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Showing posts from 2013

Ferrous Metal Food Fighting Guy!

(This is something I wrote up some years back. I'm putting it here so I can find it more easily when I want to. Though it's rather silly, it's also where I came up with the idea of high-quality materials which don't provide a bonus to the craftsman's skill, but do add to the margin of success, a mechanism which later appeared in the crafting rules in GURPS Low-Tech Companion 3.)

One of the things not to be found in GURPS 4e is extensive rules for competitive cooking. If two cooks of steely resolve rise up to face one another across a cooking coliseum, the GM can only fall back on hand-waving and contests of skill. This article fills that much-needed gap. GURPS chefs can now stage furious contests wherein they construct fanciful dishes, the more elaborate the better, and prove whose cooking rules the day. To the kitchen!

Procedure These rules provide guidance for attempting to cook complex dishes and comparing their quality when the cooking is done. A chef st…

Panel Discussion Addendum

I was late to Douglas Cole's panel discussion of SJ Games staff and frequent contributors to Pyramid magazine, so I missed a lot of the questions asked directly to the authors, and technical issues prevented me from answering some others once I got there. These, then, are some things I might have said, had I been able:

Douglas: How well does that mission statement resonate with you guys? Do you like to write crazy stuff? Do you like to get out there with expansions on existing material? How do you tie what you’re writing to either the themes Steven has suggested or what’s in your heart.

I like to write a range of stuff; how I do it varies. I get an idea and go where that takes me. On one end, there's the pure historicals. In things like "A Brief History of the Thieves' Guild," it's mostly ideas and background information. Maybe I mention a skill or advantage to give it a fig-leaf of GURPS, but that's about it. At the other end, there are the crunch-heavy,…

Chigan: Geomancy

Geomancers in Chigan are specialists in locating and arranging spaces conducive to good luck and positive spiritual properties. Where astrologers find lucky times, geomancers find and to some extent arrange lucky places. Geomancers take the Hidden Lore (Geomancy) skill.
Geomancy has two significant uses. One is to find and arrange auspicious places at which to begin a new activity (for example, a birth, a marriage, or negotiate a treaty). “Arranging” involves modest changes to the location, such as clearing interfering shrubbery, moving furniture around, erecting temporary barriers, or painting or putting up banners or tapestries in suitable colors. An attempt takes one week and a roll against Geomancy skill using the standard Geomancy modifiers (see below). If the roll succeeds, participants in the venture present on site at the beginning (for example, a child being born, a newlywed couple, or negotiating diplomats, but not assistants or spectators) get one reroll as per Luck during…

Chigan: Trade, Travel, and Striding Pavilions

Because of the difficulty of transport by water in Chigan, most travel happens over land. Roadways are cut across steep hillsides, switching back and forth in order to reduce impossible ascents to merely difficult ones; a journey can easily be five to ten times the straight-line distance between start and destination. The roads rise to passes to adjacent valleys, some of which are closed seasonally by bad weather, while just about all passes and the roads below are subject to temporary closing because of avalanches and storm runoff. A patchwork of bridges stitches up the gaps caused by less negotiable dips and depressions, as well as cobblestone paving and retaining walls to shore up fragile roadways, but most roads are unpaved, muddy in the wetter seasons and strewn with jagged rubble when dry.

Travel is complicated by a lack of good beasts of burden. With a lack of good pasture, large animals don’t thrive in Chigan. In addition to the water buffalo kept for agricultural use, some ho…

Chigan: Supernatural Abilities

The supernatural is quite demonstrably real in Chigan, though out of reach of most people. The most common skills dealing with the supernatural are those which require some learning but no particular special talent. Astrology and geomancy are respectable professions through the region. Astrologers are consulted frequently by all but the poorest members of society on matters of business and family. Geomancers are consulted somewhat less often, but their skills can provide excellent long-term benefits. Alchemists produce remarkable potions, but they are rare and expensive. People also petition the gods through prayer and offerings, though the effects are unclear.
More definite supernatural effects are available to particularly gifted individuals. Through study and virtue-accruing activities, holy men and mystical scholars may learn to perform magic, and dedicated fighting men may also acquire remarkable abilities. Alchemy and astrology from GURPS Fantasy-Tech 1 are in use and may be p…

Chigan: Architecture

Land for construction is often at a premium. Lowland real estate is needed for farming, and slopes are difficult to build large structures on. Therefore, buildings in Chigan are relatively tall and narrow, with three or four stories being very common. In the lowlands, a typical household consists of several narrow towers at the corners of a walled courtyard. Stories within a tower typically consist of a single room; any necessary divisions are created by portable wooden or fabric screens. Small windows on all sides, often decorated with elaborately carved lattices, provide cross-ventilation without letting in too much light, while the courtyard provides shaded but open work space. Particularly wealthy homes are a complex of towers and small courtyards and sometimes contain a large central tower or high-ceilinged hall; temple and monastery architecture is similar. Poorer people live in compounds where they may occupy a tower (or just one floor of a tower) but share a courtyard with ne…

Chigan: Society

Chigan is a large and extensively subdivided region, so despite a number of shared ideas and practices, individual realms host a great deal of cultural diversity. Chigan societies are relatively “flat” with regard to social classes. Though people range from street beggars to royalty, and some families command greater wealth and power or better reputation than others, there are no formal, much less inheritable, class or caste differences. The ruling classes hold their position on the strength of their wealth and collective personal influence, not by holding titles. So while it may be difficult, it is certainly possible for one to start out destitute and become fabulously powerful. To put it another way, there is status, but status is not by itself inheritable and the range of status levels is fairly small.

There are a few exceptions connected to particular offices and professions. In some of the more stable monarchies, the ruler is regarded as semi-divine and must be protected from the…

Chigan: Religion

Chigan’s native religion acknowledges an indefinite but very large number of gods. Mountains, winds, classes of plants and animals, stages of life, strong emotions, and just about any other aspect of life and the natural world has at least one god. There is some dispute over whether the god of, say, the southeast wind as he is worshiped in one place is the same as the god of the southeast wind in another but under a different name, a physically separate aspect of a primal god of southeast winds (who is in turn an aspect of an even more fundamental god of the winds), or an entirely separate entity. However, the debate is largely scholarly, with most people worshiping the gods they grew up with.
Practical aspects of religion concern the accumulation of what is loosely called “benefit” or more commonly “virtue.” Virtue, in this context, comprises a variety of good and selfless acts, physical and emotional suffering, and esoteric meditation and practices. Different acts can provide diffe…

Chigan: Politics

Most realms are either straightforward monarchies ruled by a leading military clan or theocracies governed by a high priest or a monastery. A minority is some sort of republic, typically a merchant oligarchy, or divided into small “feudal” domains build around fortified family strongholds. Both tend to collapse into a more centralized authoritarian regime after a few generations.
Though there are no authorities over the region as a whole, either in legal fiction or actual fact (there has never been a “Chigan empire”), there are some cultural traditions which at least give Chigan a framework for interacting with one another. Many of Chigan’s more powerful families are connected by marriages arranged to create alliances between them. However, since new marriages are arranged to facilitate a constantly shifting set of alliances, actual loyalties are quite muddled. Instead of a family in valley A being allied with one in valley B but not valley C, it’s more often the case that A has line…