Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Narrating Magic

I like magic, almost any time I've played an RPG I've been some kind of magic user. It's unsurprising then that Lycadican has a very rich magic system. In fact, there is an entire philosophical framework behind how magic works, but the Cole's Notes version is basically that there is an energy field that permeates all things and represents all potentialities simultaneously (like a quantum particle.) Specifically this is all of the potentialities of things which already exist within the current environment. Something that is completely from out of left field or doesn't exist at all, while a possibility, would be be extremely unlikely to manifest and therefore much more difficult to accomplish. In my mind I see the mage reaching into a flow of those potentialities and using his skill and talent to select the version of reality that is most likely and closest to what he wants and increase its potential until it manifests.

Well, last night that got me thinking. If magic represents this slight warping of the potential possibilities of this reality how would it actually manifest? How would you are a GM/DM/RM describe spell effects to the players?

For one, the spell effects should almost never originate with the caster. They should originate in the environment around the caster. So, if we take for example the very venerable 'lightning bold' spell, instead of this scene:

"You mutter the incantation and make the arcane gestures; Bolts of lightning emanate from your hands and fly towards the gibbering goblins electrocuting them and singing their green skin"

you'd have this scene:

"You mutter the incantation and your mind pierces through the fabric of reality calling forth the energies of nature. You feel united with all things and pour your energies in calling down the energies you feel gathering in the storm clouds above you. When you open your eyes your notice your hair standing on end, you can feel the air charging with ever greater amounts of static electricity. Then you loose your focus on the charging goblins and bolts of lightning burst as if rent from the air itself to electrocute them, leaving their green skin singed and smoking."

It's not that the lightning couldn't originate from the Wizards hands, but that's far less likely and as a result would be far more difficult to accomplish, requiring a much more powerful character.

How'd that work for a fireball? Well, instead of a ball of fire that emanates from the caster and flies towards his enemies you could instead have a nearby tree spontaneously combust, bursting and hurling fire and shards of wood at the enemy with great force. Or, perhaps as in the previous example the tree was hit with lightning, igniting in flames with explosive force and injuring the enemy.

What if there isn't a tree nearby you ask? Well, then you move to something that is less probably, spontaneous combustion, or a small meteor fragment, or perhaps the sword or arrow of a fellow adventurer bursts into flame somewhat explosively as it hits your target. Perhaps the sword or the arrow are redirected to your target instead of its originally intended target...

There are a lot of possibilities for a creative referee, and it goes well with the current magic system which, as it happens, contains no pre-generated or pre-defined spells. Only a framework to quickly create magical effects during play.

Sunday, 15 March 2015


Just dropping in with a quick note. An RPG group in Australia is currently play testing Lycadican and has made a number of suggestions. As a result, I'm busy with cleanups, clarifications, simplifications and some reorganizing.

Thanks Solo, Adam and the rest of the itinerant adventurers of  'Da good game night ya!' Have fun with the Asura ;)

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Arakasha Society, Culture and Ritual, pt1

Society, Culture and Ritual

“Abaskara, know that all of you are one body.  You are one body among yourselves and you are one body with the clan.  Does it surprise you to know that you are one body with all Arakasha?  Why then do the Clans contest with one another?  To make the body stronger, weakness must be cast off and discarded.  This is the way of the Velo, the lore that shapes.”
The Black Velo Codex

Strangely the Arakashas are the only people in Khardan who are asexual; they are neither male nor female. Every Arakasha carries within itself the capability to propagate its kind.  According to tradition, when an Arakasha decides it is time, it chooses a future mentor and care-giver called a Sar. During the birth cycle it is the sar’s duty to defend and aid the gestating Arakasha or bateh (the Arakasha word for parent). When a sar is chosen and accepts this future responsibility the bateh will commence to gestate young in its belly for a period of eleven months. When the child is ready to be born, the Arakasha will be gripped with racking pain within its swollen abdomen. The sar then initiates the ritual known as Sarakis. During sarakis the sar slices open the bateh’s midsection lengthwise with its own styts, freeing the newborn. In the last stage of the ceremony the sar then opens one of his own veins and the child’s first meal is blood. This blood confers upon the child some of the characteristics of the sar. For a few months the child's only sustenance is the blood of the sar and other clan members. This nourishment helps the child grow and take on additional characteristics that differentiate it from its bateh. Once it matures it may consume meats and vegetables.

