Craft Approaches

Like most of you, I have yet to see the rules for 3rd edition Exalted. I was hoping I would get to playtest them, but so far an opportunity to do so hasn’t materialized. [EDIT: I got copies of the files after I wrote this blog post.] Meanwhile, I have been wondering about them, and trying to guess how they will work. One of the mechanics of the game has been that of crafting. Because it affects the creation of so many things by players and NPCs, and because I have always had one or two crafter types in my gaming groups, I am curious to see how the new rules play.

The Onyx Path schedule says that some aspects of new game are still being rewritten. Realistically, I am potentially wasting my time on a topic which will soon be resolved in some manner which will be relatively immutable for whatever period lies between the launch of 3rd edition and a hypothetical future 4th edition. However, I am still guessing about it, and figured I would share some of those guesses, along with thoughts about their consequences. If none of them are even close to correct, then maybe something here will nonetheless be useful to somebody making house rules adjustments to the game.

Craft as First

There is the chance that the writers could revert to a system mirroring the first edition of Exalted. In those rules, the Craft Ability had to be taken once for each craft which the character meant to perform. Thus you had Craft(weaponsmithing), Craft(carpentry), and so forth. The d20/OGL system does a similar thing with its crafts.

There is a certain sense to this system. The skills one masters when carving a wooden desk are not all applicable to forging a steel blade from raw iron. This aspect appeals to those of us who find it hard to believe that a talented shoemaker is also a talented gem cutter. The system also fits a worldview where different people spend their time producing different goods, such as most of us probably expect in the real world and in a typical imaginary setting that is nonetheless shaped by our ideas of the real world.

The downside of such a system is that there are seemingly endless skills for a player to choose. Game systems are likely to only give a player some number of limited points to apply to such things, and every additional skill in the game is another which the player might not possess. As the number of skills grows, the competency of the characters diminishes.

Craft as Second

Potentially the writers might keep some version of the second edition Exalted rules. In those rules, there were a limited number of Craft skills, lumped together in categories. We had Craft(Wood), Craft(Earth), etc. The core book presented only five of these, but more were added with subsequent publications.

This approach gets past the explosion of skills method, by explicitly limiting them to a set number. If there are only 5 or 12 crafting skills from which to choose, and everything falls under one of those, then the player can be assured that with enough effort she will be able to craft whatever she wants. In the Exalted system, this means that a crafter has to spend more points to be a master of all crafts than a warrior spends on Melee, but at least it can be done.

The downside to this approach seems to be the categorization of the crafts themselves. How exactly DO you lump together every single crafting activity that real and fictional man can do into a small number of skills? Does it seem weird for gem cutting to be Craft(Air) and building an Air Manse to be Craft(Earth)? Do herbal medicines fall under Craft(Water) or Craft(Wood)? Which Craft do I use to make a lightning ballista, or a destiny, or a zombie? In the end the authors didn’t seem satisfied with the answers, and new crafts kept being introduced to the game. Some crafts even muddied the waters by requiring other crafts or even non-Craft skills as prerequisites.

Craft as Prerequisites

On the other hand, maybe they were on to something with that prerequisite train of thought. What if every Craft skill has some prerequisite? Can a swordsmith really craft a good blade with no concept of how to wield one? Could a tailor make beautiful clothing with no sense of fashion? Would a gardener really possess no knowledge of the wild?

You could have each Craft require some related prerequisite. Possibly a craft that lets you make weapons requires you to have Melee. Or maybe there is a Craft(Weapons) Ability which can only be used to manufacture those weapons for which you possess some degree of skill. Imagine that a swordsmith might have Craft(Weapons) 2, Melee 1. A bowyer might have Craft(Weapons) 2, Archery 1. A master weaponsmith might boast Craft(Weapons) 5, Archery 1, Melee 1, Thrown 1.

Presumably the limited number of possible prerequisites would also push you towards a limited number of Craft skills. This would cash in on the strength of a limited number of skills, allowing Exalted to be fairly omni-skilled with some investment. It would also appeal to a sense of believability.

The difficulty for such a system probably lies in the prerequisites themselves. What is the prerequisite for making armor? Does this suggest a new skill? Also, you still have the issues of Second. How many Craft skills should there be? And what falls under each of them? Additionally, where do the prerequisites stop? If it exists, should Craft(Genesis) 5 really require Medicine 5, Occult 5, AND Lore 5? When the second edition system already required Lore to repair magitech, was it not redundant to require Lore to raise your Craft(Magitech)?

Craft as Melee

Another approach I could see being taken is the treatment of the Craft Ability as a singular universally applicable crafting skill. In Exalted, if you have the Melee Ability, then you can use it with virtually any handheld weapon that strikes, slashes, or stabs without leaving your grasp. Previously, the Martial Arts Ability has covered some weapons that would seem to fit the Melee Ability. Regardless, the player of a character with Melee has long expected to pick up any one of an incredible array of weapons and use them with equal skill.

This could be the model for Craft, too. Perhaps a single Craft Ability would be used for any roll involving a character’s crafting skill. Certainly one advantage to this is that it would mirror the way skills are done in the rest of the game. You don’t have to take Melee(sword) to use swords, or Archery(crossbow) to use a crossbow. With this model, you wouldn’t need a special Craft to craft anything. All of it would be packaged up in one neat bow.

For some, this might go too far. Even weaponry is actually divided into a handful of skills: Archery, Thrown, Martial Arts, and Melee. Should the diversity of crafting be less than that of weaponry? Does it make sense that the tailor could just as easily make swords or sailing ships?

Craft as Linguistics

The Linguistics Ability inspires another approach. In short, that skill gives one language per point, although we are basically told that each of these “languages” might really be a massive language group that dominates a huge portion of Creation. Mechanically, the Craft version of this would mean that for each point in the Craft Ability, the character would get another craft. There are a couple of different ways to implement this.

