Author Topic: Shit son, I'm working on stuff.  (Read 4258 times)

Ariel

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Shit son, I'm working on stuff.
« on: June 15, 2010, 11:30:37 AM »
Yep. Basically, Bulwark is taking all those half-baked axioms in dungeon-punk games like D&D, L5R and other stuff besides seriously. It's not going for some kinda Harn-esque realism but I'll say it again: for every instance of EPIC replace with GRITTY MAGICAL (SUR)REALISM. I have some ideas for the setting, it's ontology and social structure but they're less important. That's like the details of the apocalypse in AW it's more or less important. Shit's built to drift. Monster, magic, castes and clergy; these things have social and political ramifications. By way of example: if you can heal people pretty well with magic (especial disease and such) you'd have a population explosion. Also, slavery was pretty much they way of things for a long time. I don't mean that particular racialized brand of American slavery that came into being sometime in the 1700s but something more ancient and feudal. As a medieval studies prof once put it to me: everyone lived in varying degrees of un-freedom.  That's not in D&D. Moreover, where is the sympathetic magic and the kinds of metaphysics and ontologies that don't assume a germ theory of contagion or vital humors and demons aren't the best way to understand how the body works.

It's the kind of setting and hack that asks what if you had a bunch of attendants, a healing potion, a sword, few charms, and there were demons and worse trying tear apart your little bit of terra firma? What if they was just enough good health and food but not enough space and too many people? What about those people at the edges of the map about to fall off into the darkest abyss? What would you do and how much blood and fire and black powder would it take for you to quit?

On the outside it's all demons and monsters and bleakness and on the inside it's all crowds and slavery and hopelessness. You're not really sure where one starts and the other ends.

That's kinda how I see Bulwark.

John Harper

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Re: Shit son, I'm working on stuff.
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2010, 09:12:11 PM »
Blood, fire, black powder. Yes.

This sounds great.

Gregor Vuga

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Re: Shit son, I'm working on stuff.
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2010, 02:06:02 PM »
Yeah. My kind of game.

Ariel

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Re: Shit son, I'm working on stuff.
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2010, 06:25:49 AM »
The more I play AW with different people and as a player (finally, thanks John!), the more I've come to realize that what's needed less is new 'mechanics' (like the Dark Pact move/front thing) and more just a straight rewriting of the playbooks. Those playbooks and basic moves are the core around which the MC's moves and the Fronts revolve around.

Nope. I totally lied. It's the basic moves plus Deep Brain Scan. That's where the rubber hit the road for both the games I've played at GPNW. Sure, the 'relationship' parts of some of the kits (especially followers) were important for complicating things but really, it's the basic moves that everything else revolves around. That's what the players are looking at, that's what complicates and engages the fiction and that's what sets the tone.

Oh, and fuck me does Deep Brain Scan ask some awfully hard questions.

Ariel

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Re: Shit son, I'm working on stuff.
« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2010, 07:52:22 AM »
Oh hey, I found my old (two or three years now) Bulwark notes! Back when I was really taken with Fading Suns! Hilarious, I know. Lots of this stuff won't be in the game when the hack is ready but it provides historical context to where my thoughts were abandoned some years ago on the Bulwark subject.

Warning: a lot of this stuff is barely reskinned stuff from Fading Suns, and necessarily won't make it into any Bulwark that I run in the future. I don't really see the Bulwark through the FS lens anymore. More like the AW goggles. So, the complex and fixed factions and large byzantine government probably won't factor in too significantly. All that's back near the bright nodes with fat domains. Out here near the Outer Dark, so close to the abyss people are more pragmatic when there's not enough guns for soldiers, souls for newborns or untainted food to eat. Then again, Bulwark could be all about faction politics where lives are cheap and easily spent in the stifling overcrowded metropolises.

However, you might still find some of this interesting. I'd like to hear about the stuff you find hot or interesting and not the stuff you think is lame or boring.


Bulwark, An Outline

Some notes on Theme: a dark gritty, (sur)realism + arcanopunk

Major themes of Ritual, Redemption and Occult / Secret / Hidden.

Also: Carrying the fire, a fragile light in the dark, a slow apocalypse, dwindling numbers and murkiness. There are not enough souls to go around.

Negotiation, Hegemony and patterned relationships: instead of a Newtonian mechanical universality, we get a localized, negotiated network of entities. Things very much have to be cajoled into action or effect.

There is no or little microscopic world or life. Organs function in an essential, teleological way. Biology is the relationships between various essences, vitae and humours. The brain is a vessel for the soul, like a jar is for water.

