Although the Asteanic Empire never conquered Kaliland, it doesn’t mean that Asteanic merchants didn’t find their way to this distant world. In fact, the entire former Itza Sea Empire was built upon trade with the Asteanic merchants.
During the Empire’s era, the Itza kings held almost complete control over trade with the Asteani within their realm. They primarily bought iron and tin for bronze casting and, in return, sold them precious goods collected from their tribes: jade, obsidian, valuable gemstones, pearls, precious coral, ebony, as well as hides and ivory from exotic animals. The Itza kings were esteemed and loyal business partners for the Asteanic merchants.
Trade thrived, and to support it, the kings of Irongate allocated land in the marshy and mangrove areas on the eastern bank of the Murkway River to the Asteanic merchant houses. This allowed them to establish their trade halls and ports there. Following the locals, the Kali, and the southern Orenic people, Irongate is still home to a significant Asteanic population. While the majority are Southern-Asteanic, it’s not uncommon to encounter Northern-Asteanic people as well.
The Asteanic enclave within the city was always complex, consisting of different fortifications, palazzos and feitorias belonging to various great houses. In terms of social structure, it resembled the Kali neighbourhoods, which were also divided into territories of various tribes. The large Asteanic trading houses often competed with each other or even engaged in open war. Centuries ago, during the height of the vast Asteanic Empire, these conflicts were resolved in the city by an Imperial-appointed High-Magistrate of Kaliland. However, with the fall of the Empire, the existence of such a universally recognized figure among all successor states became impossible. In recent centuries, King of Irongate personally resolved disputes among Asteanic trading houses. Consequently, there was no single leader in the Asteanic colony of Irongate. One could even say that, through the judiciary, the colony fell directly under the rule of the King of Irongate.
The fall of the Itza Sea Empire had a devastating impact on overseas trade in Irongate. While Irongate’s interest in Asteanic goods like iron and tin remained, without tribute to the king, there was almost nothing to offer the Asteanic merchants in return. Of course, one cannot speak in absolutes; Asteanic merchants still operate in the city, and the enclave is by no means deserted. However, many palazzos and trade halls belonging to merchant houses from Thefna and other distant Asteanic regions have been abandoned. The Imperial Bank and other important institutions have departed, and the jungle is gradually reclaiming its territory. Only merchants from the nearby Republic of Five Houses and the Orenic Sumatra Republic remain active in Irongate.
One of the few impressive new buildings in all of Irongate is the Feitoria la Birra. With the fall of the Empire, Irongate faced a food shortage. A city with 100 000 residents couldn’t sustain itself only with its hinterland and Turtletown fishermen. About a quarter of the required food had to be imported, and this was demanded as tribute during the Empire’s time. After the Empire’s fall, this practice was no longer possible. One of the five houses of the Republic of Five Houses, la Birra, stepped in immediately to address the food shortage. Their extensive farmlands not only sustain Ostia, the capital of the Republic, but are so vast and fertile that they can even supply two major cities of the world. La Birra immediately moved to fill the gap that had emerged in the market and constructed an impressive fortified Feitoria to oversee the entire operation.
Feitoria la Birra has since become the unofficial center of the enclave, led by Princess Eudora la Birra, the daughter of la Birra’s house leader, who serves as an unofficial leader of the Five Houses Republic merchants in Irongate. She has also managed to maintain relatively neutral relations with the Sumatra Republic merchants.
Feitoria la Birra has since evolved into the unofficial heart of the enclave, and its director, Princess Eudora la Birra, the daughter of the nillwring (leader) of the la Birra house, serves as the informal leader of the Republic of Five Houses’ merchants operating here. She has also successfully maintained relatively neutral relations with the merchants of the Sumatra Republic.
The Itza Empire was never highly centralized; the maritime realm comprised numerous tribes bound to the ruling Itza tribe through vassal agreements. These agreements obligated them to provide aid during times of war and pay tribute called the Gift.
The ruling Itza tribe’s domain encompassed the Tikcoco Plateau and the Plain of Warbird. These regions belonged directly to the Itza tribe and its king and only within these regions did the king’s orders hold direct authority. In Irongate, the Itza tribe held the Iron Palace, Military Harbor, King’s Arsenal, and their surroundings. Additionally, the empire’s four major naval fortresses, which bordered its territory, were under the direct control of the king.
Other lands, islands, and even parts of Irongate belonged to other tribes, functioning as relatively independent entities with their own traditions and laws.
However, the Itza maritime empire, as a large realm, still required a unified foreign policy and shared governance, especially concerning Irongate, a city that not only served as the Itza tribe’s headquarters but was also considered the headquarters for dozens of other tribes.
For this purpose, the Tribal Assembly existed as a relatively democratic governing body that united all the empire’s chieftains. It dealt with shaping common foreign policy (whom to attack next?), governing Irongate, and resolving conflicts between tribes. Although the Itza tribe had veto power in the assembly, officially, they had no greater privileges. Naturally, the ruling Itza king’s word carried more weight than that of other chieftains’, although this might not always have been the case for a new and young king.
The assembly convened at least once every three months (once per Domain Turn).
However, both the Itza Empire and the Tribal Assembly are now part of history. Assembly meetings ceased years before the empire’s collapse during the beginning of the Great Itza-Zipopan War. At the outset of the war, there were tribes within the empire that wanted to avoid conflict or even supported Zipopan. King Tzek III, who was in power at the time, resolved internal conflicts by suppressing dissent. He prevented the assembly from convening and eventually forbade tribal leaders from meeting each other altogether. During that time, the priesthood of the local war deity Bloodturtle, which had gained immense influence and is now prohibited, along with its High Priest Xilpac XII Xilpaci, who is currently wanted for war crimes and genocide, oversaw the enforcement of these rules. The penalties for tribal leaders convening with each other were extremely severe.