Potentially there are at least as many crafts as there are languages, including every tribal language imaginable. Craft 4 might mean Craft 4(Weaponsmithing, Carpentry, Gardening,Tailor), for example, with the character getting her full rating in each. In such a system, the character could be good at crafting a number of different things, but not everything. However, her rating would apply equally to all of the things she knew how to craft.

Alternately, there could be a limited number of crafts—perhaps 10 in total—which cover every possible endeavor. Craft 4 might be Craft 4(Air, Fire, Necromancy, Magitech), or something of the sort. Again, the character would have 4 Craft dice to apply to any of the sub-skills she chose. By limiting the total number of possible crafts to 10, you would allow a hypothetical Craft 10 character to be skilled with all of them.

Assuming one’s Craft Ability cannot rise beyond a certain point (say Essence 5 limiting you to Craft 5), the disadvantage of this system is that a character still cannot gain even minimal skill in every craft without exceeding the barrier. If the skills are vast in number, this disadvantage is even greater.

Craft as Linguistics plus Dialects

Another variation that might be considered is that presented by the model of Linguistics and dialects. In second edition Exalted, each dialect of a language could be taken as a specialty, and these specialties were only limited in number by the number of dialects that exist. To translate this to crafting, one would take dots in the Craft skill, and could take any number of specialties in actual crafts. Thus one might have have Craft 2(weaponsmithing, carpentry, gardening, gem cutting, cobbler, shipwright), and be able to roll 2 Craft dice for any of those. Presumably one specialty would be included with even a single dot of Craft, as with a “native” tongue and Linguistics. In the previous example, let’s imagine it is weaponsmithing, and the other crafts are bought with specialties. Importantly, though, a character would receive one such specialty for free upon gaining his first dot in Craft.

Such a system should still allow for regular specialization, in order to preserve the dice mechanics of the game. Dreams of the First Age suggested Linguistics specialties for characters, which actually added dice. Thus, this model would allow specialties to get a craft and specialties that grant dice to specific actions. A character might have Craft 2(weaponsmithing, carpentry, shipwright +2), or in another format Craft 2[weaponsmithing, carpentry, shipwright](Shipwright+2).

Further variation is found in deciding how many “dialects” Craft has. If there were just 5, then with 5 specializations a character would be able to do anything. If there were one specialization for every possible craft a character might want, then there is no limit to the XP that must be spent to gain them.

Craft as Occult

In second edition Exalted, characters could gain thaumaturgical powers by way of Occult specialties. Each dot of specialties provided some degree of thaumaturgy, along with some number of rituals. This could translate into some sort of craft system as well.

One simple model might be that a character has one Craft skill but can only use it in ways that are covered by his specialties. Craft(Weaponsmithing+1) might allow one to use his Craft rating for any normal weaponsmithing. Craft(Weaponsmithing+2) might allow exceptional crafts, with mechanical bonuses. Craft(Weaponsmithing+3) might allow the crafting of Artifact weapons.

Alternately, it might be even closer to the Occult model. Perhaps Craft(Weapons+1) gives one the ability to some limited number of various weapons (possibly even some minor magic ones such as talisman weapons), while Craft(Weapons+2) allows for creation a limited number of minor Artifact weapons, and Craft(Weapons+3) allows for creation of a limited number of major Artifact weapons. In each case, the actual Craft dots would be the default number of dice that Craft adds to the action.

Potentially knowing how to make specific items such as a grand goremaul or dire lance would be the equivalent of Occult “rituals” and could be purchased individually or received in limited numbers as part of a specialty’s mastery. Potentially, a Craft 5 master might ONLY possess the Craft Daiklave ritual, for example. It can be difficult to decide how many “rituals” should be included in a single normal specialty dot.

This model is very adjustable, but it also lacks simplicity. Its system could be very specific, with exact requirements for various crafting projects. Particularly, Artifacts might be the product of very specialized craftsmen, which might be fitting. However, the person who attempts to gain generic Craft mastery is probably doomed to failure.

 

Father’s Day Thoughts

Today, I worked in the yard. Not the most exciting Father’s Day, perhaps. However, other than calling my own father (which I definitely did), I think it was the closest I could get to experiencing fatherhood this day. Yardwork always makes me think of my ex’s little one, Deva, because she used to insist on helping “daddy” with it. She even had a toy mower she pushed around for a while. Eventually she insisted on helping push the real mower. Walking bent forward so a child can stand in front of you and pretend to help push a mower is hard work. I also always felt like I had to be extra cautious the entire time. I miss you, little one.

Classis Umbra – The Shadow Navy

I wrote some new material meant for use with 3rd Edition OGL or equivalent.

Classis Umbra – The Shadow Navy

Note: Surely they wouldn’t be using Latin, but I haven’t come up with another name yet. Other than Shadow Navy or Shadow Fleet, of course.

Classis Umbra is the elite exploration force of a magic-rich empire. From heavily guarded bases, these enchanted vessels “sail” from their homeworld into the Plane of Shadow and hence to the material realm upon a thousand different worlds. Merchants, ambassadors, spies, and missionaries depend upon the shadow navy to deliver them to the colonies, allies, and enemy powers of an empire that touches many worlds.

Shadow Vessels

The magical technology behind this is powerful, but simple. Each of the enchanted vessels is a large flat-bottomed barge constructed of dark wood, and empowered to briefly encompass the entire vessel with shadow and then to shadow walk with its entire crew. This power can only be used once per day, but this is sufficient to allow crews to travel to other planes and other worlds.

In the material plane, these barges behave as normal, floating on water, or sitting static on the ground. When they enter the Plane of Shadow, they may “sail” at speeds appropriate to that spell.

