Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Sunless Horizon Play Report #1 (Sessions 1 & 2)

After a couple years of setting work, a few months of seeecret system work, and a week of campaign prep, I've finally managed to run Sunless Horizon, my sci-fi/horror setting.

This campaign is somewhat light on the horror, because it turns out I don't know how to run horror. I'll figure it out eventually (maybe).

Note: this does reference Sunless Horizon's system a bit, but all of it should make sense.

Players
Unnamed - Oblidisideryptch (joined on Session 2)
Aemanda Tessier - Dom
Eni Léashvath - Vayra
Arok Tseyvar - Kwub
Erul Avedayati - PurpleCthulhu
Zoma - Justin Hamilton

Premise
The characters were conscripted by the Overseer of Subrayada, a small fortress-town on the edge of House Chaigidel. The Overseer signed to her Herald, who said the Maglev Rail outside of town has failed. It's the town's artery - without it, there's no connection between it and the outside world. The Herald continued, saying the rest of the town's Jackals have gone missing after being sent on the same mission.

Then, the Overseer nodded, and the Herald said that she will give the PCs all her favor after the train is repaired. The Overseer waved again, and a small machine prints out a piece of plastic, on which is a map.

Numbers here are for Route Stats - random encounter table/number of encounters per half-mile/distance in half-miles.

A Trip to the Beach
After being given their mission, the PCs leave Subrayada, heading on the half-mile journey to the Coolant Sea. Eni decides to take the lead, rolling their incredible Analysis stat for a Pathfinding check.

And rolling a 1.

Eni decided to take a "shortcut", neglecting to mention that the shortcut would take them through a Red Zone - fully functional areas of Ein Soph, used for esoteric industrial purposes.

The path turns downwards, into a pool of reddish mist that swings back and forth like a tide. After long discussion (and a small amount of exposure), the PCs decide to light one of their torches and slowly push it into the mist. As the heat of the fire reaches it, the mist recedes - not burning up, but moving, almost like it was alive.

Note to Self: everyone will try fire on mists - don't have it work.

As they start to cross the mist, they hear footsteps behind them. They decide that caution is best, and continue before dousing their torches on the other side. They hear the footsteps progress, a cry, and then they recede.

They continue upwards, away from the pool of mist. Soon, they reach a gargantuan plain of metal, lit by cold white light. Eni immediately turns them around to head down a second path, which descends until opening up into a huge chamber - the Coolant Sea.


The Coolant Sea is a Region Node - one of the four types of map in Sunless Horizon (Region Nodes are small hexcrawls, Structure Nodes are dungeoncrawls, Abstract Nodes are for cities and other places where exact location doesn't matter, and the fourth is the pointcrawl map used for overland travel).

And here's where I made a tremendous, obvious mistake. The players start in hex 1.1. The goal is in hex 2.1. This leaves 7 hexes (all the most interesting ones) just... there, with no real reason to explore them.

Oh well.

Why Did We Take a Trip to This Beach?
The cracked, rusting deck of the worldship curves down into a miserable lake of knee-high stagnant water, with pools of prismatic chemicals drifting on it like clouds. A shattered tower juts out of the water like a broken tooth, and a flipped raft bobs up and down with the slight tide.

The PCs wasted no time, immediately splitting up to investigate both the tower and the raft. The tower was ruined and covered in Sea People graffiti, with only a single growing machine still working, and all its crops had already been harvested.

Some of the other PCs flipped the raft, uncovering a pair of waterlogged corpses, that seem to have been preyed upon by wandering water-striders. The players dump both of them, taking a pole to use as an oar, and start moving towards the mile-high power line they can see in the distance.

As they slowly make their way past the vines and roots that cover the water here, Eni looks up, and notices movement, a few stories up on one of the towers. Then, they see guns - simple rifles poking from many of the buildings, tracking them as they move.

They realize that a town has sprung up, holding on to the sides of the power conduit like a leech. They've all been told stories about the Sea People - about how they're violent and paranoid, and despise the Houses.