Tzek and the Bloodturtle dictatorship, known as the Silent Era, persisted until the end of the Great War and the empire’s collapse. Although today’s blame for the empire’s collapse and Irongate’s misfortune is often placed on the ruling king, Wadcha VII, known as Rustking, the reality was that Tzek III’s genocidal war against Zipopan and the dissolution of the Tribal Assembly played a much larger role.
Irongate had a grand and imposing building complex constructed for the Tribal Assembly. It included a large amphitheatre, closed conference rooms, courtrooms, and living quarters for all tribal leaders and their entourages. Most tribes did not possess property within the empire’s capital. These distant tribes often arrived at the assembly with substantial retinues, staying for extended periods. Besides conducting assembly affairs, they also managed their tribal business, visited friends and acquaintances, and brought tribute as gifts to the Itza king.
During the Great War, the assembly complex housed foreign mercenaries or remained empty altogether. After the war’s conclusion, the tropical jungle began to reclaim the complex, and over the following decade, it became overgrown and neglected. Recently, the complex stood empty, but today it has been taken over by the refugees who fled from the Rapatzan tribe. They are trying to engage in agriculture within the amphitheatre and have established their homes within the overgrown apartments.
The translation of SAKE is taking considerably more time than I initially thought, as I constantly find myself engaged in other things. It turns out that translation isn’t the most exciting activity for me. Nevertheless, I’m trying to push through it and am connecting the translation process with brainstorming NPCs and adventure ideas to make it more interesting for myself. You might have noticed that translated magic schools have been published along with some monsters, illustrations and/or NPCs.
In addition to the rulebook, I also plan to simultaneously release two smaller adventures to provide players with immediate opportunities to apply the rules and to showcase how SAKE is intended to be used. Both adventures take place in Irongate, which I’ve been developing as part of the #dungeon23│#city23 project.
The first of these adventures is an already partially published Dungeon Crawl in Crime Districts, and I’ve made significant additions to it, though not enough to publish the final version yet.
The second adventure is “The Divine Hunt,” which is almost ready. NPC statblocks and some potential maps are still missing, but you can read the full adventure without those.
The Divine Hunt
If the PCs agree to Naxia’s proposal to introduce them to the chief of the Calco tribe regarding a potential job opportunity, then Naxia leads them the next morning (on January 2nd, 1512) to Chief Xoxo’s Calco compound in the heart of the Calco district.
To solve this adventure, the PCs have one Domain Turn from the beginning of the game lasting for three months. If the PCs do not solve the adventure within this time, the issue will resolve on its own:
The Rapatzan tribe will starve to death, and the surrounding tribes will divide up their district.
The Calco tribe will uncover the Tipivana tribe’s crimes against the Seamother’s Daughters. Using their wealth to recruit mercenaries and allies, they will invade the Tipivana tribe’s district and destroy the tribe.
While Eros’s plan remains unfinished, this outcome is undesirable as it leads to the destruction of two city tribes. By this time Eros controls 80 Daughters of Seamother and can use them to catch more.
Turtletown district and Calco tribe
Turtletown accommodates 1/8 of the city’s population (approximately 12,500 people), partitioned into thirteen separate tribes. These thirteen tribes also embody the city’s middle class. Their income source, the sea, bestows upon them a consistent prosperity that remains unaffected by shifting political climate or problems on trade routes. The 13 fishing tribes of Turtletown bear the responsibility of feeding half of the city’s 100 000 inhabitants, while the remaining sustenance of the city is provided by the inland villages and the food merchants of the Asteanic Republic of Five Houses.
The fishing tribes of Turtletown require a significant amount of space to accommodate their fishing canoes and catamarans. When comparing the area in proportion to the population, it is evident that it offers the highest amount of space per person in Irongate. The district has canals running alongside the streets. Turtletown’s architecture predominantly consists of single or two-story buildings, each encompassing expansive inner courtyards or gardens intended for tasks like ship repairs and fish drying.
The tribes of Turtletown were obligated to render taxes to the Itza king in the form of pearls and coral – both plentiful in the waters of the Wes-Kali archipelago. In times past, when monarchs held greater authority, the handling of pearls and coral was exclusive to the king and his loyal aides. These treasures were employed by kings to procure iron, tin, and other foreign goods from Asteanic merchants. Utilizing pearls as payment to Asteanic merchants resulted in capital punishment for ordinary citizens. Presently, the reigning Rustking struggles to enforce this restriction, yet this does not suggest that engaging in pearl trade is advisable. The Rustking’s principal bodyguard, Nene, and her Iron Hornets remain steadfast in their loyalty to the king, promptly punishing any instances of pearl trading that come to their attention.
In Turtletown, all the tribes operate under the leadership of priest chiefs and elders due to the strict regulation of their fishing waters by the local sea deity – the Seamother, along with her daughters. Seamother’s Daughters command colossal sea turtles and schools of fish. Tribes aiming to catch fish or other marine creatures from the West-Kali archipelago must engage in negotiations with these otherworldlings. Much like their mother, the Seamother’s Daughters exhibit a strong sense of ownership and territoriality. They are even inclined to seek retribution if their possessions are taken without prior consultation. This concept of “property” encompasses all aquatic life within their domain. While an individual fisherman might not provoke a Seamother’s Daughter, larger fishing vessels often do. Consequently, the tribes of Turtletown have honed their skills in communicating and negotiating with these entities within their fishing grounds.
To ensure their fishing rights, the chiefs of the tribes have established priestly pacts with the Seamother. They have also cultivated relationships with the respective local Daughter for rights in specific locations.
