February 2023

  • Day 59. of #city23 │ #dungeon23 Otokos also known as frog-people

    Day 59. of #city23 │ #dungeon23 Otokos also known as frog-people

    Time to add some creatures to the world. Otokos fit especially well to the swampy jungles and mangroves near Zipopan and they live in smaller numbers in other areas of Kaliland also.

    Otokos also known as frog-people

    Otokos are a species of small, amphibious creatures that inhabit primitive communities in the swamps and jungles of Kaliland and the Orenic regions. While little is known about their history, humans have historically shown little love for otokos, and they have been eradicated wherever human civilization has spread. As a result, these creatures can only be found in the most untouched swamps and jungles.

    Distribution and relationship with humans

    Otokos are typically wary of humans and will begin tracking them if they enter the area that an otoko community considers their home and hunting grounds. If a person gets too close to an otoko village, the community may ruthlessly attack them in an attempt to kill or drive them away.

    Otokos live in communities of 40 to 160 (4d4x10) members, with the community being ruled by a matriarch. Male and female otokos build the village, hunt, fish, and guard their hunting grounds.

    While otokos generally avoid humans, there have been instances where new otoko communities have formed near human settlements on the edge of the jungle. In such cases, the community may harass the settlement by attacking individual people, stealing and killing their livestock, and so on. There have also been cases where otokos have attacked entire villages with large numbers of people.

    Characters with a +4 Instinct who are beastmasters can learn the otoko language and command them.

    Otoko settlement
    Otoko settlement

    Anatomy

    Otokos are small amphibians that stand upright and can grow up to 150 cm tall. Adult otokos typically weigh about 40 to 50 kg. With their frog-like bodies and powerful hind legs, they are skilled jumpers. Like frogs, otokos have only four fingers and toes, with one finger developed like a thumb, which allows them to use tools and weapons. Otokos have a relatively short lifespan, reaching sexual maturity at 6 to 8 years old and living to be about 20 to 30 years old.

    The birth and development of otoko is unusual. Every year, otokos have a mating season. A few weeks after the mating season, all fertilized female otokos leave their areas and search for a distant body of water to lay their eggs. When they are done, the female otokos return home. From the eggs that are not eaten by predators, tadpoles are born that live and feed in the selected body of water. The first otoko to come out of the water becomes the matriarch of the new group, usually about 2 to 3 years after birth. The young matriarch starts creating a living space for her community out of nothing while protecting the selected body of water so that her community members can come out one by one.

    Otoko tadpole

    Otokos are born with the knowledge of how to make throwing weapons, harpoons for fishing, traps for hunting, and so on. They also know which plants are poisonous and which are not, and they are able to use poisons to their advantage. The collective subconscious of otokos is highly developed, and usually, a new generation of the tribe remains in the same place where they were born.

    If the mother of the tribe has chosen the spawning ground wisely, there will be no conflicts between the new and previous generations. However, the unique way in which otokos are born means that no otoko tribe lives longer than its oldest member, resulting in no progress in otoko knowledge and skills. Sometimes, a new otoko tribe takes over a village of a previously extinct tribe.

    Diet and natural enemies

    Otokos are skilled at survival in their jungle environment, relying on hunting, fishing, and gathering to sustain themselves. Being omnivores, they can hunt practically any animal thanks to their speed and use of poison, with some even claiming they are capable of hunting elephants and large predators.

    However, otoko also face threats from natural enemies, including simple fish that can consume an entire tribe before it grows large enough to leave the water and large predators like jaguars, giant gorillas, crocodiles, and anacondas. Despite these dangers, the greatest enemy of adult otoko is humans.

    Tactics

    Otoko ambushes can be very dangerous. They ambush game or people passing through their hunting grounds in groups of up to 10, and their method of attack is to weaken the opponent with poison, then quickly retreat and set up a new ambush against the confused or fleeing victim. They repeat this tactic until they believe the opponent is weak enough for a direct attack. Then they pounce on the weakened opponent with the whole hunting party.