While Eni suggested lying about their work, and pretending to be independents, they decided to hide instead, slowly rowing around until they reached an unoccupied piece of the cable. Zoma was chosen to climb up, passing his climb roll and reaching a boxy outcrop 50 feet up.

At this point, I realized that the game's climbing/crawling rules took to long to figure out, and were too safe. Something to fix in the next version, I suppose (argh).

 As Zoma thought about how to force the box open, the players saw 4 shapes bound across the towers - strange feathered crickets, each the size of a man.


Bugs are Fun
This was the first test of Sunless Horizon's combat system, and it felt like the first test of a combat system.

The tremendously overcomplicated action-based initiative system took 15 minutes to do on the first round, and the idea of declaring actions before you roll initiative, which was intended to provoke planning, actually took the feeling of control away from the players, as after initiative rolled everything became the GM declaring what they were doing.

The fight went well - my auto-hit + hit location attacks were pretty quick, and the low HP pools on each side meant the fight only lasted 2 turns (which would've only taken like 10 minutes if it wasn't for that terrible, awful initiative system).

What? Why?
Zoma forced the capacitor box open with his shiv (breaking it in the process), while [unnamed] tore open the crickets, looking for anything edible.

They all decided that things had gone pretty well for them, so they could probably afford to spend some more time in the Sea. They moved south, to inspect a Sea People watchtower. The tower was occupied by one rifle-armed person - while two PCs pretended to be from a nearby Sustainer Cell, [unnamed] climbed up the side of the tower and killed the sentry. Now, they have a gun!

At this point, all the PCs go completely feral.

Erul suggests that they should just eat the sentry, and most of the other PCs agree, despite the fact that it's been less than a day in-game, and they enough food for 3. Then they steal the sentry's pants.

After their descent into madness, the PCs all return to town, delivering 3 capacitors to the Overseer, and selling the last one for 5u - enough for one day of food.

Conclusion(s)
There are many conclusions that can be drawn from these sessions:

  1. As a system, Sunless Horizon is a flaming ruin. The climbing/crawling rules are (currently) a complete waste of time, initiative takes years, everyone is sad, everything is bad.
  2. Don't put the start and goal of your hexcrawl right next to each other (how did I even do that).
  3. I desperately need a good introduction to the setting (one is currently in progress).
  4. I don't know how to write session reports (please tell me what I did wrong).
  5. My players are really nice to deal with this nonsense.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Religion of the Navigator Houses, Redux (Sunless Horizon)

This is the third post on the religion of the Navigator Houses, and invalidates both previous posts, which will be updated to point here.

Religion is an important part of culture. It connects people, answers questions about the world, and motivates them. This is no different for the Navigator Houses and their religion, Absolutism.

Note: Keter and Pronouns
Keter is referenced with different pronouns depending on the beliefs of the people speaking. To Creationist Heretics, Ghouls, and other groups who believe Keter is an active agent, Keter uses He/Him. To orthodox Absolutists and other groups who see Keter as an unthinking manifestation of the world, Keter uses It/It. Both of these are always capitalized.

Messages From Above

The Creation of the World

First, there was the void.

Next, there was the world, a harsh land of metal. This world is alive - when it is spoken of as a place, it is called Ein Soph. When it is spoken of as a consciousness, it is called Keter.

When the void saw Keter, it became jealous of the new world's light and heat, and began to claw at it. This is why the edges of the world are tattered, and why vacuum is harmful. 

From Keter's body, new life sprang. Plants and animals began to wander through the world, and eventually people joined them. This was the first cycle of Creation.

Eventually, that cycle ended, and the first cycle of Destruction began. The void tore at the world in desperation, and many people walled themselves in vaults, where they still stay to this day. As the cycles turned again, and again, the people who stayed outside changed. This is why people come in so many strange shapes.

The angels appeared later, emerging from Keter's brain. There were two kinds - the angels of Creation, made of flesh, took the reins of civilization, driving it forwards and creating the Houses. These angels are the nobility. The angels of Destruction, made of metal, waited until the next cycle of Destruction, where they began to prune away the mistakes generated during Creation.