The Seamother’s Daughters are vain entities, captivated by gold and the most exquisite gemstone anklets and hip ornaments – the only accessories their anatomies can accommodate. To appease these Daughters, fishing tribes present these adornments at least once a month, thereby gaining permission to fish within the region. Thankfully, Kaliland’s subterranean depths are rich in diverse gemstones, often finding their way onto the legs and hips of the Seamother’s Daughters. This dynamic inherently imposes constraints on the local fishing tribes. Only large and prosperous tribes can afford the monthly adornment of one or even multiple Seamother’s Daughters with the world’s most precious stones.
The Calco tribe in Turtletown stands out as one of the wealthiest among the thirteen, attributed to their fishing grounds that encompass coral reefs, from which they extract precious coral and pearls. Moreover, their maritime domain encompasses the Seamother Undercroft, serving as a portal to the sea deity’s otherworldly realm – the Seamother’s Deep. This revered location attracts pilgrims and priests from across the archipelago who seek to establish pacts with the Seamother. Leveraging this, the Calco tribe offers tourism packages for the Seamother Undercroft and provides accommodations for pilgrims at their district’s “Stranded Turtle” mezcalhouse, thus creating a lucrative additional source of income.
The tribe consists of 120 families (totalling 1200 individuals) and possesses 10 sizable catamarans. In times of war, the tribe can muster a company of fisher-warriors.
Meeting with Xoxo Calco and the Calco Tribe’s Issue
Xoxo Calco is the priest-chief of the Calco tribe – a wealthy and powerful man in Irongate. He resides in his compound with his wife, children, and numerous other relatives. Xoxo is approximately fifty years old. He receives the PCs and Naxia in a spacious inner courtyard where he and his family have their morning meal. Initially, Naxia keeps the PCs out of earshot and privately explains to Xoxo and his family who the PCs are, as well as suggesting that, in her view, the PCs should investigate the tribe’s problem before resorting to war and violence. Xoxo appears thoughtful and nods.
When Xoxo meets the PCs, he doesn’t believe they can actually help him. However, he sees no harm in letting them try. If they manage to solve the problem, he would reward them generously.
Xoxo explains that the Calco tribe is facing issues with two neighbouring tribes: the Rapatzan tribe and the Tipivana tribe. These tribes are preventing Calco’s catamarans from leaving their district to go out to sea for fishing. (You can see on the city map that all the canals from the Calco district leading to the sea pass through the territories of these two tribes.) Xoxo reveals that the problem has persisted for almost a month, and negotiations with the Tipivana tribe have been consistently blocked – they even refuse to speak with him. Tipivana warriors now threaten Xoxo’s people if they even approach their district. In the long run, this problem threatens significant economic damage to the Calco tribe and further destabilizes Irongate’s already fragile food security, of which partly relies on imports from the Asteanic Republic of Five Houses. Xoxo says that if this continues, he’ll have to attack the Tipivana tribe with his warriors to achieve an agreement through combat.
In general, he only talks about the Tipivana tribe – if the PCs don’t specifically notice this, they can roll a Social Skills check with a DL of 5 to realize that he almost never mentions the Rapatzan tribe. If the PCs don’t ask about the Rapatzan tribe separately, Xoxo essentially forgets to mention them because he has completely written them off in his mind. If the PCs inquire, Xoxo explains that the leaders of that tribe lost their minds several months ago, and a large part of the tribe has scattered. Those who remained barricaded themselves in their district and now attack anyone who tries to pass through their territory using bows, javelins, arquebuses, and even small cannons. Xoxo doesn’t say this aloud, but he doesn’t dare to attack them because they are well fortified and their madness seems more dangerous than a fight with sane warriors.
Xoxo’s quest for the PCs has two parts, and the reward for solving it is also two-fold:
Xoxo simply wants information about what’s happening – why the Tipivana tribe is blocking his catamarans, what motivates them, and whether and how this problem can be resolved.
Solve the problem – find a way for the Calco tribe’s catamarans to safely access the sea again.
Xoxo offers rewards for both tasks:
For information, he offers 2 kg of precious coral and two pearls per PC.
For solving the problem, he adds a substantial treasure (100 kg of precious coral and 30 pearls per PC) and his tribe’s everlasting friendship and support in anything the PCs plan to do in the city. This means that the PCs can now call for help from the Calco tribe, and they will send one warrior NPC per PC to aid them.
What actually happened?
The leader of the Zipopan Open Seas Peace Force mercenaries is Zenižlav, who has maintained a close and favourable relationship with his former employer, the pirate ban Bogodan. In essence, Zenižlav acts as an agent for ban Bogodan’s pirates in the city.
Around six months ago, Zenižlav approached the leaders of the Rapatzan tribe with an intriguing offer – to meet ban Bogodan, who promised to elevate their relatively impoverished tribe to newfound prosperity. Zenižlav, however, didn’t provide specific details; in fact, his knowledge was (and is) limited. He only informed the Rapatzan tribe leaders that ban Bogodan had seized control of the Ixitza Naval Fortress, a former naval base of the Itza Empire situated in the northern region of the West-Kali archipelago. Ban Bogodan expressed a desire to meet the tribal leaders there, and the Rapatzan tribe leaders accepted the proposition.
Chief Rapa Rapatzan and the other tribal leaders embarked on their fishing catamarans towards the Ixitza Naval Fortress. However, upon reaching their destination, they found themselves face to face not with ban Bogodan, but with his right-hand man – Eros Pasarotti, an Asteanic priest. Little did anyone know, Eros Pasarotti is, in reality, a symbiote of the primordial Xiavili, granting him extraordinary psychic prowess. Currently, Eros also wields psychic dominion over ban Bogodan and, consequently, exercises command over the entire Roadic mercenary fleet.