    By water, they can ambush from below because they are skilled swimmers and amphibious.

    Combat stats


  • 53. day in Irongate Some thoughts on Campaign in Irongate

    53. day in Irongate Some thoughts on Campaign in Irongate

    More water has flown to the sea, and it’s time to jot down some thoughts regarding Irongate once again.

    As I’ve mentioned before, I design adventure, not just a city, because a city without adventure is not particularly exciting behind the table.

    This post will be a bit scattered because I will write down all the thoughts I’ve had in the meantime.

    The Nature of Adventure

    Throughout the campaign, the PCs will have the power to determine the destiny of Irongate, which is the crux of the adventure. As we’ve established previously, the city lost its empire in a war and its status as the sole trading hub between Kali states and the rest of the world. This has led to a threat of famine, as the current land cannot support the city’s needs. Although I haven’t determined the source of additional food yet, it’s clear that the supply of food will eventually run out, and this could even be the first adventure.

    The king’s curse, brought about by the “Itza-Zipopan Open Seas Peace Treaty,” has caused him to direct resources away from rebuilding the city and restoring the glory of the Itza empire. Instead, he focuses on suppressing and persecuting relatives who want to restore the city. Yunu Itza, a relative of the king, has already attempted to overthrow him, but the king managed to quell the rebellion. Yunu is currently held captive in Iron Palaces, while his son Kzalpa leads the rest of the rebels in the mountains.

    At some point during the campaign, the players will have to choose a side, and their decision will shape the fate of the city. At the moment, the possible choices seem to be the following:

    • The PCs ally with the king. The empire is unlikely to be restored, but there will be many internal struggles. Perhaps the PCs can somehow break the curse?
    • The PCs ally with the rebels and lead the king’s overthrow. They are likely to start with the secret murder of Nene and other important officers. Will they eventually try to restore the empire? The new opponent will be Zipopan again?
    • The PCs find some other party to ally with (e.g., Asteanic merchants, Roadic pirates, or some other major city-state) and use that alliance to establish their own regime. The opponents are likely to be both the king and the rebels.
    • The PCs do not participate in city politics, and things will go as they go.

    Broadly speaking, whatever the PCs do, it falls into one of these four categories. This means that the following preparations are needed:

    • Metaplot of what happens if the PCs don’t intervene.
    • Short action plans for all parties. The GM can use these as a basis even if the PCs do something unexpected.
    • Character sheets for the parties and a number of palaces/dungeons.

    Overall, the campaign is essentially sandbox-style.

    One thing that currently bothers me is that no thread currently points towards the emergence of a powerful BBEG. Rustking and Nene are not super warriors, nor are the rebel leaders, and I am still not sure if I want to bring the god-lich to the game as an enemy.

    The beginning of the adventure and who are the PCs

    I haven’t fully decided yet how exactly the PCs will first get to know the city, but it seems to me that I will already tie them to the city from the beginning, i.e. they have some home, relatives/friends, rivals, etc. there, already at the start of the game. To do this, I will use cards or let the players choose. Both approaches work.

    A personal connection to the city raises the PCs’ motivation to deal with its problems and not just leave when the problems (hunger, city battles) start to become overwhelming. Of course, this means that before the city becomes too problematic, the PCs need time to deal with their friends, acquire assets for themselves in the city, and in every other way start feeling the city as their home. So the city should be more friendly towards the PCs at the beginning of the campaign (or at least partially).

    However, this approach presents the challenge of the players knowing little about the city while their characters have lived there their whole lives. One solution could be to have the PCs return to the city after a prolonged absence. Or something else?

    To prepare:

    • Friends and rivals’ cards.
    • Find a reason why the players know significantly less than the PCs.
    • Beginning adventure. I prefer it when all campaigns start with a clear task right away. In this case, getting to know the city happens organically because the task leads them everywhere.

