Monday, December 31, 2012

Staring at the Sea

Perhaps I've read too much Lovecraft, but I recently toyed with the notion that the sea within the world in which Hrulvir is situated is in fact a living entity - a god, perhaps, or a being from another time, place, or dimension that evades human conception.  This, of course, will present all sorts of complications - especially for mariners.   Or, perhaps the sea is simply imbued with a disembodied consciousness that came from another place and chose the sea as a worthy, but uncommon, vessel.  I don't know how this will play out in-game, but I sort of like this idea, despite its vagueness.

One of the few things that I'm still working on establishing is how magic works in my game.   BRP presents some options, but none of their systems really convey what I'm looking for.  In  most sword & sorcery tales, magic is the province of nefarious mummers and vile necromancers.  I know that Kane was an adept sorcerer, as was Elric and the Grey Mouser, but they are the exception.

Magic, in these tales, is not the Vancian type.  That is to say, there are no fireballs or lightning spells.  I have no problem with the systems that have adopted this traditional approach to magic, but I am looking for something that is more arduous.  That is why I gravitated towards summoning.  The rituals requite time, endurance, and, expectedly, the forfeiture of sanity and health to complete.

Getting back to my original idea, perhaps magic is more psychic in nature.  Perhaps there are certain people who are attuned to a certain dream frequency that is used by the sea, and, through conversing with this being, they have discovered latent powers with themselves

Sunday, December 30, 2012


I don't know when, how, or why, but this locale will rear its head in my game.  This has to be one of the most beautiful, haunting photos that I've ever seen.

100 Physical Features

I am sick today and a bit bored, so I decided to put together a quick list of one-hundred distinguishing features that I plan to use in my game.

100 Distinguishing Features 

1. Teeth have been filed to sharp points (1d6 bite damage).
2. Wears a necklace of shriveled ears.
3. Missing  a hand.
4. Missing fingers
5. Missing nose.
6. Several tattoos.
7. Armor of distinct color, design, or make. 
8. Body covered with ritualized scars.
9. Peculiar odor.
10. Speaks with an unknown accent or impediment.
11. Possesses and odd pet.
12. Gregarious and friendly.
13. Awkward gait or limp.
14. Burned skin.
15. Carries and oversized weapon.
16. Uncharacteristically tall or short.  Oddly proportioned in some manner.
17. Carries a broken set of manacles.  
18. Wears an eyepatch.
19. Interesting hairstyle. 
20. Under the influence of an odd narcotic.
21. Narcoleptic.
22. Prone to sleepwalking.
23. Carries a set of ivory dice.
24. Nearsighted or otherwise visually impaired.
  1. Compulsive liar.
  2. Offers anyone who'll listen a fake treasure map.
  3. Carries and attempts to play an exotic stringed instrument.
  4. Claims that he or she was once a professional executioner.
  5. Androgynous.
  6. Sweats inordinately
  7. Afflicted by some unknown disease.
  8. Self-concious about a physical feature.
  9. Glances about furtively.
  10. Two different colored eyes.
  11. Refuses to remove their hood.
  12. Soiled garments.
  13. Obsequious, or otherwise annoying disposition.
  14. Obsessively sharpens their weapons.
  15. Garments are too small or too large.
  16. Leather armor is dry and creaks loudly when they walk.
  17. Bloodstained armor.
  18. Long criminal record.
  19. Wanted for a crime that they may or may not have committed.
  20. Distant relative of an important NPC in the game.
  21. Pregnant.
  22. Proud parent.
  23. Attempting to start a business in the city center.
  24. Recently murdered and resurrected.
  25. Searching for a long-lost relative.
  26. Footwear on the wrong feet, two left shoes, etc.
  27. Clothing made of an odd material.
  28. No clothing, or they're obviously missing an article of clothing (shirt, pants, etc.).
  29. Louse-ridden, or otherwise infested with some sort of parasite.
  30. A reanimated corpse.
  31. A former slave or currently enslaved.
  32. Starved appearance.
  33. Down on their luck.
  34. AWOL.
  35. Traitorous.
  36. Owes money to a powerful syndicate.
  37. The head of a small, but up-and-coming crime ring.
  38. Attracted to one of the PCs.
  39. Phobic (spiders, wizards, etc.).
  40. Poorly trained.
  41. Extremely young or old.
  42. Soft-spoken.
  43. Insomniac.
  44. Vacant stare.
  45. Experiences intense nightmares.
  46. Always hungry or thirsty.
  47. Odd facial hair, unkempt appearance.
  48. Boorish behavior.
  49. Fastidious.
  50. Urbane and arrogant.
  51. Refuses to wear attire that is not a specific color (s).
  52. Snake charmer.
  53. Skilled at cooking exotic cuisine.
  54. Short attention span.
  55. Convinced that they are the opposite gender.
  56. Extra toe or finger.
  57. Extra nipple.
  58. Convinced that a birthmark is an additional eye.
  59. Hirsute.
  60. Savage.
  61. Siamese twin.
  62. Simian appearance.
  63. Underbite or overbite.
  64. Stutter or other impediment.
  65. Dense.
  66. Corpulent.
  67. Flatulent.
  68. Flamboyant sobriquet.
  69. Falsely claims a noble title.
  70. A charlatan and quack.
  71. Offers to kill one of the PCs' enemies for modest fee.
  72. Arrested several times for writing defamatory graffiti in public places.
  73. A member of an obscure cult.
  74. A priest of a fake religion.
  75. Wears cloak made of a fake animal fur.
  76. Alleges that they are able to see and commune with spirits.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Some images


