Jar Burial in the Land Beneath the Winds

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In human cultures, it is common for the dead to be buried in large jars. The preferred method of burial (and the most expensive) separates the bones from the flesh. The bones are then placed in a large ceramic jar decorated with various writings. This jar is sealed with a wax and clay mixture that makes it watertight. The flesh is liquified and placed in a second sealed container. The second container is marked with a single glyph that represents the wheel of rebirth.

The bell of the bone jar is approximately four feet tall and about five feet in diameter at its widest point. It stands on four feet that are curious bound by chains near the feet. The feet are four different sizes, one extends into a three-foot diameter disk. The entire jar stands about five to five-and-a-half feet tall. The other jar, with the liquified entrails, sits on the large disk of the "odd" foot, placed upside-down.

This elaborate burial ceremony is intended to prevent the body from being animated by wizards or demons. Both wizards and demons seek to reanimate the whole body in an effect to gain the knowledge, spells and/or skills the deceased had when they were alive. Without both the bones and the flesh, wizards and demons cannot create the magical stones that would contain the deceased memories, knowledge and skills. (The truth is that these elaborate measures do little to deter wizards and demons.)

More importantly, it is intended to prevent ghosts to re-integrate with their bodies in an attempt to prevent their reincarnation. It is believed that if the ghost somehow manages to re-enter the bones, the shaking caused by its attempts to escape the bone jar will spill the contents of the second jar. It is believed that without the flesh, it is impossible for a ghost to re-enter their former bodies. This turns out to be true. There is such a great fear of a spirit re-entering its former body that the widespread reach of this custom has relegated the existence of a re-integrated body into myth and fairytale.

For those that cannot afford ceramic jars, clay jars are used instead. If the family of the deceased cannot afford jars with feet, the bone jar is made to sit flat on the ground. The liquified entrails are placed in a sealed metal box and buried in cement under the bone jar. Cement is very inexpensive, but cannot be made very thick. For this reason, to prevent a ghost from opening the second jar, it is buried at least three feet into the ground. Theoretically, it would be easier for a ghost to re-integrate into the body if the burial is done this way, however, the poor usually have little reason to avoid the wheel of rebirth.

Projects to Keep the Homefires Burning

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It's one of those things with homebrew settings. Parts of it began in 1981 with me as DM and two players. More recently, much of it began three years ago with the hope of being published by a small RPG company.

I've changed system twice until finally going to a system that is the closest to what I played back in '81. The ruleset is Swords&Wizardry.

Unlike Midgard, I am not sure that I will ever finish. I keep trying to finish, but I think that I have nerd projectitis too bad. Despite all organizational efforts to the contrary, it gets bogged down to making the details work and settling for "good enough". Then, of course, I see something and say "oh that's cool!" and let go of development for awhile.

Still, I have 1.5 hours every Monday night, a huge room to myself, lots of tables and a computer sans internet access to get things done. I think I have the magic system the way I want it. I have the time to do it without stressing out the family because the family is all in other classes. 🙂

What used to be called Shayakand and Tanah-Con-Rahn will now be called The Land Beneath the Winds. I'm going for something more accessible with much less conlanging. I don't believe that I am able to do something akin to Spears of the Dawn, but at least something with fewer European pastiches and more Southeast Asian flavor.

I say this, but this is my fourth restart. All of this means nothing if I don't actually publish something, you know? Still, I'm hopeful.

I enjoy the world and writing inside of it. The cosmology is different, the geography is not a planet drawn to account for prevailing winds, current, weather patterns or the like. The world is flat. The rim of the planet has mountain ranges with 500,000 ft tall mountains (straight out of Cambodian Mythology). The rest of the world has three concentric circles of tall mountains with oceans between them. The players start on the outer "circle" of oceans and landmasses. If they can somehow get over the northern mountains, they will be in a no-man's land rumored to be the play area of the gods themselves. Heck, maybe they just go into space.

Magic is based on certain words discovered by three different civilizations. Some of the words have really weird effects like creating small objects capable of independent movement. Spells with this word could create a swarm of bees or a volley of arrows that move in wild trajectories. Hedge Wizards strip essences from creatures and sentient humanoid for their own purposes. All forms of magic interact with technology is unpredictable ways. This technology includes the alien technology of the Mentors and the human-built technology of clockwork engines. Everyone can read magic, but being able to read magic does not grant you the ability to use a scroll or copy spells in a spellbook. Spell casting is a gift of the gods. You can do it or you cannot do it.