  • Day 39. The state of Itzan state

    Day 39. The state of Itzan state

    Last week, much of the map was drawn and the area around Irongate (which seems to be the official name of the city now) was expanded. Now it’s time to analyze the results and see what new NPCs and adventures will come out of it.

    Former Itzan empire

    First of all, it seems that Irongate is still the largest and most powerful state in the archipelago. Although its navy was destroyed in a war 15 years ago and the empire fell apart, it does not seem plausible to me that the Itza state has not at least partially restored its former power in the past 15 years. The population is sufficient (200 000), the timber to build ships is not gone from the forests, and most importantly, most of the former vassals are smaller than the Itza state.

    However, I want to stick to the fact that only Irongate and its surroundings remain in the Itza state. This means that I need to find some additional obstacles that have prevented them from at least partially restoring their empire.

    One possibility would be simply to say that Zipopan has taken the place of the dominant sea-faring nation, but I don’t like that because the region meant for PC shenanigans is best if there is not one totally dominant force, but rather a number of small factions that can be played against each other. I believe that in the end, the PCs’ adventures will take them away from the Irongate and I don’t want one all-powerful empire waiting for them. For similar reasons, the ring defence is also out, meaning former vassals are not in a defensive alliance against the Irongate and are still fighting among themselves.

    Generally, I have the idea that the region is somewhat like a no man’s land after the collapse of the Itza empire. All the small tribes and city-states compete and fight over resources and influence. This in turn leads to the fact that even Zipopan has to have a reason why it does not dominate the islands. Generally, we can say that Zipopan is a mainland state and its interests are not so much on the islands. However, Zipopan is still interested in foreign trade, and we wrote that Zipopan built a powerful navy that destroyed the Itza empire’s navy. This fact must now change slightly.

    A section of the city’s history previously:

    „In 1492, Tzek III had to retreat from the continent. This was followed by a period of recovery, which the Zipopans used to build their navy and in 1497, they destroyed the Itza state navy completely in sea battles. Today, 15 years have passed since those battles and there are many Kalis living in the city and around it who remember all this well.„

    https://sake.ee/day-20-of-dungeon23-%e2%94%82-city23-project/

    The new section of the city’s history:

    “In 1492, King Tzek III was forced to retreat from the continent. This was followed by a period of recovery. During this time, the Zipopans employed ban Bogodan, an independent roadic prince, and his navy as mercenaries. Under Ban Bogodan’s direction, the Zipopans established their own small navy and, together, they triumphed over the Itzan imperial navy in a series of battles in 1497. The events of 15 years ago are still fresh in the city’s memory.

    Ban Bogodan, however, never left the archipelago. Together with his mercenary crew, he seized a former Itzan naval fortress and the nearby islands, and is using it as a pirate base to attack Asteanic merchant vessels in the southern seas.”

    Potential locations of the pirate base.

    With this change, we justify why Zipopan does not rule the islands and naturally add more chaos and intrigue to the islands, as there is now also a base of pirates.

    Pirates do not solve our issues with the Itza state — why it has not yet recovered from the war. Zipopan and the pirates do not stop Itza, in fact, there is almost no good reason. But luckily we are in a fantasy world, so magic can come to the rescue. And I have an idea. In SAKE there is a powerful priest ritual: the Contract of Menes:

    Contract of Menes

    Price: 10 EXP

    Prerequisite: Ritual: Cursing, Channelling +14, Law and Society +6

    Description: The priest of Menes has the capability to compose a Contract of Menes that links the agreement between the parties with a powerful curse. The signing of the contract must be done with full knowledge and voluntarily by the parties, regardless of their understanding of the curse. The curse applies personally.

    The priest performing the Ritual: Cursing, adds their Skill Level in Channelling and Law and Society to determine the strength of the curse bond in the contract.

    If a party breaches the agreement, they are given a Spell Resistance roll against the applicable curse. The curse imposed by the Contract of Menes can be lifted in a similar manner as any other curse.