The position of Sar does not end with sarakis. A sar will also act as a lifelong mentor and teacher once the child approaches maturity. The tradition of choosing a sar is sacred and comes from the teachings of Velo. On occasion this tradition has been broken when an Arakasha is an outcast or circumstances dictate otherwise. Whatever the reasons the breaking of this tradition brings permanent dishonor on both parent and child. In some instances the child is killed, if not it will die shortly after from a lack of blood. No clan member will be the first to feed a new born unless they have been named Sar, it is taboo. Interestingly Arakasha prophecies and legends predict a great hero who will be born without a sar and grow to adulthood with a complete knowledge of the Velo without ever partaking of the blood of another Arakasha. He will live by fate alone as the returning Sar a’Naskara and lead their nation to dominion over Khardan.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Redesigning the Setting: Drawing the Satellite View Map, 7

Last time we created some Cloud layers with random noise and patterns. This time we will use these patterns to create texture and terrain features. As with the previous post, we are just going to mostly duplicate the steps in Arsheeh's Eriond Tutorial for GIMP and Wilbur that was found at the cartographers guild. (Credits for this goes to him.) Note that as we progress, it's a good idea to make backup copies of layers before you change them. This way you have something to go back to if you make a mistake.

Isolating the Land

The next step is to mask out the Land Clouds with our Land Mask channel. This will restrict the clouds layer to only the areas of your map which are land. The rest of the areas will become transparent. Create a new black layer (set the fill type to Foreground Color and make sure your foreground color is set to Black) named “Land” and move it to just below the Land Clouds layer. This Land layer is really just a flat black background under your Land. Next, un-hide the Land Clouds layer and then right click on it to add your Land Mask.

Layer > New Layer > Black (Name “Land”)
Layer (Land) > Lower Layer (to just below “Land Clouds” layer)
Layer (Land Clouds)> Unhide
Right Click on Land Clouds layer > Add Layer Mask > Channel (Land Mask)
Land Clouds Layer

Now your land should be isolated. However, the Land Clouds patters have far too much contrast. Let’s go ahead and change that but before we do, make a backup copy of your layer by duplicating it and then hiding the duplicate. Make sure that the Land Clouds layer is active by clicking on it (and not the layer mask to the right of it,) then go to Colors and select Brightness-Contrast. Set the Contrast to -25. If you find that your map is too dark, you can adjust the brightness slightly as well (maybe to +10.)

Colors > Brightness-Contrast > Contrast -25

The result should look like the map at the right "Land Clouds Layer."

Monday, 23 February 2015

Redesigning the Setting: Drawing the Satellite View Map, 6

Creating the Land Height Map 

Creating the height map is probably the most important step for creating the map. This is what will give depth and height to your map and make the different geographical features identifiable. We are going to ultimately create 2 height maps, one for the land and one for the sea. This post concentrates on the Sea. By and large we are just going to duplicate the steps in Arsheeh's Eriond Tutorial for GIMP and Wilbur that was found at the cartographers guild. (Credits for this goes to him.)

Generating Clouds & Random Shapes

Create a new white layer above your outline and name it “Clouds 1”.
Layers > New Layer > White (Name "Clouds 1")

On that layer render a set of Difference Clouds. Set the Detail to 15 and (assuming a 3400x1700px size) the X and Y Size to 16.
Filter > Render > Clouds > Difference Clouds > Detail 15 ; Size 16
Create a new layer above Clouds 1 and repeat this step, only this time use a different seed for the Clouds. Name the new layer “Clouds 2”. Set the layer mode of Clouds 2 to Difference.
Layer > New Layer > White (Name Clouds 2) > Layer Mode (Difference)
Filter > Render > Clouds > Difference Clouds > Detail 15 ; Size 16

Right Click on Clouds 2 layer and select New From Visible and name the new layer "Difference 1"
Right Click on Clouds 2 > New From Visible (Name Difference 1)

Repeat this process. Create a “Clouds 3” and a “Clouds 4” layer (above the Difference Clouds 1 layer). Set the opacity of Clouds 4 to Difference and then create a New from Visible layer named “Difference Clouds 2”.
Repeat the preceding steps to make Difference 2

Next move the Difference 1 layer up in the dialogue to just below Difference 2.
Layer (Difference 1) > Raise layer (to just below Difference 2)

Land Clouds

Now set the layer opacity of the Difference 2 layer to Difference and then create a New from Visible layer right above it named “Land Clouds”. As the name implies, this layer will serve as the base clouds layer for our map. The picture captioned 'Land Clouds' should give you an example of what this looks like so far.

Layer (Difference 2) > Layer Mode (Difference)

Layer (Difference 2) > New from visible (Name Land Clouds)

Next we are going to generate cloud patterns to be used for mountains. To do so, follow the instructions given below. This should give you a set of clouds similar to that of the picture captioned 'Mountain Clouds'
Mountain Clouds
Layer (Land Clouds) > Hide Layer

Layer (Difference Clouds 2) > Layer Mode (Addition)

Right Click on Difference Clouds 2 > New From Visible (Name Mt. Clouds)

Colors > Invert. Set Layer opacity to 90%

Now that we have our cloud patterns we will isolate the Land Clouds with the map outline channel; but we'll deal with that in a future post.

