Sunday, December 27, 2015

[Exalted] Swift Rivers Crossing

While the path from the Emergence Cave to the Jade Plum Citadel is one of the most important initial areas to detail - since that's where the PCs will likely travel first - I also have some ideas for location <7,6> which I want to write down before I forget them. This area is part of a long river valley that leads to points east, which means that it is a good location for a trade route out of An-Teng towards the eastern deserts. Therefore it is very suitable for a local Guild outpost - it sits at the threshold of the High Lands while still being useful as a base so that the Guild can keep track of major developments there and elsewhere in An-Teng. The Guild has won a concession of Prince Josei of the High Lands to run this outpost independent of High Lands jurisdiction in exchange for significant bribes. This has the added advantage that the Guild is very motivated to keep bandits out of the region, which keeps down the need for additional expenses and patrols from the government of the High Lands.

As a result, the surrounding town - which I will call Swift Rivers Crossing - is fairly cosmopolitan for such a remote place, thanks to assorted Guild traders and hangers-on. And that has made it a good location for a small cell of the Cult of the Illuminated. The cell was founded by a traveling priest named Traveling Wirat, who after establishing the cell went on to Prosperous Garden in the Middle Lands of An-Teng to spread the word. However, the cell hasn't heard of him for a while, and they fear the worst - but without him, they don't know who else to contact once they have found some Shining Ones (i.e. the PCs). Meanwhile, a peddler named Slow Kamon is traveling on a regular circuit between Swift Rivers Crossing and the Jade Plum Citadel in order to catch news from around the region. It might be a while until he hears news of the PCs as well, though if the PCs do something to draw attention he will likely hear it first and move to intercept them.

Swift Rivers Crossing, with a population of 12,000 people, barely counts as a hub city by Guild Standards - but it is maintained as one nonetheless, since An-Teng proper is too beholden to the Realm yet represents too important a market to ignore. It thus has its own Guild Factor (named Proud Shomari, originally from Harborhead), who is fully aware of the opportunities of this region and wishes to greatly expand Guild operations here. PCs who do not object to the slave and drug trading practices of the Guild will find him a useful partner, though he is wary of offending the Realm too much. PCs who strive to curtail slavery or the drug trade will turn him into a ruthless and devious enemy who will conceal his animosity behind a smile.

Now let us turn once again to the Random Nations Generator for further details. While officially the Guild and its factor are in charge of the own, the Guild is focused more on trade and less on running the day-to-day affairs of the town. Among the results for Government, I get Exilarchy, which has potential - let's say that Proud Shomari's clan (of the Izhalvi people - see Houses of the Bull God, p. 11) did badly in one of the many wars of the Harborhead region and thus they sought their fortunes elsewhere. Thanks to Proud Shomari's position and influence, Swift Rivers Crossing looked like a good place to start anew, and Shomari was happy to see an influx of laborers and artisans who probably wouldn't stab him in the back. That being said, Shomari is uninterested in involving himself in Harborhead clan politics and won't give the clan more support than a safe harbor. The clan matriarch Eldest Hasana, however, is quite determined to see her clan's triumphant return to her homeland before she dies, and as she is feeling her age she is willing to engage in increasingly desperate schemes to that end. As an added wrinkle, the Izhalvi worship both Luna and the Unconquered Sun - if the PCs could convince them that they are indeed Chosen by the latter, they might acquire quite a few allies.

The first of the Organizations listed by the generator is the Technisches Hilfswerk, a German government-funded organization dedicated to disaster relief. Let's translate that into the Good Neighbors Association, a group of people volunteering to help others in both their community and without. Led by Joyful Issa (a male immigrant from Harborhead), this group is essentially a front for the Cult of the Illuminated - they do take helping their neighbors seriously, but they have also recruited many cult members this way. In the absence of Traveling Wirat, Issa serves as the local cult priest - although he is not very firm on his theology.

Results like Triads and Mafia remind me that the existing books describing An-Teng don't elaborate on organized crime in the region. Sure, there are Lintha operating nearby - but as pirates they will stay near the coasts instead of operating this far inland. Googling for organized crime in Thailand I find a Wikipedia entry about the Chao Pho, or "Godfathers" - but using that name is likely to cause Marlon Brando jokes. But how about the "Godchildren"? The "God" in question being, of course, the Pale Mistress of An-Teng, who does have "crime" in her portfolio - along with chaos, selfishness, darkness and all that other good stuff. As a result, the Godchildren will have cells and independent splinter groups everywhere in An-Teng (as opposed to one big, organized group which would be anathema to the Pale Mistress). The leader of the Swift Rivers Crossing chapter, Bright Kanchana (female Tengese), is likely in conflict with the Good Neighbors Association - which might draw the PCs in.