Eros’s objective in Book I is to induce a famine in Irongate by attaining magical dominion over the Seamother’s Daughters in the West-Kali archipelago. If this scheme prevails, fishing in the archipelago will become extremely challenging by the start of Book II. Moreover, maritime travel without Eros’s awareness and approval will be restricted.
Eros employed potent Psychic spells to manipulate the leaders of the Rapatzan tribe, using techniques such as programming, erasing memories, and creating new ones. This manipulation resulted in a transformation of the tribe’s fishermen into hunters, tasked with seeking otherworldly beings. These manipulated hunters scoured the seas in search of the Seamother’s daughters – entities that held dominion over the region’s fishing resources. Eros’s goal was to capture these creatures and transport them to the Ixitza Naval Fortress, where he established control over them. Within the archipelago’s fishing community, the Daughters of Seamother were profoundly revered. They are powerful and vengeful offspring of a sea goddess, and causing them harm was thought to trigger dire consequences. The Seamother cult was deeply embedded in the fishermen’s upbringing. To manipulate them against their nature, Eros erased significant portions of their memories and replaced them with new ones. Unfortunately, tampering with memories of this magnitude often leads to unforeseen consequences. As a result, Rapatzan tribal leaders and fishermen forgot basic fishing skills, and some even lost essential abilities. Eros, a symbiote of the primordial Xiavili, possessed extraordinary psychic abilities that surpassed human magic. However, even he encountered difficulties – with each mission, the tribe’s leaders, warriors, and fishermen became increasingly clumsy, paranoid, and posed a danger to themselves and Eros. Eros feared that the entire plot would be exposed. A few months ago, he decided to end his involvement with the Rapatzan tribe by wiping his programs from their minds and sending them back to their district. Regrettably, this erasure also wiped away their last shreds of sanity.
After returning to their tribe, the tribal warriors’ Intellect attribute has dropped to -7 (they are barely able to speak). Their memories are now a jumble of fragmented and unclear remnants, and they are plagued by intense fear and paranoia about their surroundings. Struggling to make sense of their limited knowledge and the remnants of implanted memories and programming fragments, they attempt to construct a coherent worldview. Unfortunately, their efforts lead them to concoct an entirely fantastical doomsday theory: they believe the world is on the brink of ending, although the details remain uncertain. They firmly hold that their survival hinges on unity, perceiving themselves as the sole escapees of this impending catastrophe. They perceive all other city tribes as adversaries intertwined with the apocalypse, leading them to feel the need to defend themselves whenever others approach. Their determination extends to safeguarding those tribe members who lack understanding, even resorting to force if necessary.
The result is that the warriors of the Rapatzan tribe have barricaded themselves within their tribal district. Rational tribe members have either fled long ago or are held hostage by the warriors. Anyone who approaches the tribal district is targeted by the Rapatzan warriors with javelins, arrows, and even small cannons. As they remain confined within their district and haven’t ventured out to attack others, no action has been taken to address the situation. It’s only a matter of time before they succumb to starvation in their current state.
Theoretically, the Rapatzan tribe could be rescued, but the task is formidable. The tribe’s territory is under the control of 120 deranged fisher-warriors, while about 400 women, children, and elderly individuals are being held hostage; an equal number of tribe members have managed to escape. To aid the deranged warriors, a powerful psychic or a skilled priest could be of assistance. The psychic would need to roll a Psychic skill check with a DL of 30, while a potent priest could perform the Ritual: Blessing with a roll of DL 40 to remove the curse. This action would restore the tribe members’ Intellect attributes. Afterward, engaging in conversation would be possible, but dismantling their intricate conspiracy theory would require persuasion, involving three rolls with a DL of 20.
If two months after the start of the game no intervention occurs, hunger eventually takes over, and by mid-March 1512, the entire tribe and their captives have succumbed to starvation. With that, the canals for Calco tribe’s ships are free.
Eros had to reconsider his plan – capturing Seamother’s daughters from the open ocean was time-consuming and perilous. Additionally, the constant mental manipulation posed the risk of driving the next group of hunters also insane. However, he required the Turtletown hunters – only they maintained favourable relations with Seamother’s daughters in the region, enabling them to approach and successfully capture them. Ban Bogodan’s pirates would have been incapable of such a feat.
The solution emerged in the form of Seamother’s Undercroft, an underwater sanctuary within the Calco tribe’s fishing grounds. This is where Seamother herself resides and gives birth to her daughters, who then emerge into the human world and disperse across the seas. If Eros positioned his hunters there in ambush, they could quickly amass a sufficient number of Seamother’s daughters, potentially within a few months, enabling him to gain control over the seas of the West-Kali archipelago through them.
Several months ago, as a result, the aforementioned leader of the Roadic mercenaries, Zenižlav, appeared before Xoxo Calco. He offered substantial profit in exchange for Xoxo’s willingness to meet with ban Bogodan. However, Xoxo Calco declined, and no matter how Zenižlav attempted to persuade him, his efforts were fruitless. Given the Calco tribe’s wealth and Xoxo’s own suspicions about dealings with the roguish roadic mercenary, who worked for Zipopan, an enemy of the Itza Empire, the offer seemed unreasonable.
Xoxo don’t mention this episode to the PCs because he doesn’t perceive any connection between it and the subsequent issues. Furthermore, to him, the appearance of various wanderers at a wealthy chief’s doorstep seeking something isn’t anything out of the ordinary.
Eros had to turn to the next tribe: the Tipivana tribe. Chief Torsoc and the other elders of the Tipivana tribe accepted the offer and sailed to the Ixitza Naval Fortress, where Eros Pasarotti awaited them and began manipulating their minds – erasing and rewriting. However, since the Seamother’s Undercroft was situated in the fishing grounds of the Calco tribe, which the Tipivana fishermen had no reason to visit, Eros had to devise a scheme for the tribal leaders to push aside the Calco tribe – a task not too complicated for Eros, especially now that the Rapatzan warriors prevented anyone from using their canals, enabling the Tipivana tribe to cut off the Calco tribe’s maritime access completely.