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Arakasha, Part 3


Modern Arakasha keep no written records but they do have some ancient written lore from a time when Arakasha civilization was at its peak. These writings can only be read by sacred lore keepers, the Manikix, appointed keepers of the Velo. The records are called Nabask and they speak of the Velo. According to legend, Velo was brought to them by one known only as “Sar a’Naskara,” the one who had no Sar (guardian or protector.) Being that no Arakasha could survive without a Sar he is something of a mythical figure. The Nabask details that Sar a’Naskara gave the Arakasha their way of life. He built their civilization and introduced reading, writing, mathematics, magic and other mystical practices. Some of these practices were rejected, some were learned but soon forgotten. Sar a’Naskara became disillusioned and realizing what the Arakasha were becoming he withheld the fullness of Velo from them until they will be ready to receive it. He then disappeared but is today revered as a messianic figure. Nabask is full of his teachings and the statutes that Arakashas base their lives upon. Manikix believe that the people in their present state cannot receive the fullness of Velo, but when Sar a’Naskara returns to fulfill the Velo they will be restored to their former glory.

Velo is the term used to describe and encompass every aspect of Arakashan life. All are parts and segments of the greater Velo. Loosely translated Velo can be thought of as meaning “The Way.” It can mean The Way of Combat (Wazkinasha) which includes all form of combat, particularly ritual Styt combat; The way of Blood Sharing (Chykaar) which also includes all rituals sacred to the Arakasha and The Way of Relations (Sarakarzu) which includes all social and political relationships

The Arakasha culture is structured and based heavily upon battle and blood. The field of combat, whether for personal or familial obligations is where the destiny of the Arakasha is ultimatelydecided. Within a clan there is a strict hierarchical ranking based upon battle prowess and adherence to the etiquette of Velo. To violate the way is considered an ultimate disgrace and often merits death without honor.

Arakasha religion, also called Velo, centers largely upon the worship of ancient heroes as war gods and awaiting the return of Sar a’Naskara. Their worship includes recalling and reenactment of their hero’s victories and deaths. Most Arakasha clans claim lineage from one or more war heroes.
The Velo also sets the philosophical framework for the Arakasha world. The Arakasha understand that they reside in a cruel and unforgiving climate. They call this aspect of their lives the Trial, and it is only by passing through the Trial can an Arakasha attain glory and be reunited with his ancestors. To pass through the trial successfully Arakasha must practice the Velo.

Ultimately Velo encompasses their entire existence and contains ancient lore that an Arakasha learns in stages as it moves through the hierarchy of the Clan. The first lore is that of the Dunes. Young Arakasha's learn about the Dunes and how to survive in its harsh environment. The second lore is that of the Styt, Wazkinasha, or combat, and etiquette of honor.  The third lore is the lore of their people, their past and their origins.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Arakasha, part 2

The Dek Var

The Dek Var

Dek Var Sand Storm
The black sand of the Dek Var takes a variety of shapes. Unlike other deserts where rolling hills of sand crest and fall the mounds of the Dek Var vary greatly. Some are huge aberrant monstrosities, angular where they should be smooth or coiled like a snake; some no more than small mounds. The erratic weather has made many in unfamiliar shapes and the blistering sun has fused many together into hardened mountains with razor sharp crests.

Tall, lonely shards of glistening obsidian grasp up for the heavens erratically among the lows and valleys between the sands. The Arak's call them 
Kunonistok, scarring them to sharpen their Styts and leaving them appearing like twisted devils.   

To the east and to the west are the open seas, to the north the foot hills of the northern mountains. Within it's canyons are strewn the skeletal remains of cities from a forgotten age. One populous, these desert mountains are home only to numerous wild beasts. The climate there is cooler as the altitude increases, but it is still relatively hot and dry. Small lakes can be found at the highest altitudes where glaciers once sat eons ago. Just beyond the northern reaches of the Dek Var, as if to mock the Arak's is the Kom; a vast lake. While inaccessible to the Arak's its tributaries flow through the Dek Var supplying water to hidden canyons and underground rivers guarded jealously by many Arak tribes. 
The few oases’ found throughout the desert are fought over by nomadic tribes. 

To the south of the Dek Var lies the vast expanse of the Jah-Re-Bah desert. Jah-Re-Bah is inhabited by nomads and traders who occasionally attempt to cross the Dek Var seeking trade in other lands. They rarely survive and so most are forced to trade by sea.


Vegetation is rare in the Dek Var but there are some hostile desert plants used for food and folk medicine. Seasonal rainstorms bring the Dek Var to life as if in an instant. Plants and flowers spring up from desolate landscapes and the Dek Var is transformed into a place of alien beauty. 

Despite its appearance, some animal life thrives here. Fierce creatures and reptilian beasts inhabit this vast and perilous desert, particularly in the northern and coastal areas, but the creatures that are most valuable are the Moroskaa; called the Black Camel by the Jah-Re-Bahn's.