Under the guidance of the nobles, the Houses put Keter in chains, restraining Him and keeping his Creation aspect active for far longer than the cycles should last. This let them grow forever, and kept the Disciples docile. This ended with the Retreat, where Keter broke His chains, the cycle turned to Destruction, and the Disciples flowed through the cities of the Houses like water.

Divinity

According to the orthodox form of Absolutism, there are three tiers of divinity - the Saints, the Angels, and the Godhead.

The Saints
There are three saints, each representing one of the Houses' three virtues.

Capra is the first, representing stoicism. Capra was sainted after the destruction of their town - the only two survivors were Capra and the town's Overseer. Capra wandered for 30 days without food or water, surrendering any they found to the Overseer to keep him alive. Capra died, one step from the wall of another city. The Overseer survived.

Ursus is the second, representing sacrifice. Ursus was sainted for killing one of the Seraphim in single combat. Broken and bleeding, they still bowed to his Overseer before their death.

Vulpes is the last, representing vigilance. Vulpes was sainted after reporting a grave discovery - an entire city, under the control of Galatean heretics. The heretics tortured Vulpes, and paraded their flayed body through the city to the joyous screams of all. When the Hierarch's army razed the city, the heretics still cheered.

The Angels
The nobles of the Houses are divine, partially. They are immortal angels, spawned from Keter's brain and sent to be an interface between Keter and the people of the Houses. They hear the desires of the peasants, and whisper guidance to Keter on His path through the void.

The peasant's tithes of money and blood must be harsh because sacrifice is necessary to keep Keter alive and awake. Half the tithe is sent to Keter, so He may rebuild his body. The rest is kept by the nobles - it is needed for them to remake their shells and stay in this material realm.

But they are not the only angels - the nobles spring from the creation aspect of Keter, while the Disciples spring from His destruction aspect. As the aspects trade control, these two groups switch in strength - as the creation aspect takes the throne, the nobles expand, as the destruction aspect takes over, the Disciples become more aggressive. 

The Godhead
Keter is the center of the universe, from which all other things spring. His mind is a lattice of crystal and metal, and His body is the worldship itself. 

He does not think, nor dream. He is empty, and mindless. According to the orthodox, Keter is not a He, but an It. Worthy of care, perhaps, but not of worship. It is the angels who are truly alive.

The Retreat, and Keter's recent violence, are part of a natural cycle. The world goes between Creation (during which the nobles help the Houses grow, and the Disciples wait) and Destruction (during which the nobles help the Houses survive, and the Disciples prune away mistakes). It's not intentional or conscious, it's just the way things are.

The Houses plan to reach the Crown and put Keter in chains, leaving the creation aspect in control permanently. They say they've done this before.


The Soul

Everything has a soul, from the smallest speck of dust to Keter Himself. However, as an object grows more complex, the soul mirrors it - the souls of metal and dust are single, solid forms, unmoving and unchanging. The souls of machines and plants branch and turn. The souls of Disciples, animals, and people are complicated devices, ticking away as they live.

The nobles have grander souls than people - this is why they are immortal. Keter's soul is the grandest of all - it must be, to bear the world itself.

The Shape of the Soul
Everything's soul is the same shape as itself - the soul of a stone is the same shape as the stone, the soul of a person is the same shape as the person. The soul does not want to change - it wants to stay still, inside the body.

This is why you get hurt - when your body changes shape by being cut, or crushed, or burned, the soul cannot change shape to reach it. Some parts of your body, like your heart and brain, are more important to the soul - this is why injuries to them are often fatal, as their changes affect the soul more intensely.

This explains many things to the people of the Houses.

Prosthetics work because they are the same shape as the body part they replace, so the soul enters the prosthetic and moves it like the limb it had before.

You get sick because of wandering fragments of soul, left over from the process of refraction. They attach to yours, desperate to regain their old forms. Your body tries to change its shape to fit this gestalt, and fails, hurting itself. To cure yourself, you must drive away these fragments.

Refraction
Service is rewarded. When you die, the nobles weigh all your deeds. If you have followed the virtues of the Saints, your soul is sent through Keter, emerging from that glass maze changed and shifted, like an image seen through water.

