Sunday, July 30, 2023

Ashes to Ashes Play Reports (#2)

The first part is here - 30 player PbP, bronze age fleshapocalypse, run by Locheil, who is great, I write play reports, etc.

ew ew ew ew ew, where a few domain lords descend into the meat-filled ruins of the Dusk Fort.

Past the Gate, adventures around a lake of burning poison. 

Above the Sky, an attempt to retake the lost city Eriqadaa, featuring living curses, tiny stars, and Old Age.

Dibs, where some criminal goons decide retaking lost cities can't be that hard.

Stolen Items Are Free, an undead swordfighter breaking into a tomb full of undead swordfighters.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Lanthanide Horizon - Tied in the Strings of Dream (Sustainer Cells)

    Within the megastructure, resources are scarce. Water must be tapped from lines, light and heat from stolen electricity, food slowly persuaded to grow in waste pits and cracked panels. So, if you have the tools, why not just wait it out?

    The Sustainer Cells keep the majority of their members in cryosleep, hidden away in tunnels and vaults below, above, and within their villages. The few still awake labor to keep themselves alive and the pods functional. These sleepers wait for the turning of the world, dreaming and speaking between themselves of things hidden from the eyes of the wakeful.

    People transition back and forth from sleep to labor, switching bodies in the untethered land of dreams. The bricklayer Ceyhun, struck dead in a fall, is pulled out of a chamber later that day - next month, they wish to retire, so the body is returned. A week after that, it is brought back with the weaver Binnur inside. Given this disconnection from the body, gender has no cultural relevance among the Sustainers - a person is a person, and the body has a sex in the same way it has an eye color.

    Children are born among the wakeful - raised in batches based on age, uploaded as part of their adulthood, and then sent out on their rites of passage, to meet distant folk and strange monuments. Upon their return, they are members of the community, and given their inheritance (since, hopefully, their parents will never truly die). Rarely, as an alternative to childrearing, bodies will be pulled from sleep with no known Sustainer mind within - these memoryless, confused inducted are sent through childhood like any other, learning the language and ways of the wakeful. However, once brought to adulthood, biological children follow in the caste of their parents, while the inducted are untethered.

    These four castes (those of the Farmer, the Artisan, the Scavenger, and the Diviner) are half of the social hierarchy in the Cells - in general, the Diviners command official social and political power, by reading and interpreting the dreams of the sleepers (to be clear - the Diviners do actually read signs according to a set of rules, and in general they don't just say everything means "give me all your stuff" - people generally believe in their own traditions and act accordingly). Within the castes are jobs themselves - a large landowner and the people working their land are both within the Farmer caste, and everyone from a machinist to a playwright is an Artisan. Under their heavy plastic-and-fur coats and their long, narrow hats, the wakeful wear face paint marking their caste and identity, applied to new bodies as part of the ceremonies of revival.

    The other half of social hierarchy is through goods - the wakeful operate on a barter and gift economy. Needed items are traded directly, or in some cases simply given. This giving is competitive - social norms reward lavish gifts and expect, eventually, an even greater return from the receiver. Winning these competitions of charity by giving the other person more than they could return improves and maintains your social reputation. The ability for a person to provide gifts is, in theory, a mirror of the respect granted their caste: a rich herder can hand out entire animals, a team of artisans clothes and tools, a scavenger brings devices from the megastructure, but the diviners produce nothing to give.

    When a Cell is threatened by war many of the sleepers will be pulled awake - even though they cannot be fed in the long term, and in the short time they cost the Cell greatly, having five, ten, a hundred times as many bodies to hold spears, to fix armor, to continue the harvest, and to read the signs lets them survive - hopefully.

    Similarly, if a Cell's home becomes uninhabitable, a body is conscripted for each of the community's sleepers in preparation for them all to flee - dragging as many chambers as they can keep online behind them as they search for a new home. These flights come with a loosening of social norms - unofficial "debts" of gifts are forgotten, names are changed, and in some cases a person can shift to a new caste before the boundaries solidify again.

    When near the Navigator Houses, Cells often begin to accommodate House ideas of reincarnation and an essential soul. The concept of the soul having a shape that fits with the body leads to an idea of a personal gender, and some of the wakeful believe that remnants of this soul can be contacted - that everyone contains sleepers of their own, who speak clearly.

    Influences from the Oasis Kingdoms and their extractive industries alter the way the Cells think of their economy - barter systems become standardized, then Kingdom coinage is introduced, both to aid in trade with the Kingdoms (and often avoided by all but the elite of the Cells). Less notable Artisans, now creators of trade goods, push for more prestige and power under the new economy.

    Next to the blighted waters and tall towers of the Gardener Clans, the Cells dissolve. With the ease of foraging in the swamp-hydroponics of the megastructure, many of the sleepers can be awoken, and the chambers of the few who cannot are spread across the dry islets. Instead of a single village built with its vault, the Cells live in dozens or hundreds of close-knit groups.

    In Cells that often trade with the Skinborne, reverence for the sleepers becomes more and more specific - the wakeful seek out the voices and the names of their ancestors inside the dream, and great families become a third path to social power.  

   Once met by the machines of the Walker Herds, the wakeful begin to associate the minds of the sleepers with the seed intelligences of the walking cities. They find the Herds' methods of teaching their nascent mind (where it is kept walled away from the world, spoken to only by the members of the royal families) misguided. In response to the Herds, these Cells become more open with access to the sleepers - they are paraded through the cities, instead of left to molder in their vaults. Equality spreads to much of the rest of their social life. Caste boundaries and hierarchies weaken as the Cells begin to view the Herds as an example of all that could be wrong.

Sunless Horizon Beta 2.3 Release

Commissioned from Scrap Princess excited screeching I've been posting about  Sunless Horizon  for about a year, and after finally gettin...