • The Golden Cushion: The Broken Wheel mafia have acquired these most extravagant of palanquins, previously owned by the Puulchesera elves before they were forced out of the Enclave with their curse & stuff. Now the Halflings mafiosi have set a small business with various carriers indebted to them operating the gilded, heavy palanquins.

 

Will the PCs ever pay for  a palanquin? Doubtful…

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Against the gangs (mundane version)

Up until mid-level, fighting or more generally, dealing with the gangs, will be a large part of the PCs occupation. All excerpts are from Asbury’s GoNY.

Ward vs Gangland

The very beginning of the campaign will see the restoration of the 42nd Ward, a small territory that the local citizens want to get back for themselves. That means pushing away gang claims, using diplomacy, cunning and more likely: brute strength.

…was divided by the gangs into clearly defined kingdoms, and the boundaries were garrisoned and as carefully guarded as are the frontiers of civilized nations.

Below are some precisions, nothing fancy yet, about some gang basic concepts.

And many a boy became a gangster solely because of an overwhelming desire to emulate the exploits of some spectacular figure of the underworld, or because of a yearning for fame and glory which he was unable to satisfy except by acquiring a reputation as a tough guy and a hard mug.

Gang

  • 4 members or more in association
  • share a common identifier: name, graffiti, symbolics, etc
  • make a living without conventional work

Each of these small gangs was supreme in its own territory, which other gangs under the same sovereignty might not invade, but its leader was always responsible to the chieftain of the larger gang, just as a prince is responsible to his king.

Great Gang

  • Hundreds of members in association divided in cliques
  • share a common identifier
  • have the allegiance of lesser gangs

Mafia

  • as a great gang
  • have influence felt outside streets/turf, even in high society

Gang Pride

Apart from the very weakest (or very discreet), gangs won’t ever let an insult (real or perceived) unanswered. Retaliation, and the severity of it, may vary between gangs, but all crave respect.

If, however, the gang is repeatedly unable to defend his wounded pride, it may well try to:

  • go in another terrirory
  • disband in shame
  • seek the protection of a stronger gang
  • submit to  the offender, offering fealty

To do: I need an renown/intimidation chart to follow the doings of the PCs against the gangs.