Complex society without industrialization. Gender divisions exist within Hearths but not within institutions; thus Caste becomes more important than Gender; it is secondary to Caste, House and Bloodline.

Bloodlines are domain specific ethnicities. See genasi in DnD, similar. More or less human shaped with environmental or thematic modification. Oh, there is no Human human (that is, no white westerners.)

Sartorial Guidelines: A long shirt, toga, sarong, shift or sari, some sort of vest or light coat, a heavier over coat or long coat, a number of sashes, belts or crests, sandals. In colder climates boots, a heavy loose pullover and stockings.

Displayed wealth is generally in terms of slaves, caste, signifiers of station, finely made items or religious adornments. Overt material wealth re: jewels or 'bling' is pretty tacky or silly. Attaches, either Covenant or Agency.

The Umbral

The collected, ever changing and uncatalogued ghost, spirits, numen, and miscellaneous kami that live in the Umbra, a realm overlaid on the common one experienced by most of humanity. Truth be told, it's a scary, fucked up place. Only the skilled and hardened or the natives themselves have any chance at navigating or talking to anything there by actively seeking it out. Often, one has a guardian fetish or sprite to deal with all the sublimity and horror.

The Abyssal

Outside the relative safety of the humanity's material anchors of wards and enclaves is a realm of alien and hostile nature that's inhabited by all types of exotic and unspeakable monsters. The further one strays from the refuge of the nodes, the more likely one is to encounter such beings, and eventual enter into their domains. It's uncertain if there is (are) some greater intelligence(s) leading these demon hordes or governing their lands, or if they're acting as mere beats on some base instinct. They are the single greatest threat to humanity. Many lives and much effort is spent on guarding the current wards and their respective domains, and heroically reclaiming lost ones.

The Instrumentality of the Covenant

The oldest order of monastics and the dominant one in the Dominion of the Empire, those sworn to the Covenant guided humanity through the early days of the unmaking, striving to ensure that human culture would survive by maintaining both the Wards and the proper rituals. Their near impervious monasteries and shrines can be found in most human domains, settlements and gates. The church is divided into a number of orders, lead by Exarchs. It's very much a pastoral role. The major sects are listed here:

The Orthodox represents the old, authoritarian guard of the Instrumentality, maintaining stability and making religious law (to which everyone in the Empire must at least pay lip service.) They are the most concerned with temporal power. The Orthodox is divided into two sects: Fas and Lex. The former focuses on internal law and administration. Traditionally, the Primarch has been from the Fas Orthodox. Lex Orthodox priests act as chief administrators and bureaucrats for the Imperial apparatus, being lead by the Cloistered Emperor [an emperor who's abdicated from the throne.] The Lex Orthodox and the Cloistered Emperor also sponsor the Vevix, a martial force who turn away no one regardless of status and origin. Recruits seek citizenship as freemen and the possibility of gaining land, to become a member of the gentry.

All members of the Orthodox are firm believers of accepted sacramental forms: ritual, stations of office, canonical law &c. Wavering from time-tested doctrine is seen as dangerous and foolhardy. All must walk the right path with correct guides. Those that don't may lead us again to ruin.   

The Cavix are the quintessential defender of the faith. Physical guardians of the wards and cloisters of Covenant. Their origins stem from the defenders of the pilgrims who were drawn to the safety of sect and the protection the Bulwark offered against the in rushing darkness, answering the need for hard-line and able soldiers. Rivaled by few, the Cavix are the oldest surviving military force in the Dominion. Fanatically dedicated to defending tenants of the Covenant and it's acolytes with might and force of arms, they are respected if not feared by most denizens of the Dominion. They've personally saved countless Exarchs from assassination, and thus they became an ordained order, giving them special powers within and without the Covenant, conceded to by the Landsraad houses, who were trying to cover up their involvement.
   
Membership is harsher than the other orders, as only hale infants are accepted, and from
then on spend fifteen or more years of spiritual contemplation and study, and rigorous martial    training.

The Visparad are keepers of the Bulwark and its lesser wards, which stave off the horrific abyssal demons and sublime umbrood. They're the main line of defense against the imminent and continually postponed eschaton. Deeply mystical, occult and arcane, they also serve the sect as keepers of relics, rites and ritual. Their vaults hold most of the prized of the sect's artifacts and their libraries hold knowledge that even the Exarchs may not be privy too, all thanks to their insatiable curiosity. 
   