We already have a bunch of NPCs, but let's nevertheless look at some Major Personalities the Generator provides. Among these, Alexis Carrel sounds interesting - a surgeon and biologist who received the Nobel Prize but also became infamous for his advocacy of Eugenics. Let's translate that as Nisai Daruth, a Wood-aspected Dragon-Blooded Outcaste sorcerer who works as the senior surgeon of the Outpost - and who has additional business revenue from his breeding projects. Breeding humans, that is - he has a fair degree of success (thanks to his Medicine charms and related Sorcerous Workings) with "improving" the offspring of couples (of whatever genders). He can and does summon neomahs for this purpose, although he also has other methods. Another service he offers are surrogate mothers, usually slaves purchased for this purpose. The Guild pays him well for these services, although they keep the bigger parts of the shares to themselves. Nisai does not particularly care, however - as long as his research is funded and he has a steady supply for his experiments, he is content. His ultimate goal is to increase the Breeding of the Dragon-Blooded (and he is willing to pay high prices for anyone able to snatch the "Lost Eggs" of An-Teng away from Tender Rose - see Blood and Salt, p. 17), but in the meantime he has all sorts of other projects. Among these, he has become aware that there is a demon taint in certain Tengese families and wishes to learn more - which will bring him into conflict with the Seven-Stranded Vine.

Another character is Allan Pinkerton, Let's translate that into the persona of a Guild Warden named Slow Hom (at least, that's her cover name) who is in town to investigate misconduct within the Guild or anything else that threatens local Guild monopolies. The political machinations of the Izhalvi Exiles certainly have her attention, but so far she hasn't found any evidence that the Factor is diverting Guild resources to help them. If the PCs are doing anything sneaky around town, they will draw her attention as well.

Among Major Political Issues we get Detroit - Too broke to bury their dead. Let's translate that as the local dedicated Guild priest/undertaker, Cheery Kilinda (female Izhalvi), skimping on the funeral materials for the slaves that are dying at the outpost and just dumping their bodies in the forest somewhere so that she can pay for her boozing and partying. So far this has not drawn anyone's attention, but this is slowly giving rise to a number of hungry ghosts.

Another issue is Eurabia, the conspiracy theory that Europe will allegedly soon be subsumed into the Arab World because of immigration and high birth rates of immigrants. Let's say that some Tengese "Concerned Citizens" are likewise worried about all these immigrants from Harborhead, which has led to some assaults in the nights by hotheaded youths (their elders are much more carefully about offending foreigners of course, for historic reasons). So far, no one important has been harmed, although foreign-looking PCs might become targets as well.

A third political issue is Sex, Lies, and Subprime Mortgages, a story about the corruption in the American housing market in the leadup to the Financial Crisis. For a suitably lurid counterpart, let's say that there are a number of rich merchants and Guild drug lords which vie for control of the various poppy fields and other drug plantations in An-Teng. Each of the provinces has different factions vying for control. In the High Lands, the primary drug lords are Generous Agun (female Tengese), Daring Klahan (male Tengese), and Prosperous Fanaka (male god-blooded scion of a minor fertility deity in Harborhead) - beyond the Factor himself, of course. All of them scheme against each other to win influence and will use any means fair or foul to make plantation villages work for them. Village headmen who are compliant are often invited to weeks of debauchery at Swift Rivers Crossing, while those who are more stubborn will get threats, beatings, and worse. This squabbling has started to annoy Prince Josei himself, and is one of the things Slow Hom is currently investigating.

Among the Major Projects, only "Moscow Mayor Promises a Winter Without Snow" stands out. An-Teng is unlikely to receive much snow even in the winter - except possibly the high mountain passes to the east. And even in the other years, harsh weather might make the progress of caravans difficult. For this reason, Sweet Rivers Crossing maintains its own priest, Well-Spoken Rochana (female Tengese) to appease/bribe the weather gods - but some of the drug lords have started to offer her bribes for bringing bad weather to their rivals' plantations. Rochana is very leery of accepting those bribes, but does not exactly wish to offend the drug lords either.

I will skip over the Religion sections of the generator - beyond the deities mentioned, the Guild will worship the usual divinities of trade and travel, with no unusual forms of worship. There are no dangerous creatures in the immediate area either (beyond humans, that is... plus the hungry ghosts mentioned above). The next relevant section is about the History of the region, with one of the results being "Portal to mythical Mayan underworld found in Mexico", which sounds promising - let's say that the town was built on the ruins of an old Tengese ancestor cult which eventually created a small Shadowland deep beneath the town. While the ruins themselves are well known, nobody knows of their true extent and purpose - and Cheery Kilinda is using the ruins to dump the bodies of slaves, which threatens to awaken some truly ancient dead, with potentially disastrous consequences for the town. A further Historic Event, "The Torture Colony" (referring to Colonia Dignidad in Chile) gives hints to how this old ancestor cult was run, and the "Peshtigo Fire" indicates that the old settlement was consumed in one big conflagration.

Finally, "An Epidemic of Laughing in the Bukoba District of Tanganyika" indicates that the Seven-Stranded Vine released a demonic presence in this town a few years ago, which caused everyone who was "infected" to laugh uncontrollably (I must remember to come up with an appropriate First Circle demon for this). Obviously, if they have released this Laughing Plague before they can do so again, and the Guild has their special ire as outsiders who disrupt the "proper hierarchy" of An-Teng. This means that they might have some connection to the "Concerned Citizens" mentioned above - a low-ranking cult member, Observant Tansanee (female Tengese) runs a pub and inn ("Peaceful Rest") for local Tengese laborers and tries to subtly agitate her customers against the foreigners.

I think this is plenty of detail for Swift Rivers Crossing for the time being - though I should probably return at a later date once I have figured out more about the factions of the High Lands and how they interact.