Here are some images that were sketched out by the great Tim Jordan - a fantastic tattoo artist and, hopefully, the illustrator of the setting book that I may create from these slapdash notes and daydreams.

The ghouls to the left and underground dwellers that occasionally creep into the city proper and, well, feed on whatever they can get their claws on.

The athletic rogue featured in the other panel is Jaliel, a cursed thief who has provoked the wrath of some of the underworld heavies that lurk in the shadows.  It is worth mentioning that none of the ideas are written in stone.  Jaliel's importance is subject to whim of the PCs.

Their association with him, however, has put them at odds with a few people, unfortunately.   It will be interesting to see what happens in subsequent sessions.

Although it is difficult to determine in this picture, Jaliel is covered from head to toe in sigils that were carven into his flesh by a vile sorcerer.  Jaliel escaped before the sorcerer could skin him and use his flesh for some profane ritual.  In addition to having some angry goons on his tail, Jaliel is also stalked by the agents of a very powerful sorcerer.

We'll have to see how this all shapes out.  Depending on the interests of my players, these plot lines may or may not develop.  While I have my own ideas, the last thing that I want to do is force my players to follow any preconceived stories.

I am actually using the character Jaliel as a PC in a game that I'm involved in as a PC.  It is early Iron Age Sorcerer campaign.  It is very enjoyable thus far.

Kite Fighting and Poverty

Since Hrulvir is built on a system of hills, many of the poorest neighborhoods are built upwards in a series of terraced alleyways created by a one level of shanties being built upon the next.  These neighborhoods (The Narrows, for example) are cities unto themselves, and generally managed and ruled by one or more of the countless gangs that operate within the shadows.  Recently, The Ravens have made some inroads into these heretofore lawless regions, so it is not uncommon to stumble upon patrols as they attempt to ferret out the gangs.

The children who grow up in these regions are known to fly beautifully colored kites.  So skilled are these children that they often engage in ritualistic kite fights.  The fights are carried out by affixing pieces of sharpened glass to kite strings, using wax, or some other substance.  The intent is to cut one's opponent's strings.

There are, in point of fact, sanctioned bouts between various gangs of kite flyers which take place on specific days of the year.  In the beginning, these bouts were intended to simply sever one another's kite strings so that the loser's kite would be carried off by the wind and either devoured by the ocean or smashed against one of the myriad cold stone towers.

Since nobody wishes to lose a kite, secondary strings are employed, and flyers will endeavor cut this extra string, which is usually dyed a bright color.  The contestants will usually wager a few coins, or, possibly their kite.

It goes without saying that a great deal of time and effort is put into making these kites. Some of the them are sought-after works of art.  It has also been suggested that some of the cagier of the children involved in this past time have learned to infuse their kites with sorcerous powers.

On Heraldry

It has been awhile since I've posted, but my dear friend and super talented artist Tim Jordan just furnished me with some sketches that were inspired by Hrulvir.  I will share them in a later post.  In the meantime, you can check out Tim's astounding artistry at
One of the first sources of inspiration for Hrulvir was an image of a three-headed raven.  I decided that the three-headed raven is an appropriate standard for a grim, damp, city.  I am not sure what the three heads symbolize, but the number three is arguably the most psychically-charged number in human culture, so it makes sense that Hrulvir would adopt a three-headed symbol.

I think the three heads represent the three branches of power in Hrulvir:  the vozhd, the church, and the byzantine council of petty nobility and ambitious commerce.  It is worth mentioning that the world of Hrulvir is analogous to the Middle Age society.  It is certainly not a society flowering with courtly love or shining armor, but it is less brutal than The Dark Ages.

It is a mean, fractious world of city states, disease, and superstition.  Hrulvir is probably larger and more populous than any city of that historical period, which is fine, because I am not interested in historical accuracy.  Since I used Moorcock's Young Kingdoms as a palimpsest, some of that setting's flavor has seeped into my conception of this world.  There is also a generous helping of Sanctuary, as well as The City of the Black Toga and Gormenghast.

With all this in mind, I need to remind myself that, while all these details are great, the true story and character of the city will emerge through play, which means  that my players will have far more to say about the character of Hrulvir and its surroundings than I ever will.