They're master demonologists, linguists, archivist and archaeologists often, in secret,    accomplished thurgists. Which lead to a split in the order, between the more academic priests    and those that felt their work and skills were more needed out in the land that they were bound    to protect. So for every monk that stayed and indexed true names of demons there was one that    uttered in them battle with the beasts; for every one that stayed and maintained the shrines, there was one that was purging reclaimed ones from the penumbra.

The Seiddar are clerics that follow the latter path.

The Avesta serves as inquisitors. These fanatical and disciplined Avesta are the hard-liners of the Covenant. They lack an Exarch of their own, and must obtain the seal of the inquisitorial synod to pursue their suspected heretics and demons. However, their zeal is even too regressive for the Primarch's tastes but ve's thankful for the ability to unleash them on victims and enemies alike. 
   
They are considered penitents, owing duty to any Orthodox priest.

The Ceiwyn (Xi Win) are off-shoot of the Visparad and now a full-fledged order; they're the principle healers and biologists of the Sect.


The Agencies of the Multitude

   The Labyrinth: Those who can travel through the liminal space between the domains.
   
   The Scarvers: Those who can arrange to get various things and services

   The Artificers: Markers and workers of the Ancient technologies of the Unmaking, the
   Fall and the Ruin.

   The Reeves: Bankers, Barristers, Solicitors and Notary Publics.

   The Blooded: Sanctioned, ritually, to be slavers and sellers of Slaves and Slave
   Houses, bound to the Lex Orthodox

Hearths of the Landsraad (Houses)

Hearth: extended family based around a large tenement, communal.

House: A collection of Hearths, allied in a somewhat collective way, often with land to use, or other Houses bound to them.

Slave; Person, House or Hearth: Directly indentured to another House as property.

Free; Person, House or Hearth: Independent beyond oneself, house or hearth.

Minor House: A House bound to another House without any non-slave Houses below it.

Middling House: A House that is both bound to another House and has Houses bound to it.

Major or Noble House: A House that has a House bound to it but is unbound.

The Landsraad: The governing body of the Major Houses; something like a treaty.

The Imperial House, the dominating House of the Landsraad. Governs all of the Domain of Man.

Vevix: Non-House allied militia; bound to the Cloistered Emperor(ress) and the Lex Orthodox.

The Cloistered Emperor: An abdicated Emperor that governs the Lex Orthodox and the Vevix.

Notice the tension between the sitting Emperor and the Cloistered one; the former makes the decisions but cannot go to war or make public laws without the consent of the later.

There are often intra Major House groups that serve the interests of the high house and its subordinate houses, these are generally militias, intelligence agencies and occult groups “house wizards.” Local traditions may also come up as domain exclusive groups.

Houselessness
      ? Covenant
      ? Agencies, particularly
      ? Slavery (selling ones name, essentially)

Jeff Russell

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Re: Shit son, I'm working on stuff.
« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2010, 11:03:31 AM »
That's all pretty interesting stuff, definitely a lot going on! Maybe I've gotten too hooked on the 'fill in on your own' approach of AW and other recent games, but I think it might be coolest if you use all this information to help you come up with the playbooks and the special rules and the MC advice, but don't put it all out there as one big thing to the players. Like, have a playbook for the Seiddar that mentions their more monastic brethren, but don't give all the details. I'm seeing a situation kind of like the impression I get of the game world: little points of detail surrounded by lots of darkness that you can go out and figure out. But that's just a personal preference thing.

Ariel

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Re: Shit son, I'm working on stuff.
« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2010, 06:25:13 PM »
Bingo.

I don't really plan on using any of this stuff in the way it might be traditionally used. Vx and AW have totally won me over to the 'underdetermined' setting.

However, if there's like one thing that you're all like 'that's hot, keep that!' I'd like to know. Otherwise, I'm scraping the whole thing.


Jeff Russell

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Re: Shit son, I'm working on stuff.
« Reply #7 on: June 22, 2010, 06:41:03 PM »
Um, I'd say that the general situation grabs me more than any particular detail does. Like, all of that is stuff that I'd read and nod along with and be willing to get into in a traditional RPG text, but I don't think any of the particular examples grab me as "damn, this is the game for me!" On a new skim-through, though, the "Agencies of the Multitude" grab me as some of the most interesting roles, especially with the backdrop of religious enforcers and the implication that such practical services are looked on as necessary evils that should not be discussed by properly faithful people.

Ariel

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Re: Shit son, I'm working on stuff.
« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2010, 06:38:26 PM »
I think I've found some of my playbooks in the Multitude.