This is refraction - a gift from the nobles, to people who have proved themselves. Every life, you must be found useful, or your soul will be abandoned, lost in the void. There is no room for weakness.

The Void
Outside of the world, there is the void. It is, in a way, alive.

It is nothing but staring eyes and hungering mouths, tearing at the flesh of the world. If it touches you, it will pull the heat and life out of your body in a desperate attempt to feel the life it has been denied. If you fail to be refracted, your soul will be trapped here, forever.

Messages From Within


While the above section is the orthodox way of thinking, it is rarely practiced. The people of the Houses make their own changes, and have their own odd beliefs. These are split into superstitions (small, usually practical ideas, accepted by authority) and heresies (large, spiritual concepts, persecuted by authority).

1d6 Superstitions
  1. The ashes of a great hero will drive away Disciples, as the hero's soul assaults them. 
  2. Search the red salt that grows near some fuel lines, and rub it in wounds. The soul will be tricked into thinking the paste that this creates is your flesh.
  3. A copper spiral will prevent illness - the invading spirits will wander through the spiral and become trapped.
  4. If someone dies in a vacuum, turn them towards the world, or they will never be refracted.
  5. If you touch a noble, they will curse you, and your bones will twist inside your skin until they shatter.
  6. Wear a small figurine of yourself before you go to war. Your soul will be confused, and hide inside the figure. Until your soul returns, you will not feel pain.

1d4 Heresies

Note: it is both possible and common to support multiple heresies at once. This is not a comprehensive list.
  1. The Creationist Heresy - Keter is an active, living agent. He is not a representation of the world, He created it, and all things that live within it.
  2. The Influence Heresy - Keter is an active, living agent. He contacts people to give them commands.
  3. The Embodiment Heresy - Keter is an active, living agent. He exists both as the world and in a discrete, physical body.
  4. The 4th Saint Heresy - There is a fourth saint; what that saint represents varies between different groups.

Messages From Elsewhere

Of course, that is not the only religion of the Houses. As they spread and conquered, they absorbed other peoples, and other religions. Over time, the specifics have melted away, leaving only vague, half-remembered traditions under the umbrella of the Old Ways.

The one reliable fact about the Old Ways is their belief in immanent, non-physical deities - while Absolutism states that the only difference between an object, a person, and a deity is the size of the soul, the Old Ways see hard borders between the three.

Rituals

Rituals, not gods, are the core of the Old Ways. Few people can even agree on which gods exist, and their names, personalities, and myths are fluid and variable. The one thing that stays the same are rituals.

Ritual Generator

Note: Just like the heresies list, neither of these are comprehensive, just options.
1. What does this ritual do?


  1. Assist in the growth of crops.
  2. Protect against diseases and infohazards.
  3. Ward away Disciples.
  4. Guide you home.
  5. Curse someone.
  6. Guarantee Success in war.

2. What does this ritual require?
  1. A staged replication of the event (for a ritual of war, someone may be dressed in the uniform of the enemy, then defeated in mock combat).
  2. A sacrifice of something similar (for a ritual of farming, some of last year's harvest may be burned).
  3. A sacrifice of something different (for a ritual of farming, tokens of metal may be spread throughout the soil).
  4. Roll 1d3, except the action must be far larger (a complex replication, a tremendous sacrifice) and is promised to occur in the future.

Gods

Practitioners of the Old Ways tend to be very syncretic with their gods - if you talk about Lucretia, and it sounds vaguely like someone else's Mondus, the two of you will eventually agree that you're talking about the same god (more or less).

Groups of practitioners tend to come together in communities, which have more particular notions about pantheons and myths.

Generally, there are six, matching with these six focuses.

  1. The void, on the outside of the ship.
  2. Farming and weather.
  3. Engineering and architecture.
  4. Infohazards.
  5. The wilderness and Disciples.
  6. War.

However, this is not always true. If you believe in the gods of the Old Ways, the names, myths, and focuses of your community pantheon are entirely yours to create. 

What Do You Believe?

A single person's religious beliefs are often a synthesis of all three of these categories. When creating a player character or in any situation where a character's religion may be important, consider rolling on the following 1d10 table.