To activate its shadow walk power, a shadow vessel must be covered in shadow. By design it creates an aura of shadow (dim light conditions) around itself when the activation is attempted. However, this aura of shadow can be countered or dispelled by a darkness or light spell. Such an event ruins the activation effort for the day, and the shadow vessel may not activate again until the next day.

Shadow Routes

The transit technique used by Classis Umbra requires a dangerous passage through the Plane of Shadow. In order to travel the incredible distances to other worlds, the crew must pilot the ship away from the material plane to the edge of some other plane, and then pilot the ship back to the material plane but towards some far destination. Each leg of this journey takes 1-4 hours. The treacherous nature of the Plane of Shadow ensures that even when a navigator follows the specific shadow charts meticulously developed by the navy over time, the trip varies in length.

Barring disaster, this means that a trip to another world take 2-8 hours, spent traveling to the edge of another dimension and then to the targeted world in the material plane. The Plane of Shadow is inhabited by many fearsome creatures, however. It is the duty of the Shadow Navy to ensure that disaster does not come to their vessel and its passengers. Dangers ranging from shadow mastiffs, to undead, to terrifying dragons of shadow await an unwary crew.

The maps kept by the Shadowy Navy include only the heavily guarded bases of their own homeworld. They are acutely aware that one of their vessels could be seized, and its maps put to use. The opportunist who manages such a thing will face fierce resistance on the imperial end of the trip.

Shadow Personnel

The members of the Shadow Navy travel to distance worlds, through a dangerous realm. Their officers are authorized to represent the will of the empire in many unexpected situations on remote worlds. Within the confines of naval code, the captain’s word is law.

The Shadow Navy uniform is dark gray. Insignia for rank are typically small and composed of silver set with onyx or obsidian. Personnel are discouraged from wearing shades other than white, black, and gray. People who travel with, but are not part of the Shadow Navy often are unaware of, or choose to ignore, such dress code. Over time, this has led to slang terms such as peacocks, colors, and brights when referring to non-navy passengers.

Lightermen

One of the few guild unions to cross into multiple worlds, the Company of the Lightermen is composed of workers who transfer goods to and from Shadow Navy vessels. They also dominate civilian operations at Shadow Navy bases and embassies.

Am I Like You

I am looking at you
Like you’re looking at me
I am dreaming of you
Like you’re dreaming of me
I am feeling for you
Like you are feeling for me
But I am not afraid of this
Like you are afraid of bliss
I am thinking about you
Like you are thinking about me
I am wanting more of you
Like you are wanting more of me
I see tomorrow and you
But sorrow’s what you see
Still I am not afraid of this
Like you are of bliss
Can’t you see you
Looking at me
And see that this
You should not miss?

 

Mr. Tambourine Man

When I was a little kid, at some point or other I feel like my dad expressed the idea to me that he thought it would be cool to have Mr. Tambourine Man, by Bob Dylan, as his funeral music, when such a day finally came. My father is a devout Buddhist, however, and either I was mistaken or the years have changed his mind. Nowadays, he imagines something more fitting to his faith, which I have trouble remembering and should obviously ask about again.

However, the potentially mistaken idea I somehow inherited or created remains with me. I have already discussed this with my sister, previously, when we had one of those morbid yet personal talks about what we would want to happen if we passed away. Realistically, I will not care what anybody does once I am dead, because I will be dead and beyond all sensation of what physical happenstances surround my corpse. I believe that funerals are for the living, and not for the dead. Their purpose is to bring some sense of peace to those who survive the dead.

Nonetheless, I believe that many people derive a sense of peace from trying to create the funeral they imagine their loved one would want. As such, I hope that family members looking for such solace can look to the song by Bob Dylan, Mr. Tambourine Man, for funeral music for me. I also hope they will honor my organ donor request, as expressed on my drivers license and in my will. Additionally, I hope they will respect my desire that they pay as absolutely little as possible to dispose of my remains and yet satisfy their own emotional needs for putting me to rest.

 

Rookhausen Archive


Rookhausen Archive

This particular page is an attempt to archive unprinted material created for the Sword and Sorcery Studio’s Java-based Chats game setting. This was an online environment wherein you could take part in the Ravenloft 3rd Edition campaign world. The online setting used the decadent and dangerous city of Rookhausen. The web pages where it was originally hosted are no longer active, and people are therefore forced to dig for their original condition at places like the Wayback Machine. In fear that even that illustrious resource might someday lose or cease to carry the information, I wanted to save it here.

Map of Rookhausen


Chat Game Introduction

The city of Rookhausen stands on the shores of the Nocturnal Sea in the empty quarter near the border of Darkon and Nova Vaasa. Knowledgeable travelers of the region claim that it was not always so, but there is no denying the city’s gloomy presence now. Citizens of Rookhausen say that their city has always stood on these shores, and that it is only the outside world which has changed around them. Warily the two eye each other, newcomer and native, curious and cautious. The black birds of Rookhausen sit upon the city’s towers and walls, gnawing at bones stolen from the market square and watching as though they sense death on the wind.

An Introduction to Rookhausen History

While the city of Rookhausen originated in the same lands as Barovia and its evil Count, Rookhausen was not to be found in Ravenloft until it was sacked by the young barbaric warlord Janisar the Terg as he vengefully sought Strahd, the terrible ruler who drove the Tergs from Barovia and had slain so many of Janisar’s forefathers. For long days and days, Janisar and his soldiers combed the lands where Barovia lay, searching for the Barovian people and their wicked count. They could find no one, not a single villager.