Psionics have a purpose. Not only are psionicists gifted in dealing with non-corporeal creatures, but unlike Wizards, anyone can learn this ability.

Clerics differ by primary deity. Some have no devotion to a specific deity, but instead attempt to manipulate them all to gain boons and bestow banes. Only one type of Cleric has the Turn Undead ability. The rest have different powers and abilities.

There are no elementals. There are no golems. Ghosts are not undead, but a different type of creature that plagues civilized peoples. The sentient species are different from elf, dwarf, halfling, half-orc and the like. A few minor species exist for GMs to use at their discretion.

The super-rich build massive clockwork devices to suit their own whims. Numerous libraries exist in cities and towns throughout the land. The printing press has not been invented, but the photocopier has. Literacy is high. Books are everywhere.

Cities have apartment buildings and places to get cheap food quickly. There are no inns or taverns, but there are plenty of places to play a game of chess and discuss the potential treasures in an abandoned temple east of town...

Cities also have byzantine bureaucracies that seem to tax and regulate every aspect of city life. Each city has its own oddities. Trade and markets are closely watched. A person does not simply walk into a magic store and buy a +2 sword. You can get any kind of food, herb, powder or exotic flesh you can dream of, just don't ask to buy magic publicly.

Benevolent benefactors known as Basha are always looking for people to help. Granted, the more people that work for a given basha, the more power he or she has. Bashe (plural of basha)  see themselves as loving fathers that care for hundreds, even thousands of individuals. Through their personal network of merchants and mercenaries (and a few judges and other bureaucrats) they wield incredible influence throughout the realm. As bashe battle each other for more power, it is common for characters to be contacted to "perform a little light work" now and then.

Outside of the city, farmers work the soil largely free from the hectic life in the cities. Their basha will come and request their share of crops, but otherwise rarely see anyone of any authority.

There's more to it, but I'll stop there. Here's to 2013. The year I hope to finally finish this project. Wish me luck!

Focus For NaGa DeMon 2012

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After two weeks of thrashing around ideas, a killer birthday party, a bridal shower and four nights of insomnia, I've decided what I will be doing for November.

I'm going to finish a setting and make an add-on for ACKS.

I seriously considered writing a novel or a collection of short stories. A good friend of mine has written a few books and has a great magazine. I would like to be a part of that at some point. However, I couldn't bring myself to attempt a novel with so many game ideas.

A few ideas were not RPG related at all. I want to finish my redesign of Statis-Pro Football. I want to make a couple games for my kids. I had all sorts of ideas for various bits and bobs to be manufactured by the GameCrafter. My lack of funds helped me to put those ideas aside.

I still want to create my own five suited deck of cards. I know that Five Kings already exists, but mine would have Aces, Jokers, Sergant-At-Arms and other extra cards. (You can do a lot more than rummy.) I just don't have the money to pay for art. I don't have the talent to make my own face cards.

In the RPG world there are all kinds of settings I want to finish, especially my space fantasy setting.

In the end, the two projects were chosen because I have a lot of groundwork already in place for these two projects. The ACKS Psionicist, I believe, fits into the spirit of the ACKS rules. Also, the psionicist rules fit very well into one of my favorite settings, Tanah Con-Rahn. This setting is inspired by Southeastern Asian traditions from Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia, though no real historical accuracy is attempted. In addition to setting rules, the book will include a spell creation system. The goal is for all of this to fit into a 128 page PDF.

The system for this RPG will be largely based on Labyrinth Lord with the Specialist and some other features of Lamentation of the Flame Princess game. LOTFP has an elegant skill system that also handles demi-humans very well. Although written as its own game, Tanah Con-Rahn should be easy to adapt to your system of choice.

The setting itself features an eternal struggle of the Naga against the Garuda as the primary backdrop. Unlike traditional D20-based games, the Naga are the good guys and friends of mankind. The Garuda love nothing but destruction and to inflict suffering on others. Demi-humans, both traditional and diverse sit on both sides of the conflict with mankind squarely in the middle.

Urban adventures, wealthy landowners, tedious bureaucrats  and much more await in the mythical Land of the Naga.

I can't wait to get started.