1-6. Orthodox Absolutist.
7. Heretical Absolutist - choose or roll 2 Heresies.
8. Orthodox Ritualistic - believe in no Heresies, but trust in the rituals of the Old Ways.
9. Heretical Ritualistic - choose or roll 2 Heresies, and trust in the rituals of the Old Ways.
10. Paganist - believe entirely in the gods and rituals of the Old Ways.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Delver's Digest Issue 1

Delver's Digest was an attempt by Chris McDowall's OSR Discord server to create a free community zine. After months of work and absolute burnout by all parties involved, I was finally able to finish the layout, complete editing, and shove the thing out the door.

Click on the cover to take a look.


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

How I Started GLOGHacking

On the OSR Discord, Oblidisideryptch released a simple challenge: talk about how you started to hack the GLOG, and what I've gotten from that - mostly as an encouragement to make more GLOG hacks.

How Hack GLOG?

The first GLOG thing I posted was this set of cyberpunk classes. In my opinion, this is the best way to start hacking the GLOG - the classes are the interface between the players and the game, so new or different classes can make the most difference for the effort required.

So, how do you make GLOG classes?
The easiest, fastest kind of class to make is the standard 4-template class, which is usually used for Fighters, Thieves, and other martial classes. I have a sort of checklist for how to make mine:

  1. Determine a concept for the class.
  2. Decide on the class's Hit Die (according to me, fighters and the like get 1d8, other non-magic classes like thieves get 1d6, and magic classes get 1d4).
  3. Create the first Template, which should give the class their most defining aspect - the Drifter's Dash, the Cube Owner's Cube, and similar abilities. These should be able to be built on.
  4. Create the second and third Templates - generally, these should either improve the character's ability to do what they are already doing (for example, a fighter may get an ability that makes them better at taking damage, or the Drifter's third template improving their blaster) or expand their abilities into a new area (a fighter getting an ability that lets them break objects more easily, or the Drifter's second template letting them deflect attacks).
  5. Then, the fourth Template. This Template can give a large jump in power compared to the rest, because multiclassing will make it much rarer. Generally, the fourth template is either completely transformative (the Nanoweapon Poisoned breaking the shackles of their body and becoming a screaming hive of machines), or just make them much, much better at what they were doing before (many fighters get a second attack with their fourth template).
That's it! For most classes, those four templates are all you need. For wizards and their ilk, I would recommend this post.

Classes Are Done. Now What?

GLOG hacks tend to fall into one of three camps in terms of mechanics.
  1. Roll-under: these games have d20 < stat as their base mechanic - for example, if you had Strength 12 and rolled a Strength check, you'd be trying to get less than 12. This base mechanic continues into combat, with to-hit rolls being roll-under.
  2. 3.5: these games are built of the mechanical skeleton of more recent editions of D&D, with d20 + bonus > TN for both a base mechanic and to-hit rolls.
  3. Orthodox: Orthodox games run off the system of the original GLOG - a roll-under base mechanic with Attack and Defense stats. Attack and Defense are used in combat, with to-hit rolls being an attempt to roll under Attack + (10 - Defense).
Of course, you do not have to fit your hack into one of these mechanics - they are simply some of the most common options. 

As well as a base mechanic, most GLOG hacks will have an extra mechanic - a change from the baseline, like BONES' slot-based character progression, or an alternate combat system like Let There Be Blood. This isn't a necessity, but it's a good way to make your hack your hack.

Other secondary mechanics, like hirelings and overland exploration, are often optional - the OSR has enough common assumptions (hexcrawl hexes are 6 miles across, loyalty rolls, etc.) that a lot of them don't actually need to be written down.

The final part of the hack is the setting. GLOG hacks are rarely tied to a particular setting, and are more often connected to a genre - cyberpunk GLOGs, urban fantasy GLOGs, etc., although some are made to fit into pre-existing settings, like this class for Yoon-Suin games.

In Conclusion

GLOG hacking is easy to get into, with plenty of ways to make your hack different from any other. Class creation is simple, and the mechanics can be changed quickly to fit your campaign better.