Finally one evening they came upon Rookhausen by the sea. Janisar’s Terg scouts suggested to him that the city was not part of Barovia. Janisar flew into a rage and declared that it could not be so, this must be a trick of the devil Strahd (Janisar and the Tergs thought of Strahd as a devil even though they had no clue of his fate once the Mists took him due to his reputed necromantic powers and his terrors upon the Terg people). He declared that he would taste the blood of his enemies ere he saw dawn again and ordered his troops to assault the city. As the battle raged on, bloody atrocity after bloody atrocity being rained upon the people of Rookhausen, the Mists rose up around Rookhausen.

Janisar should have been slain in battle by the many grievous wounds he suffered in the battle, but the Dark Powers saw the deep rage and cruelty in his heart and sought to torment him. He became like unto Strahd, though he knew it not yet, and became a devilish vampire also. In addition, in the night to come, he found that Rookhausen rested in a realm eternally surrounded by mist, from which he could not escape. On occasion outlanders would stumble across Rookhausen in the mist and sometimes they even told stories of Barovia and Strahd. Janisar became convinced that Strahd had bound him somehow in a terrible trap. For the years since then he has ever sought some way to escape the trap of Rookhausen and finally get his revenge upon Strahd and the Barovian people.

While Janisar was a potent conqueror, he was an incompetent ruler. As the city grew due to a gradual absorption of outsiders and the culture they brought, as well as a rebuilding and slow rise in the culture of the people of Rookhausen, he became more and more out of touch with those who pulled the strings in his domain. While Janisar could easily bully or kill anyone who stood against him, he was not prepared for the times to come. For one thing, Janisar still could not learn to read, and the education of more and more of the citizens of Rookhausen led them to greater degrees of free thinking. Finally this was put to deadly use by the bourgeois nobility of the city. A number of them led a coup against Janisar, taking advantage of the natural divisions that existed in the domain.

While the true division upon which they seized was one of classism, the physical tool employed was the terrain feature of Rookhausen known as the Breakwall. A long shallow cliff approximately 35 to 40 feet in height divided the city into an upper and lower city. The lower city sat close to the crashing waves, and hosted sailors, dockworkers, poor tradesmen, beggars and all those the nobility considered lower class. The upper city was reached through carved stone stairs or the Causeway, and held the palatial houses of the nobility, the fine houses of rich merchants, and the new neighborhoods of the thriving middle class.

During a parade of Janisar’s soldiers in the dock district, whilst the warlord slept, the private mercenaries of the nobility collapsed the Causeway and seized the upper city. Brutal fighting broke out, and Janisar’s tiny but formidable keep was shattered. Most of his soldiers were kept at bay, unable to successfully mount the Breakwall against the assault from above. The nobles took control over the city and appointed one of their own as Lord Mayor. Little did they know that Janisar’s vampiric powers allowed him to escape to the dark ground in the lower city which should have been his grave so many years before. The very next night the raging warlord rose from his sleep to turn his full wrath against the nobles who cast him down, only to discover that he could no longer enter the upper city. The Dark Powers of Ravenloft closed the trap even tighter upon Janisar and he determined that the nobles must be in league with the devil Strahd somehow.

In the score of years which followed, the city of Rookhausen turned in upon itself in a grim internal war. The nobility of the upper city merrily poisoned and betrayed their brethren as one after another made their bid for the position of Lord Mayor. Always the new Lord Mayor has been he who could subtly silence his enemies yet retain the support of his fellow noble houses, especially those with the clout and money to contest his rule and the sense to keep to the shadows.

Meanwhile, the deadly Janisar turned his nightly attentions to the lower city. Slowly he settled into despair, disappearing from the public eye and becoming little more than a historical footnote dredged up only by commoner superstitions. Rookhausen might have become little more than the forgotten tomb of an undead warlord were it not for the shifting of the Mists east of Darkon in 750. For the first time in centuries, the Mists which surrounded Rookhausen cleared away, and the city found itself open to the world beyond. Cautious explorers learned that the mists had revealed that Rookhausen lay in southeastern Darkon, relatively near to its border with Nova Vaasa and that its seashore joined with that of the Nocturnal Sea.

The new trade with other realms quickly led to an unparalleled prosperity which began to attract visitors from as far away as the Sea of Sorrows. One of those who came to the city in 751 was the paladin Argen Wolfsbane. The powerful holy warrior of Ezra joined the city guards of Rookhausen and rapidly rose in the ranks. He gained sponsors to rebuild the crumbling city walls and turned the broken keep of Janisar into the bailiwick of the city gates. Argen tirelessly led patrols to drive away bandits and other miscreants who flocked to the countryside surrounding Rookhausen to prey upon its caravans and growing nearby villages. For humble farmers who eke out a living in the hard soil, the lands between the outlying moors and the city walls are known as Ezra’s Promise and Argen Wolfsbane as its defender. After 7 years, Argen Wolfsbane has earned the title of Lord Protector and is seen by many as equal in rank and power to the Lord Mayor of Rookhausen.

The Lord Protector no longer strays farther into the city than its defensive walls, outworks and barbicans. For his part, he sees no reason to dabble with the decadent bourgeois of the city when he has grim work to do keeping the surrounding lands safe from evil. Just last year, Argen Wolfsbane was wounded by a ravenous wolf during his patrols, and while the wound has healed to leave only a vicious scar, some whisper that it has left a mark that runs deeper than the once unmarred skin of the Lord Protectors handsome face. If any other outward change might be noted, however, it is only that he has redoubled his efforts to root out the treacherous wolf cult which hides in the outlying moors. The soldiers who patrol the villages of Ezra’s Promise carry silver tipped crossbows and routinely shoot anyone who violates curfew on the nights of the full moon.