Eros Pasarotti’s package of memories for the leaders and warrior-fishermen of the Tipivana tribe (these are not mere tales or falsehoods; tribe members remember and believe these things as truth, as if they’ve witnessed and experienced them):
The leaders and fishermen of the Calco tribe have renounced the allegiance to Seamother and are now under the influence of the alleged protective deity of the city, Yaxchila, who actually desires the city’s downfall. Members of the Tipivana tribe have witnessed secret rituals conducted by the Calco tribe in honor of Yaxchila – some of these rituals even involve human sacrifices.
The Calco tribe’s fishermen have been given some kind of poisonous pearls by Yaxchila, which they have fed to the Seamother’s Daughters. These toxic pearls make the Seamother’s Daughters hostile toward the fishermen – this could ultimately lead the city into famine.
If the Calco fishermen are allowed to go out to sea, they will continue to feed pearls to the Seamother’s Daughters, worsening the city’s situation even further – therefore, they must be prevented from accessing the sea. Seeking help from others is futile since no one will believe it anyway.
The Rapatzan tribe also uncovered the Calco tribe’s plan and openly opposed them – they were driven mad by Yaxchila’s magic. It’s better to save the city quietly and not risk malevolent enchantments. If the Calco people are kept away, they won’t be able to use their dark sorcery.
When all the aforementioned information has been relayed by the warriors to the rest of the tribe members, who might find it hard to believe but still don’t openly question the tribal leaders and warrior-fishermen, the following is kept strictly secret from the Tipivana tribe’s own members by their fishermen:
The Seamother’s Daughters must be rescued. To achieve this, the poisoned daughters must be captured and taken to Sitka Island, to the presence of the powerful sea priest Suru, who will remove the pearls and release the healed daughters back into the sea.
Sitka Island is an uninhabited island – Eros erases the memories related to himself and the pirate base from the fishermen’s minds but includes a program that compels them to approach him once they capture a Seamother’s Daughter.
The healed daughters are always grateful and bestow rich gifts upon the Tipivana fishermen who helped them (the tribe has indeed gained significant wealth – Eros sees no issue in giving them money, and in addition, he provides them with some of the valuable jewelry taken from the abducted Seamother’s Daughters – he and his controlled daughters have no need for them).
How the capture of Seamother’s Daughters exactly works:
In turns, all 10 Tipivana tribe catamaran teams engage in capturing Seamother’s Daughters alongside their regular fishing.
The team set to capture a Daughter brings along jewels to entice her and one of their six Seamother priests (whose spells from Seamother no longer work – something no one can explain well, but Eros constantly removes such questions from their memories), who will use prayers to lure the Daughter out. It works because the priests lie in their prayers.
Using the jewels, the Daughter is enticed to the catamaran, where she is snatched aboard and restrained.
As the hunters sail towards Sitka Island, a program triggers in the priest’s mind that commands the ship to sail to Ixitza Naval Fortress instead, under the pretext that the fictional water priest Suru is currently located there.
At Ixitza Naval Fortress, under Eros’s guidance, roadic pirates take over the Seamother’s Daughter, and Eros makes further adjustments in the minds of the fisherman-soldiers and the priest. He rewards them with 500 gold pieces’ worth of gold, silver, and jewels from the loot, and sends them out to sea on one of his ships, where he erases their last memories related to the naval base.
Upon returning home, the catamaran team remembers meeting priest Suru on Sitka Island, who supposedly performed a ritual to free the Seamother’s Daughter from a curse, and in gratitude, the Daughter rewarded them with a generous amount of gold and silver for their help.
Although Eros has treated the minds of the Tipivana tribe’s fisher-warriors more cautiously than those of the Rapatzani, they still suffer from memory losses. Like the Rapatzani tribe, they cannot see the actual problem and only fear Calco’s sorcery behind their issues.
The PCs will likely begin solving the problem by searching for information. When they approach the territory of the Tipivana tribe, just as Xoxo and Naxia suspected, they are allowed onto the tribe’s streets without issues. However, if they reveal that they are working for the Calco tribe, they are strongly asked to leave, and refusing may lead to an armed conflict.
The GM can divide the members of the Tipivana tribe into two groups: those influenced by Eros and the rest. Nearly all of the tribe’s fisher-warriors, who go out to sea every day, are influenced by Eros. They don’t want to discuss conflicts with the Calco tribe much, but with a bit of persuasion (DL 10 – “You wouldn’t believe it anyway” and DL 15 – “Revealing the story might bring Calco’s curse upon me”), they are willing to share that the Calco tribe has renounced Seamother, desecrates her sanctuary, and harms her daughters. However, they don’t want to elaborate.
The rest of the tribe members, who haven’t been directly influenced by Eros and have only heard stories about the Calco tribe from their seafaring fisher-warriors, might be more willing to talk privately (to ensure a private conversation, persuasion DL 10 – “I probably shouldn’t!?” and DL 15 – “The fisherman-soldiers are acting strangely, I’m a bit afraid of them”). If persuasion succeeds, then they discuss the poisonous pearls, the Yaxchila cult of the Calco tribe, that Yaxchila is against the city, how the Rapatzani tribe went mad, etc. Additionally, they might discuss the memory problems of their fisher-warriors and how all previously mentioned stories originate from them. The other tribe members haven’t witnessed any Calco human sacrifices or Rapatzani’s public confrontation with Calco themselves.
