I've been really
feeling the wind in my hoary-cliched sails this week.Not only did it
feel good to get the Slumbering Ursine Dunes pdf out early to backers
last week (and on sale at DriveThru), it felt even better to put the
last touches on the draft of the Marlinko city adventure that was the
first stretch goal of the Kickstarter. We had originally imagined it
to be a smallish thing 20 pages as opposed to the 66 pages of the
Dunes but it's already taken on a life of its own and is hitting
around 40 digest-sized pages already.
invigorating about the writing I am finding is that in a long sandbox
campaign you end up with a lot of dead ends or partially-developed
material when the party veers off one way or the other. Having the
excuse and motivation to really dig down into half-baked, left-behind ideas and
places thus feels like a real treat. I never got a chance to really
dig into the city adventures and high weirdness of Marlinko after it
slipped from its place of prominence as the party's home-base roughly
two and change years ago. And now I do.
Anywho here's a
sample of some of what the new material is looking like...
The Four Contradas of Marlinko
Marlinko was built around the squat,
black bulk of the Tomb of the Town Gods, a structure that predates
the rest of the city by an interminably long period of time. The
ominous edifice sitting in its wide, cobblestoned, circular plaza has
retained its position as the dead center of the city. Four wide
avenues radiate from it at the cardinal points and divide the city
into four contradas or quarters.
The four contradas do not reflect
merely a geographic or class division but have deeply embedded
cultural and psycho-geographical lives of their own. Each contrada
organizes its own festivals, keeps its own histories, and pays
fearful homage to the abstract-featured idol of its own unique “town
Each contrada also maintains its own
contrada hall (a large, well-maintained, ceremonial gathering place)
where it keeps a collection of its own unique banners, ceremonial
regalia, historical tapestries, mummies, and most importantly, the
various trophies it has won in the single most important bi-annual
event: the great chariot race that headlines the Ebon Horse Fair.
Throughout the year, contrada trainers keep their chosen condemned
convict-jockey revved up and ready for the Black Race. It is well
that they do for the losers are hanged and the winner takes a trophy
and his freedom!
(Sullen Apiarian) Contrada
The Northwestern Quarter with its great
yellow-and-black beehive and mopey deodand emblazoned banner contains
the greatest concentration of affluence and easy living in the city.
The great painted-plastered town-manses of the wealthy dominate the
coveted plaza and avenue fronts in this part of town.
Despite its wealthy cast, the
contrada has a deeply-ingrained inferiority complex--due in large
part to its century-long losing streak in the Black Race. The loss
has become a self-fulfilling prophesy in recent years with the rash
of suicides of convicts who consider being drafted into service as a
SA jockey to be a death sentence anyway. Roving gangs of youths from
respected families are quick to draw rapiers against any slight as to
compensate for the wound to their civic honor.
Sullen Apiarian “worships” or
placates Anfolf, the vaguely bee-headed town god said to be a
rainmaker and bringer of both wealth and anxiety. When Anfolf in his
glowing golden nimbus walked the streets of early Marlinko impressing
the bearded Pahr immigrants just getting used to lives not spent on
horseback, He was said to literally shower them with the sweetest of
honey--and the swiftest of kicks...
Though it shouts “conspicuous
consumption,” the yellow-limestone and quartz facade of the Sullen
Apiarian contrada hall with its amber and lapis lazuli-encrusted
honeycombed frescoes stands handsomely over its small, tight square.
The contrada society itself is a broad one with a large burgeoning
hierarchy of ceremonial officers arrayed in 27 ranks. Incongruously
the higher, more labor-intensive (and not un-powerful) positions are
held traditionally by the less affluent members of the contrada (or
“temporally-embarrassed grandees” as they like to call
From here each contrada has a key focusing on the interesting and adventurable sites. Each ward description also has their own unique encounter
and random building charts—many of which have triggers and hooks
embedded in the escalating random event system of the Chaos Index.
Encounter charts that have entries like this...
Maus. A wild-eyed paranoid dressed in the long-robed,
woolen hat finery of a rustic boyar. Maus rants and raves at the
characters about the “Axis of Tindrthurn,” a secret postal and
matchmaking service that he claims is trying to kill him. If the
Chaos Level is 6 and over he is correct on all counts.