September 17, 2014

Ancients and Aliens: 20 quick questions

In an effort to help flesh out my campaign setting I'm answering some questions I found over at Jeff's Gameblog. Next I'll start working on a gazetteer and a better map. This is the map we're currently using at the table.

1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?
Well, there aren't any clerics yet. You can play a Prophet though and preform miracles while making up your new religion as you go. If you get your Prophet character to level 9 and build a church, then your religion will become famous enough to start producing clerics.

When people talk about priests they are usually referring to the magi (magic-users) who run the ziggurats and watch over the cities while the old Anunnaki gods are away on business. The magi are usually too busy with their own power struggles to pay much attention to what some lunatic prophet is doing, but expect backlash once they notice people turning away from the old gods.

2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?
Crazy Gorgathon runs Gorgathon's Outfittery and Supplies which caters to all the adventurers and sell swords currently running around Niru. He is in fierce competition with Sweeney's General Goods which is now run by Sweeney's daughter Deandra. 

3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?
Nowhere really, making platemail is a lost art that the dwarves and elves have forgotten. You could get some custom scalemail though. Gorgathon can get specialty items shipped up from Nippur, or you can go talk to Ithleb the Smith about making some here in Niru. 

4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?
It used to be the god Enlil (or possibly Enki), but now that the Anunnaki are gone the answer isn't clear at all.

The most powerful magi in each city holds the title Ensi (or Ninsi if she is a lady). The Ensi is the representative of that city's patron deity and pretty much runs everything now that the Anunnaki are gone. Back in the old days the Ensi would be whoever the ruling Anunnaki chose as an apprentice, and all the other magi in town would in turn be apprenticed to the Ensi. Those magi would manage the populous of the city and report back to the Ensi, who then reported to the deity. Whenever an Ensi died or fell out of favor the ruling deity would simply choose a new apprentice. Now however, becoming the Ensi of a city is a lot more competitive. Sometimes an Ensi will plan ahead and try to appoint a successor, or leave instructions for testing those who wish to ascend to the position once it is vacant. A dead Ensi can't really enforce their will though, so it is up to the magi of a city to come to some consensus about who should lead. Sometimes this transition is peaceful, but increasingly the matter of succession is settled through threats, duels, and assassination. The most powerful wizard is likely one of these Ensi, but it's hard to tell which one of them is the mightiest wizard in the land. They all claim to be the best, but to keep their rivals off guard they also take pains not to reveal the full extent of their powers. It's likely to be one of these five though...

Murmuhraag - Ensi of the air/breath god Enlil in the city of Nippur
Ziusudra the Mad - Ensi of the trickster god Enki (new convert) in Shuruppak
Litani the Breathtaking - Ninsi of the sex/war goddess Inanna in the city of Uruk
Shuugarad - Ensi of the sun god Utu in the city of Larsa
Kokazari - Ensi of the moon god Nanna in the city of Ur 

5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?
Ninurta the goddess of bravery and combat. No contest, she was the baddest ass ever.

Now that she has gone back up to the heavens that distinction probably goes to barbarian lord Ghokon who has untied many tribes of the Hills Peoples and taken control of Susa, Chogha Mish, and the lands to the east near the Zagros mountians. There are a few other contenders though. The amazon queen Alera is said to be more fierce in battle than the lions who fight beside her, she now rules over hundreds of women living somewhere in the northern wilds. There is also Lugal-Guzox of Girsu, he is said to rule that city being so fearsome that the local magi there all bow before him.

6. Who is the richest person in the land?
Murmuhraag the Ensi of Nippur. Nippur is the central trading hub of all of Sumer, and goods from all over the world are bought and sold here. Taxes are levied on every person, animal, and wagon that enters the city. The city sprawls across both sides of the Euphrates, connected by a floating bridge/blockade. Boats and rafts must also pay a tax to split a section of the bridge and open the water route if they wish to pass through to another city. Murmuhraag always gets his cut.

7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?
Most of the ziggurats have magi alchemists who create magical potions. The potions are traded between the cities, but the recipes are well guarded secrets. Most of the healing potions, curatives, and salves found throughout the land are made in the city of Isin.

8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?
Try the closest ziggurat. Even if they don't know a helpful spell, the magi have access to scrolls that might do the trick... for a price. You could try travelling to Isin, where their patron deity is Ninisinna the goddess of Healing. If all else fails you could go off into the wilds and ask one of the shamans of the Hills Peoples to help, but even if they aren't charlatans they might still be mad about all the slavery and killing and stuff.

Undeath is perfectly natural for humans and the other slave races created by the Anunnaki. A few days after you die you just get up and start walking to the Underworld where you spend eternity working for the goddess Ereshkigal. Just stay out their way and those zombies usually don't get too bitey... usually. This undeath does not happen to the native people like elves, dwarves, and orcs supposedly because they don't have souls. However, some foul necromancers can create elf, dwarf, and orc zombies. These are abominations fueled by stolen souls, obviously.

9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?
You're one of the magi, and you should probably stick with them for a while. They'll want 10% of your earnings, but you'll level up faster with their help. Also, you don't start off with your own spellbook, so to memorize spells you'll need to go into town and use one of the Tablets of Fate which are the well guarded communal spellbook i-Pads used by the magi and their Elfulan guards.

10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?
Get thee to a ziggurat. You might have to travel to a specific city for certain information. The sages in Eridu are said to be the most knowledgeable, but each city has it's specialties.