Social skills check DL 15 reveals that the tribe members feel great fear and embarrassment about something, and if persuaded to open up further (DL 15 – “Embarrassing and frightening story” and DL 25 – “Fear of divine punishment”), they will reveal that the Seamother priests and priestesses of their tribe have seemingly lost their spells given by Seamother – at least, they no longer use them, and their blessings don’t work. However, the priests themselves insist that everything is still fine.
If persuasion fails, there’s a 50% chance the person will go to the tribe’s warriors and inform them about the PCs, who now take interest in them. Depending on how the conversation goes between the PCs and the warriors, the PCs might be expelled from the district, or they will be watched more closely. Another unsuccessful persuasion attempt might lead to their final expulsion from the district.
The PCs can also attempt to meet with chief Torsoc of the tribe, which is possible without persuasion only if the PCs have already proven themselves in the city (e.g., dispersing the Iron Runners gang). Unproven PCs need to handle the guards at Torsoc’s residence skilfully (DL 15 – “I don’t know you, and I shouldn’t let you in,” DL 20 – “Letting random people in might cause me trouble,” DL 25 – “If you do anything bad afterward, I can be severely punished”). Torsoc himself isn’t interested in meeting the PCs unless they can convince him through his house guard with an interesting piece of information.
If the PCs choose to spy on or track the tribe, they can remain hidden as long as they haven’t drawn any negative attention from the tribe previously. Refer to the surveillance results below in the Hints section.
The PCs could also opt to capture a fisher-warrior or priest for interrogation. Through persuasion and threats, they may learn that the tribe captures Seamother’s Daughters and brings them to priest Suru on Sitka Island to break the curse of the poisonous pearls.
Approaching the Rapatzani tribe’s district results in a poorly articulated recommendation not to come closer, and if the PCs still approach, the armed Rapatzani warriors behind barricades will open fire with all the weapons they have. Typically, there are 5-8 (1d4+4) warriors guarding a street barricade.
The PCs might also mistakenly believe that talking to Zenižlav could benefit them. However, Zenižlav has merely been a messenger throughout the scheme. Even if he wanted to open up to the PCs (which he doesn’t), he knows little beyond sending representatives from the tribes to negotiate with ban Bogodan due to some offer the latter has made. Zenižlav can only be persuaded if the PCs somehow capture him and use threats, although he initially attempts to lie to them. Zenižlav’s Social Skills are +8. He only leaves his fortress accompanied by 8 well-armed guards. Use the stats of Bogodan’s warriors for both Zenižlav and his roadic mercenaries.
The PCs might eventually become intrigued by another of Zenižlav’s activities. Every few weeks, he visits the soulsmith Zolina Shadowbender, who resides in the Iron District. He acquires 5 pairs of Soulshackles +2 from her and then dispatches them to Ixitza Naval Fortress using a small sailboat. He is uncertain about why ban Bogodan assigned him this task, and he is unaware of the true purpose of the Soulshackles. The PCs could observe Zenižlav’s actions if they trail him or later take control of the Iron District.
Eros needs the Soulshackles to gain control over the Daughters of Seamother.
Trailing Zenižlav leads PCs to the Crime Districts and starts the Crime Districts Dungeon Crawl.
If the PCs decide to search for hints elsewhere in the city, you can allow them to make skill checks in turns to find Hints (similar to Secrets in Dungeon Crawls). Each successful check can provide some kind of clue, and finding a hint takes half a day.
Skills that the PCs can use for finding hints:
History and Linguistics Geography and Navigation Law and Society Mathematics and Economy Metaphysics and Otherworld Theology Perception Social skills
Fishing Grounds and Seamother’s Undercroft
History and Linguistics, Geography and Navigation, or Theology DL 5
If for some reason the players decide not to examine the area’s map, provide it to them and draw their attention to where the tribe’s fisher-warriors fish and the location of the local sea god’s sacred place.
Ixitza Naval Fortress (Former Itzan naval base)
History and Linguistics or Geography and Navigation DL 5
If players have questions about Ixitza while looking at the map or seeking other clues, it is an open secret that the former naval base has been seized by ban Bogodan, the leader of the Roadic mercenary fleet that fought under the Zipopani flag in the Great Itza-Zipopan War. It’s also not a secret that ban Bogodan engages in piracy, disturbing Irongate locals relatively little. The reason is quite simple – ban Bogodan targets only Asteanic merchant ships and generally leaves those coming to Kaliland alone. Some of ban Bogodan’s mercenaries now reside in Irongate and directly serve Zipopani rulers in an occupying military force with the resounding name of the “Zipopan Open Seas Peace Force” located at the city’s harbor.
Wealthy Fisher-Warriors of the Tipivana Tribe
Social skills or Law and Society DL 10
Rumours circulate that the Tipivana tribe’s fisher-warriors have become wealthier lately, purchasing lavish items from the city, improving their attire, etc. This could be attributed to the capture of Calco tribe’s fishing territories.
Refugees from the Rapatzan Tribe
Social skills or Law and Society DL 10, and without needing a check if the PCs actively search for refugee families.
Families that have fled from the Rapatzan tribe are in dire straits, residing in makeshift shelters or abandoned buildings in the Crime Districts. Refugees recount how the Rapatzan tribe’s fisher-warriors gradually lost their sanity until they went completely mad and took the rest of the tribe hostage. They share tales of the impending apocalypse and memory loss. When asked about the origin and cause of these changes, they believe that things started to shift after the Roadic mercenary Zenižlav promised the tribe some sort of great fortune. The fisher-warriors suddenly started bringing back gold coins and other riches from their fishing expeditions. However, they concealed their newfound wealth and the refugees received no share.