It is 758 by the Balok calendar (BC). The Lord Mayor of Rookhausen claims dominion over the city, though he constantly faces treachery on the part of lesser nobles. He fears that the people will throw their support to Argen Wolfsbane, however, and thus publicly praises the Lord Protector while attempting to arrange for some hideous scandal with which to discredit him. The lower city slides into further decline as its streets are deadly to walk by night and dismal to see by day. Pirates occasionally are so bold as to walk the streets openly, and the scent of dead fish is omnipresent. Worse still an odd blood cult has arisen in the lower city, one which appears to bear a dark hatred of Baloks and Barovians which has resulted in more than one merchant’s gruesome death. Investigations by the city watch have not cracked the cult’s code of silence nor stopped their depredations. In the moors outside the city, a generation of young followers of the Wolf God has grown up to regard the White Knight of Ezra’s Promise and his anchorites with a seething sense of rage and hatred. The bourgeois nobles of Rookhausen party late into the night and play deadly games of Machiavellian politics. Magnificent masquerade balls descend into hellish pits of debauchery where duels, poisonings, forbidden pleasures and obscenely expensive works of artistry vie for attention. Welcome to the broken dream of a bitter conqueror and the twisted realms which slough from its decaying flesh.

The Noble Houses of Rookhausen

All political power in Rookhausen is held by the Nine noble houses. These aristocratic bodies combine the best and worst of family, merchant empire and squabbling lords as they vie for control over their city. Every guild is part of one of the Houses, and every employee of the city owes allegiance to one or more of the House members.

What follows is a bit of the more public lore regarding each of the nine houses:

Floretti – A smaller, younger house, the Floretti line does it’s best to avoid conflict. Consummate negotiators, arbitrators, and courtiers, the Floretti’s do their best to remain neutral in the schemes that envelope Rookhausen’s aristocracy.

Gorkoski – A Terg house, the Gorkoski stubbornly cling to the old ways. Known for quick tempers, big builds, and a predisposition toward violence, the Gorkoski’s own the majority of Rookhausen’s smithies, and also provide the best security outside the standing military of the Knight Protector.

Mirari – Artisans and Courtiers, the Mirari are one of the most well established and liked houses of Rookhausen. Setting the trends for fashion and society, the Mirari often have a hand in how the city is governed, though they rarely achieve the coveted position of Lord Mayor.

Parfonte – Another young house, the members of House Parfonte are well known for being diplomats on par with the Floretti. Walking the line between all the houses, the Parfonte currently hold the Lord Mayorship. Lord Mayor Sydney Parfonte and his family also control many of the city docks of Rookhausen, and pull their income from the bustling sea trade in the area.

Sergevski – A house for the heart of the people, the Sergevski’s are the largest patrons of religion in Rookhausen. Many of their younger members join various religious orders, and currently the house has an alliance with the Knight Protector. Extremely devout and pious, the Sergevski do their best to ensure the spiritual safety of Rookhausen’s people.

Szechski – An older house, the Szechski house is responsible for the care of Rookhausen’s sick and insane through their donation of Whitehall Asylum to the monks who tend it. Espousing ideas of self-reliance and personal improvement, the Szechski’s are often at odds with the Sergevski’s.

Tarok – Responsible for Rookhausen’s livestock and the majority of hunting in the area, the Tarok are another mostly Terg household. The Tarok’s also control the majority of Rookhausen’s stables. Respectful of the Knight Protector, the men of house Tarok occasionally aid the Knight Protector in his duties. House Tarok is also on good terms with House Gorkoski.

Wyrog – Recognizably the best scholars in Rookhausen, the Wyrog family rarely leaves its libraries and holdings, preferring study to social life. This focus on academics has caused the house to fall out of favor with the Sergevski’s, though the Wyrog’s show no remorse over this state of affairs. The Wyrog also serve as tutors, scribes, and clerks for the various noble houses in Rookhausen.

Yaroslav – Perhaps the oldest house in the city, the Yaroslav are distinctly Balok in origin. They are also extremely wealthy, controlling the agricultural aspects of Rookhausen’s economy. Focusing on tradition, the Yaroslav also have a history of Lord Mayorships.

Basic Facts

Culture Level: Medieval (7) for the peasantry & lower classes of Rookhausen as they seldom see the luxuries and wonders of the higher classes. Chivalric (8) in the aristocracy & higher class areas of Rookhausen’s upper city.

Landscape: Rookhausen lies in the southeastern empty quarter of Darkon, near its border with Nova Vaasa. The city lis on the shores of the Nocturnal Sea along a long low cliff known as the Breakwall. The Breakwall averages about 35 to 40 feet in height and divides Rookhausen into a lower city, predominantly inhabited by its lower classes, and an upper city, ruled by the noble houses and their merchants, servants and minions. To the southwest of the city lie the Grey Moors, inhabited by remnants of the savage Wolf Cult. Northwest of the city are the fae-haunted Creeping Wood Fens. These wet rugged lands are pierced by the western road as it curves past the mysterious great Wight Hill. North from the city runs the northern road towards the more populated areas of Darkon. Far off to the west are the Dnar River and the Mountains of Misery

Major Settlements: The city of Rookhausen (pop. 12,000+), Village of Anchor (pop. 500), Southmoor (pop. 300), Northfen (pop. 300). [Note – The city population here was one of those which we listed when we thought the chat might become as popular as the World of Darkness chat New Bremen. We originally had it even higher, at 25k. In reality, I believe that the population should be much lower than this, particularly it should be significantly lower than that of Il Aluk.]

The Folk: Population – 12,000+. [See population note above.] Humans 75%, Halflings 10%, Half-Elves 5%, Elves 4%, Dwarves 4%, Gnomes 1%, Other 1%. Languages – Balok*, Terg*, Darkonese, Vaasi. Religion – The Lawgiver*, Ezra, the Eternal Order.

The two dominant human ethnic groups are the Baloks and the Tergs. Baloks tend toward thick, stocky builds with broad shoulders and wide hips. Balok skin tones run from pale oliver-tan to light brown. Dark hair and eyes are typical, the former ranging from light chestnut to nearly jet-black, the latter from pale hazel to deep brown. Tergs are taller and large of limb. They share the dark hair and eyes of the Balok, though their skin tends to be ruddier in tone.