Many other people have made posts on this topic as well:

Mad Queen's Court

Whose Measure God Could Not Take

Bugbear Slug

Sundered Shields and Silver Shillings

Caput Caprae

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Oasis Kingdoms (Sunless Horizon)

A Sudden Turn

The Oasis Kingdoms are named for their placement - each one stands atop a resource, whether it's water, power, farmland, or rare metals.

Before the Retreat dragged the Navigator Houses to their door, the Oasis Kingdoms were unquestioned in their dominance. Everything they could see was their domain, and they had peace.

Their golden age has lasted for centuries, but with the death of their last ruler, Grand Patron Hetu, and the arrival of the violent, expansionist Houses, the decline has begun. 

One Long Bright Day

The Golden Age of the Kingdoms was marked by an intense focus on scholarship, philosophy, and the arts. The government sponsored painters, writers, and sculptors, built schools, and starting the Record - a full written history of the Oasis Kingdoms.



During the Golden Age, even the poorest farmer owned sculptures and paintings.
Trade between the Kingdoms was lucrative and constant. The literacy rate had spiked.

But all days end. 

Dusk

The death of Grand Patron Hetu is accepted as the start of the decline of the Kingdoms. As the Houses arrived and the new Grand Patron took office, the imperious nature of the Kingdoms was shaken.

They watched the Houses become a new power - far from the slow, peaceful Kingdoms, the Navigator Houses expanded violently, clearing land of threats before sealing themselves in walled cities and sending their armies out into the worldship.

The mood in the Kingdoms has started to change. While life is still good, and people still have food, art, and learning, the government's eye has shifted toward a darker pursuit - war.

War has been absent in the Kingdoms for centuries. The last remnants of the army are ceremonial, armed with long ribbon-covered spears and armored in thin, shining gold and copper. The leaders of the Kingdoms are desperate to move forwards, replacing their aging cavalry with modern machines.

Until then, the Kingdoms trade with the Navigators, giving away their wealth and art for guns and peace.


The Beliefs of the Kingdoms

The Kingdoms say all things are made of the 3 Perfect Shapes.

  • The Cube, which is solid, unchanging, and unmoving. The metal walls of Ein Sof are made of the Cube.
  • The Sphere, which is mercurial, agile, and distracted. Water dancing in the pipes that cross the ship are made of the Sphere.
  • The Tetrahedron, which is destructive, energetic, and consuming. Fire is made of the Tetrahedron, but so is electricity.
Most things are made of combinations of the shapes. Animals are made of the Tetrahedron and the Sphere, while Disciples are made of the Cube and Tetrahedron.

Only people are made of all 3 Perfect Shapes, and in them, the Shapes must be kept in balance. If you are made out of the Cube, you will become a hermit, never leaving your home or changing your ways. If you are made out of the Sphere, you will never be able to focus, and die early as your blood races in all directions. If you are made out of the Tetrahedron, you will be consumed by it, becoming violent.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Elves Rusted Your Sword, Made You Age, and Die Every Day

What Are Elves?
They are immortal, strange creatures, far older than Man and his ilk. They live far from the cities and roads, hidden in forests and other unmarred parts of nature. According to folk tales, they fear the touch of iron, delight in trickery, and hold mastery of illusions.

But this is the wrong question.
don't you just want to punch him in the face
Why are Elves?
That's much closer.

The properties of Elves lead many to say that they are spirits of nature, enraged at Man thanks to his callous and destructive ways. Others say they are simply an old race, more knowledgeable than Man, but the same in their core.

All of these people are wrong.

Elves are pure, elemental chaos, and that is what drives their actions.

Why are elves immortal? It is because life drives more chaos than the cold stillness of death, so they have chosen not to die. Despite this, they can be seen to age, as aging causes more change than not. As the sun rises, all the world's elves are newly born. When it sets, they are ancient.

They do not hate iron because of its smell, its taste, or its appearance. They hate it because it is a symbol of that most abominable thing - civilization, and the order that comes with it. Thus, they have laid a curse upon all metals - once they are touched by human hands, they begin to tarnish and rot. This curse was laid on all metals but gold, as all gold is owned by dwarves, those bastions of perfect order. They can bring this curse to bear against anything they deem opposed to them, crumbling stone, curling trees, and rotting flesh.