    So, when the current king Wadcha VII Itza came to power after the war, he was forced to sign a peace treaty. As a young ruler, he panicked after the destruction of the navy and made a decision without thinking about the consequences. The peace treaty prohibits Irongate from rebuilding the navy and re-conquering its neighbours. For the past 15 years, Wadcha has been looking for a way to escape the curse while sabotaging his own kingdom, forcing it into inactivity. That’s why he’s called The Cursed King or Rustking.

    The Cursed King presents us with future adventure arcs and ideas to develop around the curse:

    1. Breaking the curse, of course.
    2. Who was the priest, so powerful, that the King of Itza has not been able to find anyone to break the curse?
    3. Why hasn’t the lich god Yaxchila, who lives in the city, broken the curse? Maybe he was the priest?
    4. What other points are in the peace treaty?
    5. Clearly, the rest of the Itza clan’s important members are not happy with the situation. The city could actually rebuild its navy and retake its former vassals, at the cost of simply killing the king. This means that Wadcha actually fears his close ones the most and has shut himself into the Iron Palace with his personal guards, not letting anyone close to him. And Nene, his loyal military leader, doesn’t search for the city’s enemies but instead actually hinders the city’s development and power restoration.
    6. And, of course, the Cursed King has enemies among his closest relatives who would want his death or removal from power (and thus death through the curse).

    Added for day 40:


  • 33. day in Irongate Problems with the Food Source

    33. day in Irongate Problems with the Food Source

    As I mapped the lands around the city yesterday, I encountered an intriguing problem – the city may not have enough food to sustain its population, which could in turn be a metaplot and source for adventure.

    Two main agricultural areas around the city

    There appear to be only two more prominent areas for agriculture around the city. Both areas are densely populated with settlements and fields. They both fit into approximately 1625 km2 hexagons, which means that if all the land was fully populated with settlements and fields, there would be 3250 km2 of land with 812 villages and a total population of 203 125 people.

    Note: These calculations are based on data from the SAKE system domain module, which is not yet translated into English, but will be in the spring.

    However, in reality, no land is 100% populated, but we can take the highest population density in the Asteanic world as a reference, which are the Thefna’n grasslands with around 30 people per km2. It is likely that the areas surrounding the central city of the historical Itzade empire are very densely populated. As a result, there are 97 500 people living in 390 villages in the area, which is the same as in the capital of the Itza state itself, for which we decided to have a population of 100 000. This population must now be fed.

    Kaliland is relatively close to the equator and covered in dense jungles, which means that the soil there is not so fertile red soil. The soil fertility of the villages would be a d6 compared to a maximum of d12, which is very low. However, as the area has been inhabited for a long time, it can be assumed that all cultivable land has been crisscrossed with various irrigation and drainage canals, resulting in a soil fertility of d8.

    Let’s see if we can feed the city!

    100 people require 10 tons of food per domain turn (3 months). So, the city requires a total of 10 000 tons of food per turn.

    In a region with a soil fertility of d8, 8 city families (or 80 people) can be fed for each village in addition to the villagers.

    390 villages x 80 city people = 31 200 fed people. That’s not much! But before starting to map Turtletown, we made one more calculation:

    Turtletown population calculation

    Here we can see that half of the city is actually fed by the Turtletown fishermen. That means:

    100 000 – 50 000 (seafood) – 31 200 (land food) = 18 800 unfed people, or a food shortage of 1880 tons of food for the city during the domain turn.

    Back when the city was the centre of the empire, this wasn’t a problem – importing 2000 tons of food from the surrounding islands wasn’t very difficult. But now, with the collapse of the Itza state, there could be all sorts of problems. Where this extra food will come from and what adventures may arise around this are left open for now.

    I’ll leave a reminder for myself here: the empire fragmented 15 years ago, and the city’s population still stands at 100 000, meaning it has been able to sustain itself for 15 years from an unknown source. Significant food shortage issues are likely to occur only when the PCs reach the city.

    PS: And we got the whole population of the remaining state – around 200 000. And remaining borders for now:

    The Itza kingdom