The official state religion of Rookhausen is the Lawgiver. Since the coming of the Lord Protector Argen Wolfsbane however the church of Ezra has grown more and more notable in recent years, and the Eternal Order from Darkon is also growing in strength. In the Grey Moors, it is said that the remnants of the ancient Wolf Cult lurk, emerging only to harass villagers and travelers.

The Law: Hereditary Aristocracy, Feudal hereditary aristocracy. In the city of Rookhausen, as in most its size, one is born into their station. Rookhausen is ruled by nine noble houses: the Floretti, Gorkoski, Mirari, Parfonte, Sergevski, Szechski, Tarok, Wyrog and Yaroslav. The houses select the Lord Mayor from amongst their own number, though the political wrangling and backstabbing which precedes this is a byzantine morass beyond the ken of most common folk. The current Lord Mayor is Sydney Parfonte.

Law and order are maintained within the city by a paid constabulary simply called the City Guard by most people, or other less pleasing terms by those who hate them. They bear a red and black standard with the city coat of arms, and most of them also wear the badge of one of the noble houses as well.

The city walls and outlying areas fall under the purview of the Lord Protector, Argen Wolfsbane, and his troops. The Lord Protector’s soldiers are trained to dispatch bandits and invading forces. They patrol regularly, and often clash with the Wolf Cult near Southmoor. They bear a white standard with an upright sword, reminiscent of the symbols of Ezra. Indeed many of those most loyal to the Lord Protector refer to the lands outside of Rookhausen’s walls as Ezra’s Promise.

Trade and Diplomacy: Resources – fish, wheat, cattle, beer, usury, culture. Coinage – solar (gp), lunar (sp), penny (cp).

Rookhausen has established strong trade with the surrounding areas since its emergence from the Mists in 750. The near regions of Darkon are relatively empty and unforgiving, but ready access to the sea allows easy trade with the elves of Nevuchar Springs and the merchants of Egertus. Overland traders from Sidnar, Barovia and Tepest also make the journey.

Relations with neighbors so far have been polite if strained. Darkon sent an emissary whose underlying words seemed to suggest that King Azalin saw Rookhausen as part of his lands, but simply allowing a branch of the Eternal Order to break ground in Rookhausen seemed to mostly pacify his dignity. The ruling houses of Rookhausen worry about potential future problems with Darkon, however, and have been steadily currying favor with other states, particular Nova Vaasa. The Lord Protector’s men have many tiny fortifications in place across the surrounding landscape in case of invasion, though many fear the reputation of the sorcerous king of Darkon. The Lord Mayor seems confident that so long as Rookhausen is beneficial to its neighbors that the city will find tolerance and acceptance in the politics of the land.

Characters: Classes – bards, fighters, rogues and aristocrats are especially fitting classes for Rookhausen. Experts and commoners also abound of course. Barbarians and druids are not usually comfortable in the city, as it has long ago lost the uncivilized edge. Skills – Gather Information, Profession (fisherman, sailor). Feats – Skill Focus.

Rookhausen Locations

This is a list of the official permanent chat “rooms” in the Sword & Sorcery Rookhausen RPG chat. Other rooms were created on a temporary basis by Game Masters and even players, but these are the backbone of the city’s theme.

Blackiron Gunsmithy: Located in the upper city, this strange shop is the only maker of guns to be found in Rookhausen. The craftsman is said to hail from Mordent perhaps.

Causeway Guardhouse: As the only part in the imposing Breakwall, the Causeway serves as the sole way to travel between the Low and High streets. The Causeway’s ramp-like roadway cuts through the cliff side at a somewhat steep incline, and is surrounded by the grim walls of the City Guardhouse. It’s well known that passage through the Causeway is prohibited after nightfall and few wish to test the guards for fear they might join the unfortunates under lock and key.

The Breakwall is approximately 35 feet tall for its entire length within city limits. The cliff divides the upper city from the lower city below. Atop the cliff is a 5 foot tall wall at the very edge, meant to keep children, runaway horses and the casual drunk from falling to tragedy.

The Causeway Guardhouse acts as the main barracks for the city watch, and as primary jail as well. It’s stone chambers are cut into the Causeway sides or built of sturdy stone blocks and iron bars either at the top or bottom of the cliff face. Citizens of the lower city must pass through the Causeway to gain access to the upper city, and to travel towards the Lord Protector’s Gate. They will not be allowed to carry heavy weaponry or armor should they wish to do so, nor will they be allowed to carry firearms of any sort from or into the lower city unless they are clearly nobility or the employees of such.

Devil’s Rock: This barren but large rock is said to have been the bane of sailors until the current lighthouse was built upon it over three centuries ago. It remains uninhabited except for a twisted and accursed leper colony, and a strange old lighthouse keeper.

Dockside: Where the lower city reaches the water, the edge is lined with docks in various states of disrepair. Night and day ships both fair and foul ply the waters of the Nocturnal Sea and many do trade with the city of Rookhausen.

All manner of ships which sail upon the Nocturnal Sea can be found on port at the docks of Rookhausen, from the rowboats of solitary fishermen to the galleons of traders.. Fishing and whaling have long made up some of the backbone of the city’s economy, and thus over time the docks have grown to span the entirety of the drowned wall. Outside of the crumbling, eroded masonry of the drowned Wall or the arches of the Lord Protector’s Gate, the docks are the only real way into the city.

Fish Head Row: 
Sandwiched between the dirtiest of the docks and the most run down and questionable of warehouses near the shore, this ratty lane is home to a number of hole in the wall dives wherein illegal gambling, prostitution, desperate drinking and even occasional bloody murder thrive. The lower city watch barely patrols the area, and often when they do they are up to no good themselves.