11. Where can I hire mercenaries?

Just about any city will have unemployed soldiers and guards. Try looking inside a tavern or outside a ziggurat. Without the Anunnaki doing the off-world trading, the ziggurats now have a huge surplus of food but a shortage of coins. Many cities have cut back on the number of guards, gladiators, and soldiers that they employ. Unemployment and crime has gone up. You can generally find someone willing to put their life on the line in exchange for a bag full of coins.

12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?
Not really. No stealing, no killing. Justice is a very "eye for an eye" sort of affair. However, adventurers tend to stand out among the crowd, and will likely be followed and watched. The people in the cities have been part of an elaborate Anunnaki breeding program for thousands of years. The Anunnaki bred most of their slaves in order to enhance qualities like complacency, pragmatism, and servility. So while the are no laws explicitly against carrying weapons in town, most people will just assume that you're up to no good, stay out of your way, and point you out to the authorities.

13. Which way to the nearest tavern?
There are two taverns in Niru, you can take your pick.

The Tavern of the Full Tankard is a small friendly place run by a man named Sam. He's a decent cook and serves locally brewed beer of variable quality. Some batches of beer are better than others, but the prices are always affordable. Sam has hired a refugee from Kutha to help do chores and keep the place clean, an older man named Thessel.

The Weary Ass is a larger building with nice furnishings and rooms for rent upstairs. The prices here are significantly higher, but the food is good and the young ladies are proud to serve beer and wine imported all the way from Uruk. The proprietor is a woman named Hessia who rules her tavern with an iron fist. She refuses service to non-humans, but makes an exception for Elfulans "because they work for the magi, so I pretty much have to". Porgun the Brute is kept on staff to help "take out the trash", but some of the regular patrons also like to get involved in that sort of thing.

14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?

There are a whole load of wild humanoids gathering up at the Chaotic Caves of Chaos harassing travelers and decent working folk. There are also a bunch of demons and vampires that crawled up from the Underworld and into the city of Kutha, which is why Kutha was abandoned and Niru is now full of refugees. Most horrible of all is the Ulu, it now stands over thirty feet tall and just keeps growing as it gorges itself on the walking dead who are shambling toward Kutha and their afterlife in the Underworld. That's why so many people are paying the Lamentation Priests to fast track the spirits of their dearly departed straight to the land of the dead. Otherwise when the dead rise again after a few days and make the long walk to the Underworld they risk being eaten along the way by the Kutha Ulu and robbed of their afterlife.

15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?

Tensions are high between many of the city-states, but not many of them can afford a big build up of troops. There are occasional raids and border skirmishes between many cities, but the most serious open fighting right now is between Larsa and Girsu.

16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?

Oh, of course! Just about every city has an arena. Some of the matches are fought to the death, but others fight until someone yields or until first blood. It's all very civilized. Watch out for the Halflingons though, they get a little berzerky sometimes.

17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?
Each of the old Anunnaki gods has a group of zealots led by the magi of that faith, so there are plenty of spies, assassins, plots, and deceptions going on there. There are also the Jedite clans, who are sort of like organized street gangs with psychic abilities. Rumors persist of elvish spies and sympathizers working within some cities, but most folk just laugh at such conspiracy theories.

18. What is there to eat around here?
A bunch of wheat and barley mostly. Barley porridge, and barley cakes with onion and beans washed down with barley ale. A lot of bread which is course, flat, and unleavened. Most homes will have their own garden with a variety of vegetables and fruits, in the cities these are grown in open air courtyards or up on the roof. The top level of each ziggurat is a lush garden usually with fruit trees and exotic plants. The people grow things like chickpeas, lentils, onions, cucumbers, garlic, lettuce, and a number of herbs and spices.

There are a lot of different fruits available as well, some of these are dried or preserved in honey. The most important food crop in the south is the date palm. Besides all of those dates there are also apples, figs, grapes, mulberries, pears, plums, cherries, melons, and pomegranates. Wine is available, but ale is cheaper.

The fish swarming in the rivers and the gulf are a major source of food. Food stalls in the cities will sell things like fried fish, and freshly grilled goat, mutton, and pork. Meat is not sold as often in the sparsely populated towns and villages. There they wait until the whole animal will be used, because it spoils quickly in the heat. Conversely, it is easier to buy milk, cheese, and butter from the herders outside the cities. Cattle are generally not slaughtered for food until they are too old for work, but times are tough right now and some people will eat whatever they can get their hands on.

19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
Oh sure. Elvish and dwarvish civilization collapsed all at once thousands of years ago. The Anunnaki sent horrible monsters and mutant horrors into those cities and tunnels, so there are all of these terribly infested ruins now that hold lots of coins, lost treasures, and magic items.

There aren't really legends though. The Anunnaki gassed the elves and dwarves with some kind of clouds of forgetfulness before they tried to wipe them out. Although there were survivors their culture, stories, and even their languages are all but lost.

20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?
Well, there is said to be an old red dragon lair under Xylarthen's Tower which is about 30 miles northeast of Niru. Even better, recent reports from the Watchkeepers suggest that the dragon is already dead and the horde of treasure is still sitting down there somewhere. Also a group of Watchkeepers recently killed a black dragon just a few miles east of town at Swamp Tower, but no one knows where it's lair might be.

There should also be a lot of loot left in Kutha, but the Ulu, vampires, and all the other demons make that a less attractive option.