Sunday, December 13, 2015

[Exalted] Hundred Dreams Village

It's been a while - real world events have kept me occupied, and there has been the Exalted 3E release to digest in the meantime. But now I am back - so let's continue in our quest to put the High Lands of An-Teng on the map!

After detailing Gankorou's Fair Folk freehold in my previous post, I should probably detail the village the Fair Folk are preying on. In my old campaign I didn't spend much time there - the villagers first ascertained that the PCs meant them no harm, then told them of their plight, and then the PCs went and fetched their dream-eaten kin, dumped them, and left the village and never returned.

That seems something of a waste, in particular since this village will be their first encounter with the local culture.

Once again using the Random Nations Generator, we get Magocracy as the government - rule by mages. Or a mage - and while a remote village like this probably doesn't have a full-fledged Exalted sorcerer (who could probably deal with Gankorou on their own), the new edition does have some rather nifty rules for mortal sorcerers. Looking at the list of sorcerous origins from the Core Rules, let's pick "Pact with an Ifrit Lord" (Core Rules, p. 467) - we will assume that the sorcerer wandered in the vast deserts to the East to attain initiation into the Terrestrial Circle. Among other things, that means that the sorcerer will always want to have a large fire nearby, and observant PCs will note that the village seems to have a rather large stockpile of firewood for being in a tropical climate (well, maybe subtropical - these are the High Lands of An-Teng).

Next, let's pick the gender. Looking back at my previous campaign, I suspect I too often went with a subconscious assumption of "most significant NPCs are male, with the exception of love interests". To prevent that from happening in the future, I will from now on determine the gender of NPCs randomly unless there is a good reason otherwise. For humans, this will be a 1d100 roll: 1-48 male, 49-96 female, and 97-100 "other" (this is Exalted, after all). For nonhumans, (non-ghost spirits, Fair Folk and the like), this will be a 1d6 roll: 1-2 male, 3-4 female, 5-6 other. For my sorcerer, I get a "37", which means he is male.

Now let's pick the name. In my old campaign, I frequently used Thai names which seemed authentic for the region. However, this had the disadvantage that none of my (German) players could remember them, and I too had frequently problems with them. On the other hand, the overly flowery names common in Exalted ("Midnight Pearl", "Ivory Cup") sound a bit silly to German ears. Thus, a compromise: I will use a flowery descriptor and a Thai name to create the full name of an NPC. For the sorcerer, let's name him "Fire-Salved Somsak" (the last part apparently means "Power of Worth" in Thai, which seems appropriate). Obviously, he is very concerned with the Fair Folk of the nearby freehold.

The village is hardly big enough for any significant organizations, but among the results provided by the Generator Rosicrucianism has potential. Let's say the sorcerer is - or at least claims to be - a member of a larger secret society which provides its initiates with "mystic knowledge" and makes them feel superior to all the uninitiated. Analogous to the Rose Cross, let's pick a flower theme for this group - the Red Orchid Society (not related to the Red Lotus Society - why do you ask?), with "red"="fire" being an appropriate association for the sorcerer's initiation. He is the ranking leader of the local society, of course, with various influential villagers being lower-ranking members. He might even have picked an apprentice among their children.

Among the "major personalities" we get Agnes of Rome, who was a Christian martyr who was executed because she refused to marry rich and powerful suitors (at the age of 12 or 13, mind you) and was denounced as a Christian as punishment. Before her execution, she was supposed to be raped by multiple men, but thanks to assorted miracles the rape was prevented (though the execution was not). Translating this into an Exalted story, let's say that a young child (a girl, as the random roll indicates) was the victim of an unspeakable crime, but her vengeful ghost killed her murder in turn. Now she lingers on as a protector of the village children, who remember her in garbled stories and call on her from time to time in a form of prayer, providing her with the equivalent of an Ancestor Cult. Her name is Pale Kanya, and the adults never speak of her - although the PCs might feel her passing, in particular if they look like they might be a danger to the children.

For "political issues" we get "Police 'can't cope' as Vietnamese flood drugs trade". We will interpret this as "this village produces drugs" - and considering the region, they will have some large opium poppy fields, However, in a twist this is perfectly legal and accepted and a major source of business with the Guild. Another result is "Man petitions to marry comic book character". Since comic books are inappropriate for this region (unless the PCs introduce them, which is not beyond the realms of possibility. In my old campaign, one of the PCs started a chain of sushi restaurants!), I am interpreting this as "villager wants to marry a nonhuman". Since the village grows opium, let's make the nonhuman the field guardian (Core Rules, p. 512). We get a human female on the roll ("Impetuous Malai"), which means that the field guardian ("Green Papaver") is male - while the Tengese are fairly relaxed about who might take whom as a lover, they have very strict ideas about who should be partners in a marriage. Let's further assume that she managed to get pregnant and refuses to induce an abortion via maiden tea (which the villagers are worried might anger the spirit anyway) and also refuses to marry anyone else to "keep appearances" - she wants to marry Green Papaver and no one else. Green Papaver, meanwhile, viewed this as nothing else than an enjoyable diversion or possibly even a fertility rite - "sowing his seeds", and all that. If the PCs make friends among the villagers, they might be asked to help with sorting this mess out.

This being Exalted, forms of religious worship are very important to a community since the gods often live very closely. The most appropriate result from the generator is Animal Sacrifice - each of the village gods will get a small animal (such as cocks for Green Papaver) on their special days (which are a bit more frequent than the Immaculate Faith allows, but the monks only come rarely into this remote region). For a gruesome twist, children might even sacrifice mice and other small rodents to Pale Kanya, which join her as ghostly apparitions when she is angry!

While I could go on with the other categories of the Random Nations Generator, this should be enough for the time being - this is only one small village among many after all and only distinguished because it will be the first local settlement the PCs come across after they get out of the Emergence Cave. But it is worth considering how the villagers will react. Unless the PCs come from Southeast Asia, they won't be able to pass as natives - and to make matters worse, none of them will initially speak Flametongue! (Nobody took the charm "Strange Tongue Understanding"? That's too bad! However, if they are willing to spend the two weeks of training time in the village to purchase Flametongue as a one-dot merit, they have no problems learning it - this can be justified as "they knew it in a previous life, and they are Solars, anyway!") So the villagers will assume that they are weird foreigners at best, and likely Fair Folk infiltrators. They will threaten them with spears and arrows, but observant PCs should quickly realize that the villagers are more scared of them than vice versa - and since they have no clue what is going on, they should probably go with them until they can figure this place out. Once brought to the village, Fire-Salved Somsak will test them with a small splinter of cold iron to see if they are Fair Folk, and once they prove to be human everyone will relax considerably. The general attitude will be: "Okay, you are probably not inhuman monsters out to suck our blood, but you are still weird so we will be keeping an eye on you." The villagers won't treat them as prisoners as such - and provide them food and shelter - but there will always be one of the villagers around to keep an eye on them.

If the PCs start displaying obvious Anathema powers, things will get... complicated. The villagers will be even more scared, but Fire-Salved Somsak urges calm and possibly sends someone downriver to the Jade Plum Citadel to warn the Immaculates if they seem dangerous to the village. On the other hand, if the PCs seem more helpful than scary, he will consider how to best point them at the Fair Folk. Afterwards, he might even give them some pointers about how the Realm will see them - given that Fire-Salved Somsak has seen all sorts of strange stuff during his travels he is not necessarily inclined to take Immaculate propaganda at face value, although he will not take any unnecessary risks to either himself or the village.

All that's left to decide is the name of the village. In honor of its major product, I will call it Hundred Dreams Village.