Floretti Cabaret: Located in the upper city, this hall hosts fine performances by beautiful exotic dancers of both sexes and a number of inhuman races as well. Run by the Floretti noble house, it is the public place to be seen if you are part of the aristocracy. Only the private party of one of the nine houses could possibly be more socially important.

Harvest Moon Inn: Known throughout lower Rookhausen as a safe haven after nightfall for those in the Low Streets. The Harvest Moon has earned a reputation as a place for a road weary traveller to rest his head and fill his belly for the evening. Located relatively near the docks the Harvest Moon has long been heavy laden with all manner of seafarers.

High Market: Located in the center of the higher city, this market hosts all of the finest merchants and their shimmering wares, each eager to capture the delight and attention of the nobility’s eyes.

High Streets: Streets of the upper city. Rookhausen’s better quarter is a place for the civilized folk of the city, and as any city it’s size Rookhausen has no lack of wealthy merchants nor ruling nobles – albeit the wealthy merchants almost all work for one of the noble houses in one fashion or another. By day the High Streets are abuzz with with business of merchants and consumers as well as the footfalls of the city’s many guards. By night the High Streets are almost wholly abandoned save the many guards who patrol after having closed off the Causeway at nightfall.

Linden Catacombs: These somber stone tombs lies mostly in cold tunnels carved beneath the carefully guarded iron and stone walls of the graveyard. Nine great underground halls divide into numerous lime dusted grim galleries housing centuries of nobility and their dead ancestors.

Lord Mayor’s Hall: Located in the upper city, this grand but utilitarian structure serves as the official second home to whichever noble happens to currently be Lord Mayor. As such it is the center of the magistrates and officials who serve the nobility of Rookhausen in administering their rule over the city.

Lord Protector’s Gate: The Lord Protector’s gate is the only legal means of entrance into the city of Rookhausen beyond the docks. Massive and imposing displays of craftsmanship, the walls of the gate are cut from all manner of stone and have long ago grown over with patches of ivy here and there. The gates are also known to house the city guard, serving as both a barracks and the city’s first means of defence. After sunset the Lord Protector’s gate remains closed regardless of any who would come until daybreak.

It is said that the Lord Protector’s Gate was built from the ruins of Janisar’s Keep, which he in turn built from the ancient Lord’s fortress which he sacked during the Terg invasion of Rookhausen.

Low Market: Even the poor huddled masses of Rookhausen must eat and clothe themselves. This sprawling open air market hosts everything from fishermen hawking their fish to tailors, cobblers, and bakers crying out to prospective customers. It is loud, dirty and raucous, and only rarely does a noble slum it to visit the Low Market. Nevertheless, much of the business here is done by those who turn a profit somehow through the houses, and visiting taxmen are not an uncommon, if unwelcome, sight.

Low Streets: Streets of the lower city. The streets of Rookhausen’s peasant’s quarter are riddled with crime and vice. The sick, the crippled and the beggars line the streets by day, along with peddlers of all manner of wares, both legal and criminal. By night however the Peasant quarter’s gutters lay cluttered with drunkards and all manner of miscreants removed from the city’s taverns as the back alleys gather errant whores and criminals throughout the night.

Northfen: This village lies perhaps a day’s travel (if one pushes their horses to ride hard without stopping) to the north of Rookhausen along the edges of the Creeping Wood Fens. Unfortunately for the villagers, the Fens are said to hold any number of wicked fair folk.

Public Bathhouse: In the lower city, cleanliness can be a godsend, and can be difficult to achieve. Most people must settled for bathing in the ocean or with captured rainwater. This large building holds a number of naturally warm pools settled into the rock. Nobles maintain their own private bathhouses on their estates in the upper city.

Southmoor: This village lies perhaps a days travel to the southwest of the city. It lies all too near the Grey Moors which are a known haven for members of the Wolf Cult, and reputedly for terrible wolves and werewolves.

Temple of the Lawgiver: This grand structure rests along the edge of the High Market in the upper city. It is the official temple of the city, and holds the “coronation” of each new Lord Mayor. Commoners are welcome to attend public mass provided they remain respectifully silent at all times. Church guards will not hesitate to whip sense into a “lesser man”.

Village of Anchor: Half a day’s journey from Rookhausen via the Western Road, the small village of Anchor is a waypoint for many who are caught outside the city gates after nightfall. Composed primarily of humans, Anchor is a quaint, simple gathering of farmers, hunters and their families. Within the bounds of this quaint village lies the Temple of Ezra. The Lord Protector refers to all of the land along this strip as Ezra’s Promise and encourages devotion to the god. Certainly citizens are happy to receive the protection of the strong right arms of the Lord Protector and his men.

Whitehall Asylum: The Szechski family donated land and a large building they owned in the lower city to an order of monks who specialize in the care of the mentally disturbed. Rumors say that the Szechski needed to hide a member of their own family from discovery and shame. Whatever the truth, the Szechski technically still own the land, and while the monks demand the right to care for the penniless madman, those of means must pay for the finest treatment known to the minds of Rookhausen. It is said that the Asylum even has a renowned hypnotist from the West who can ease many of the burdens of the soul. Most people never recover from the terrors of Rookhausen, however, and few return from the Asylum. It is a fearful phrase to hear, “We had to send little Emilia to visit the monks of Whitehall.”

The Laws of the City State of Rookhausen

Weaponry
A. Brandishing of any weapon within the city limits of Rookhausen is forbidden and shall be punished with a week’s time in the city jail and the weapon shall be confiscated.
B. All weapons capable of doing so are to be peace bound while within the city limits.
C. Any member of the City guard or the Knights of Ezra is exempt from these laws.