Rapatzan Tribe’s Fisher-Warrior Rox
Social skills or Law and Society DL 20
Rox is one of the Rapatzan tribe’s escapees – the lone one-handed fisher-warrior. He suffers from memory issues, and conflicting memories have driven the middle-aged man to alcoholism. He spends his days begging for coin or a sip of mezcal in front of various mezcalhouses.
For a drink or some (drink) money, he’s willing to share an intriguing story:
During one of Rapatzan fishing trips, Rox lost his hand – but it wasn’t actually a fishing trip. They captured a Seamother’s Daughter (during the struggle, he lost his hand to the sharks controlled by her) and took her to Ixitza Naval Fortress. Rox doesn’t remember exactly what happened there, as he suffered from blood loss on the catamaran while the others went ashore. Nothing like this had happened before, and when he later talked about his memory at home, all his crewmates said it didn’t happen and claimed they were just catching fish – no one could explain how Rox lost his hand. Rox never got back out to sea, and as the confusion among the other fisher-warriors deepened, he had to flee from the tribe. Rox doesn’t know if his memory is true or if he’s imagining it, but a shark did bite his hand off after all.
Metaphysics and Otherworld or Theology DL 15, Social skills DL 25
Word on the street is that the Tipivana tribe’s priestess of Seamother, Torta, has lost her powers. Investigating this rumour leads to a ceramist who shares that they sought Torta’s blessing for an important commission – they paid her, but the blessing didn’t work.
Mathematics and Economy or Theology DL 10, or Social Skills or Law and Society DL 20
Rumours circulate about a goldsmith specializing in crafting jewellery for Seamother’s Daughters who has grown considerably richer in recent weeks. He proudly boasts about his wealth while sipping mezcal in mezcalhouses. Theology DL 5 reveals information about the traditions surrounding the West-Kali seas and the ruling Seamother’s Daughters: they govern the fishing grounds, and fishermen who want to catch fish in their controlled waters without punishment must gift valuable gemstone jewellery to the Daughters. Usually, the tribe donates one piece of jewellery each month. Meeting the goldsmith, he reveals that the Tipivana tribe has commissioned him to create 100 pieces of jewellery for Seamother’s Daughters. The quantity is so large that he’s subcontracted nearly half of the city’s goldsmiths and anticipates significant profits from the trade. He has already delivered 20 pieces.
Poor Fishing Haul
Mathematics and Economy DL 10 or Perception DL 15
While observing the Tipivana tribe or exploring their district, the PCs notice a large catamaran returning from a fishing expedition. The fisher-warriors on board look content, as if they’ve had a great catch – yet there’s no sign of fish. Well, not enough to warrant celebration. A careful observation (Perception DL 20) reveals among the goods unloaded from the catamaran a heavy chest emitting a metallic clink as it’s carried. This chest contains 20 kg of Asteaani silver coins, totalling 7500 SD.
Metaphysics and Otherworld or Theology 15 or Perception 20
While observing the Tipivana tribe or wandering around their district, the PCs notice a rather peculiar fishing gear – harpoons with silver tips. Silver weapons are used exclusively for combat against otherworldly beings or ghosts.
Reward for Information
Xoxo Calco is satisfied with any coherent theory to reward the PCs for the information. This theory can be either the truth about what’s actually happening if the PCs figure it out, or some misunderstood theory. If the PCs decide to deceive Xoxo and he ends up believing them (Xoxo’s Social skills are +8), he will reward them as well. After all, Xoxo himself doesn’t know the truth either.
Solving the Problem
Fully resolving or completely understanding the problem might be beyond the capabilities of starting PCs, in which case it’s a good idea to guide them towards dealing with other adventures for a while. They can return stronger, wiser, and with more allies. However, players can always surprise with an unexpected solution.
Nevertheless, the PCs should be reminded that they don’t have unlimited time – Xoxo Calco might take matters into his own hands at some point and employ warriors to solve the issue.
There isn’t a single correct solution to the problem; PCs can find various unexpected ways to address it. Here are a few ways that could partially solve the problem:
If all 6 priests of the Tipivana tribe are eliminated (including chief Torsoc), the hunters would take the Seamother’s Daughters, if they manage to catch any without a priest, to the uninhabited Sitka Island. Eventually, they would be forced to release the daughters, as no divine healer would come to their aid. The tribe would eventually give up the hunt for the daughters and be willing to negotiate with the Calco tribe.
Eliminating either tribe physically.
Rescuing the Rapatzan tribe from their folly would bring them to the negotiation table with the Calco tribe. If the Calco tribe gains access to the sea, the Tipivana tribe wouldn’t be able to go on their hunts anymore.
If Zenižlav doesn’t pass the Soulshackles to Eros, Eros won’t be able to take the captured Seamother’s Daughters under his control.
The best solution for the city and the PCs would be to eliminate the Tipivana priests and save the Rapatzani tribe – this would have the most positive impact on the events of Book II.
Eros starts the game controlling 20 Daughters of Seamother, and every in-game week that the PCs haven’t stopped the Tipivana hunters, Eros gains 5 more Daughters of Seamother, reaching a maximum of 80 by the end of the Domain Turn when the adventure resolves itself.
In the SAKE system, any dangerous place can be a dungeon, such as the palace of a powerful enemy lord, a dense and perilous jungle, a pocket of the Otherworld, as well as more traditional locations like mines, necropolises, and other underground structures.
Playing in a dungeon is divided into Dungeon Turns, during which PCs roll percentages for Hazards and Opportunities and can perform individual actions such as mapping, searching for traps, and seeking out secrets.
You will fill it with content, and when it’s done, you will be ready to run your dungeon.
For an example dungeon, I am creating a dungeon for the #dungeon23 project. Those who have been following the blog for a while know that as part of this project, I am creating a city called Irongate. However, if you are reading for the first time, don’t worry, you don’t need to know anything about Irongate or my #dungeon23 project to create a dungeon.