But this is not the only curse they have brought. There is another, far more subtle magic woven through everything and everyone you've ever seen. This curse is reproduction. Elves are why you have children - it leads to more mutations and alterations than replication. In a time long ago, they tricked all life into using this method, except for bacteria. As revenge, the elves shrank the bacteria and hid them, so no one could follow their example.

Elves hope to return the universe to its original, perfect state - a pile of atoms flying around a tiny box at incomprehensible speed. They know this goal would require them to die. 

They do not care.


Sunday, June 7, 2020

Walker-Tribes (Sunless Horizon)

No Place Like Home

Where the Navigator Houses survive through defense, covering themselves in a metal cocoon of walls and guns, the Walker-Tribes are more subtle, protecting themselves through stealth and movement. Their cities stagger across Ein Soph on metal legs, never stopping.

These cities are small, holding only the tribe's noble leaders, their families, and their slaves. Most free citizens will never leave the city, to keep themselves pure - the Tribes say there is something out there, something worse than Keter's machines or the marching armies of the Navigator Houses. They say the air can poison your mind, turning you into someone else. 

To protect themselves from the air, the cities are fully enclosed. The only air inside has been inside for as long as the Tribe can remember, and has been slowly tinged with the breath of the city. Anyone entering is purified by burning steam and chanted prayer. Public areas are hung with lanterns and holy scrolls.

All this effort is for a reason - not just to protect the people of the city, but to protect the city's mind.

kinnas


It Takes a Village

Deep within the cities of the Tribes is a growing mind - a seed AI, gained through means unknown. Perhaps they built them, under the instruction of some unknown entity. Perhaps they stole them, running from Keter's home with pieces of His brain.


The Tribes want to raise these minds as weapons - beings of scale equal to Keter's, able to topple Him from His throne. But to do this, they must keep the seed AIs safe as they grow, and ensure they are kept away from poisonous ideas. Every Tribe has heard stories of newborn minds catching a glimpse of something they shouldn't see, then throwing the city off a ledge in their possessed state.

Leadership

The seed AIs do not run the cities. They are simply tools, used to help stabilize the mech's stumbling footsteps or calibrate its cannons. The Tribes are lead by a King and Queen, with titles passed down by birth and marriage.

After the monarchs' eldest child turns 20, the monarchs vacate the throne and become Handlers - the only people trusted to speak to the nascent AI. Their wisdom and knowledge is undoubted by the Tribe, who trust the Handlers to pass these qualities to the seed mind.

Class Structure

The Walker-Tribes are divided into three social classes - the nobles, the citizens, and the slaves. The noble class is made up of the monarchs and their families, who serve as ambassadors to the outside, hidden behind oxygen tanks to protect themselves from the air.

The citizens work in jobs requiring communication and thought - they are artists, managers, and architects. Many work as engineers, piloting the dozens of heavy machines tethered to the city itself.

The slaves are made incapable of speech so they cannot spread the cursed air. As well as labor work, some serve in the retinues of ambassadors, giving them glimpses of an outside world they can rarely enter.

Resource Acquisition

A tribe's city is nearly self-sufficient: is produced within the walker, to make sure that the city doesn't have to wait for long cycles of planting and harvest. Water is collected from the outside in massive reservoirs, and air is recycled.

Nonrenewable resources like metal are harvested by the engineers' machines. When more precision is needed (such as pulling copper wire out of a larger structure), groups of slaves are led out under the supervision of these machines.

To War

The Walker-Tribes rarely march to war - it takes time and resources they can't lose. However, they are far from unprepared. Their cities are the largest mobile artillery outside of the Seraphim, able to crack through even the walls of the Navigator Houses. When the walls are breached, the city's doors open, and armed slaves are thrown out to kill and die. Once the city is empty, ambassadors take their retinues through the rubble to loot whatever remains.

Sunless Horizon

Sunless Horizon is the most self-indulgent setting I'll ever make, taking inspiration from Veins of the Earth , Axis Mundi , HMS Apolly...