Assault
A. The assault of any citizen of the city of Rookhausen is forbidden, and punishable by one month’s time in the city jail.
B. The assault of any member of the City Guard or the Knights of Ezra is a crime against the state and thusly punishable by one year’s time in the city jail. Death at the hands of the defending guard or soldier is more likely.
C. The assault of any member of one of the noble houses of the City State of Rookhausen is a crime against the state and thusly punishable by death by hanging.

Murder
A. The murder of any citizen of the city of Rookhausen is a grievous crime punishable by death by hanging.
B. The murder of any of member of the City guard or one of the Knights of Ezra is a crime punishable by death by beheading.
C. The murder of any member of one of the city’s noble houses is a crime punishable by death by hanging. All of the murderer’s worldly possessions shall become property of the noble house of the victim.

Sorcery & Witchcraft
A. The practicing of the Dark Arts in the city of Rookhausen is a crime against our fine city punishable only by purification by fire, burning at the stake.

Rookhausen

Culture Level: Medieval (7) for the peasantry & lower classes of Rookhausen as they seldom see the luxuries and wonders of the higher classes. Chivalric (8) in the aristocracy & higher class areas of Rookhausen’s upper city.

Landscape: Rookhausen lies in the southeastern empty quarter of Darkon, near its border with Nova Vaasa. The city lies on the shores of the Nocturnal Sea along a long low cliff known as the Breakwall. The Breakwall averages about 35 to 40 feet in height and divides Rookhausen into a lower city, predominantly inhabited by its lower classes, and an upper city, ruled by the noble houses and their merchants, servants and minions. To the southwest of the city lie the Grey Moors, inhabited by remnants of the savage Wolf Cult. Northwest of the city are the fae-haunted Creeping Wood Fens. These wet rugged lands are pierced by the western road as it curves past the mysterious great Wight Hill. North from the city runs the northern road towards the more populated areas of Darkon. Far off to the west are the Dnar River and the Mountains of Misery

Major Settlements: The city of Rookhausen (pop. 12,000+), Village of Anchor (pop. 500), Southmoor (pop. 300), Northfen (pop. 300).

The Folk: Population – 12,000+. Humans 75%, Halflings 10%, Half-Elves 5%, Elves 4%, Dwarves 4%, Gnomes 1%, Other 1%. Languages – Balok*, Terg*, Darkonese, Vaasi. Religion – The Lawgiver*, Ezra, the Eternal Order.

The two dominant human ethnic groups are the Baloks and the Tergs. Baloks tend toward thick, stocky builds with broad shoulders and wide hips. Balok skin tones run from pale oliver-tan to light brown. Dark hair and eyes are typical, the former ranging from light chestnut to nearly jet-black, the latter from pale hazel to deep brown. Tergs are taller and large of limb. They share the dark hair and eyes of the Balok, though their skin tends to be ruddier in tone.

The official state religion of Rookhausen is the Lawgiver. Since the coming of the Lord Protector Argen Wolfsbane however the church of Ezra has grown more and more notable in recent years, and the Eternal Order from Darkon is also growing in strength. In the Grey Moors, it is said that the remnants of the ancient Wolf Cult lurk, emerging only to harass villagers and travelers.

The Law: Hereditary Aristocracy, Feudal hereditary aristocracy. In the city of Rookhausen, as in most its size, one is born into their station. Rookhausen is ruled by nine noble houses: the Floretti, Gorkoski, Mirari, Parfonte, Sergevski, Szechski, Tarok, Wyrog and Yaroslav. The houses select the Lord Mayor from amongst their own number, though the political wrangling and backstabbing which precedes this is a byzantine morass beyond the ken of most common folk. The current Lord Mayor is Sydney Parfonte.

Law and order are maintained within the city by a paid constabulary simply called the City Guard by most people, or other less pleasing terms by those who hate them. They bear a red and black standard with the city coat of arms, and most of them also wear the badge of one of the noble houses as well.

The city walls and outlying areas fall under the purview of the Lord Protector, Argen Wolfsbane, and his troops. The Lord Protector’s soldiers are trained to dispatch bandits and invading forces. They patrol regularly, and often clash with the Wolf Cult near Southmoor. They bear a white standard with an upright sword, reminiscent of the symbols of Ezra. Indeed many of those most loyal to the Lord Protector refer to the lands outside of Rookhausen’s walls as Ezra’s Promise.

Trade and Diplomacy: Resources – fish, wheat, cattle, beer, usury, culture. Coinage – solar (gp), lunar (sp), penny (cp).

Rookhausen has established strong trade with the surrounding areas since its emergence from the Mists in 750. The near regions of Darkon are relatively empty and unforgiving, but ready access to the sea allows easy trade with the elves of Nevuchar Springs and the merchants of Egertus. Overland traders from Sidnar, Barovia and Tepest also make the journey.

Relations with neighbors so far have been polite if strained. Darkon sent an emissary whose underlying words seemed to suggest that King Azalin saw Rookhausen as part of his lands, but simply allowing a branch of the Eternal Order to break ground in Rookhausen seemed to mostly pacify his dignity. The ruling houses of Rookhausen worry about potential future problems with Darkon, however, and have been steadily currying favor with other states, particular Nova Vaasa. The Lord Protector’s men have many tiny fortifications in place across the surrounding landscape in case of invasion, though many fear the reputation of the sorcerous king of Darkon. The Lord Mayor seems confident that so long as Rookhausen is beneficial to its neighbors that the city will find tolerance and acceptance in the politics of the land.

Characters: Classes – bards, fighters, rogues and aristocrats are especially fitting classes for Rookhausen. Experts and commoners also abound of course. Barbarians and druids are not usually comfortable in the city, as it has long ago lost the uncivilized edge. Skills – Gather Information, Profession (fisherman, sailor). Feats – Skill Focus.