In any case, there will be a building in the city of Irongate that will later become the PCs’ home base, but first, they must retake it from a criminal drug gang that has taken over. So our dungeon already has a final boss (the gang leader) and a goal for why the PCs are entering the dungeon.
Our dungeon is the city districts around the player’s house. I have drawn a map of these districts, but, it is not necessary to draw a map to design the SAKE dungeon because the dungeon is expressed as a scheme. However, the map is helpful in illustrating the process.
The SAKE dungeon consists of sectors that can be traversed within one Dungeon Turn at a normal speed, with Scripted Encounters in between.
The first Scripted Encounter we know that’s going to happen is the very last Scripted Encounter, which is a fight against the Iron Runners gang boss Tzakla Ulu and the conquering of the PCs’ future home. For this, we will use a separate battle map, and it will be a long combat segment. We will be designing that later.
The second Scripted Encounter will be the reservoirs and canals around the city districts because the players may question whether it is possible to avoid traversing the districts and instead cross these bodies of water by swimming or finding a boat to reach the final boss. This would mean the PCs would bypass most of the dungeon, but such an option must remain available to them. Therefore, we define this as a Scripted Encounter.
Now, let’s get back to the big picture. First, we need to decide on the theme of the dungeon (cave, castle, necropolis, etc.) – I’ve decided on a city district.
The dungeon type will be a Quantumcrawl, which means that the dungeon will be in a Pointcrawl format, but the Scripted Encounters in this dungeon won’t just depend on where the PCs are.
Next, we need to decide on the length and duration of the Dungeon Turn. We can assume that the PCs will be able to move through the city streets at a relatively normal pace, but since they are in a dangerous area, their normal walking speed will be a bit slower as they try to stay alert to any dangers.
Let’s say the Dungeon Turn is about 200m long, and the PCs can traverse it at a cautious pace in 5 minutes.
Finally, we need to determine the Dungeon Mapping Difficulty Level – DL 4 seems sufficient in the context of a city. Although the streets may be winding and complex, getting lost should only happen in cases of bad luck.
Next, it’s time to divide the entire dungeon into sectors. Each sector takes one Dungeon Turn to traverse at a normal speed, during which Hazards and Opportunities are rolled and each PC has one Action. Scripted Encounters may occur between sectors.
I’ll divide the dungeon into 12 sectors, which means it’s a fairly large dungeon, but to reach the final encounter, only 3 sectors need to be traversed if taking the shortest path. Based on this knowledge, we’ll prepare only a few Hazards and Secrets. It can be assumed that the PCs won’t wander in the dungeon for long.
I have devised a plan to kick off the adventure in Irongate in a way that the PCs are not familiar with the city (since the players are not) but still have a connection to it. To achieve this, I have drafted a game-opening text directed towards the players, serving as a preliminary campaign pitch. It does not include details on what the campaign entails, what the PC would be doing, and the like, making it only a partial campaign pitch.
You are all members of the Tepozatli clan, hailing from the grand city of Irongate. After years of traversing foreign lands, you have returned to your birthplace upon hearing news of your old clan leader Ahau’s passing. You left a decade or more ago, when the city’s formidable navy – the lifeblood of the Itza empire – was obliterated, leading to the collapse of the entire once powerful empire and its capital, Irongate.
As blacksmiths, the Tepozatli clan’s fortunes were intrinsically tied to the navy. The clan had amassed significant wealth by supplying the warship with arms and other iron goods. However, with the navy’s demise, the clan lost its riches and had to lay off all its workers. Many clan members sought better prospects elsewhere. Despite being children at the time, you vividly recall the fear and melancholy that shrouded the city, even playing outside after dark was no longer allowed. The Tepozatli clan villa where you lived, always crowded and noisy (because giant mechanical hammers worked there all day), became empty and silent. Eventually, you too departed with your parents, leaving only Ahau and his family behind.
Whilst you can fashion your characters’ attributes as you wish – nationality, gender, age, appearance, and further background – you all share a common past, having grown up in the Tepozatli clan villa situated in the Blacksmith district. You may even come across some childhood friends or rivals in the city, whose current whereabouts remain unknown but may be of assistance if needed.
You all arrived in the city on the same cargo ship that belonged to the wealthy Asteanic merchant, Lardes. If you need money, it may be possible to work for him. You arrived in the city only this morning and went straight to the Quirigua (Kali death god) necropolis, where the clan leader Ahau is buried. There, you learned that Ahau has been dead for six months and there is no one left but you to inherit your clan’s large forge-villa in the Blacksmith district. You have no other home to stay in.
The game starts when you step out of the Quirigua necropolis.
Before the game, friends and rivals must also be drawn (as cards), and I already have some thoughts on this that would help get the adventure going.
By the way, the first adventure and BBEG will be driving Tzakla Ulu out of the PC’s clan palace. As it later transpires, Ahau had succumbed to drug addiction, allowing the leader of a notorious drug gang, Tzakla Ulu, to occupy his palace with his gang. In addition, Tzakla Ulu will also be one of the rivals, and if that doesn’t help, one of the PC’s friends will also have a problem with Tzakla Ulu. And if even that doesn’t help either, if the PCs choose between Lardes and the king, Tzakla Ulu will still get in their way.
Thoughts on friend cards:
Someone from the same district who also has problems with Tzakla Ulu and can warn the PCs about him.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.„
“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.”
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:
Breaking the curse, of course.
Who was the priest, so powerful, that the King of Itza has not been able to find anyone to break the curse?
Why hasn’t the lich god Yaxchila, who lives in the city, broken the curse? Maybe he was the priest?
What other points are in the peace treaty?
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.
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).
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.
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:
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: