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Jar Burial in the Land Beneath the Winds

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

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!

Potpourri and Upcoming Posts

I've begun to believe that the RPG crowd has taken over Google+. Aside from Zuckerberg and Ford Motors, almost everyone I have seen there is from the RPGBA and the RPGBN. This isn't a problem for me as Google+ has not been blocked by my workplace, yet.

If you need invites, let me know. I got a bunch.

Thanks to everyone that linked the trailer of the upcoming John Carter of Mars. (I linked to the Apple trailer instead of the one on YouTube.) Since it is Disney, I'm not sure what to expect. Until then, all I can say is BARSOOM!

I have received a review copy of Azamar, a game based on the OpenD6 rules. The folks at Wicked North Games developed their own SRD called Cienma6 and then created Azamar as a fantasy setting on top of it. Seeing Azamar reminds me of what I loved about D6 when I first saw it a couple years ago. I'll get into more detail in another post, but it reminds me of Talislanta in scope and diversity. I've really enjoyed reading it so far. When I think about RPG material I like, it has to meet two criteria: I want to play it and it has stuff I can re-use in my campaign. Azamar meets both of these criteria very well.

I think I've worked out the spell and augmentation systems for the Arcanist. The spell list is heavily inspired by OpenQuest sorcerers, 2e psionicists, a smattering of Wizards from TFT and magic items from Tekumel. Developing this class has helped me to define some of what differentiates Andras and 2e. It has also stretched the class creation system I plan to include in the GMs guide. Not only can you re-create the standard classes, but invent an off-the-wall magic wielding class!

Zolotta Publishing will quit publishing Tekumel books after its current inventory runs out. Many fans of Tekumel books have inquired about digital publishing and/or assuming the rights to publish the books. We'll see what happens next.

Savage Worlds Deluxe is out and I have a copy. I am excited about it in many ways. The biggest way pertains to advice about running the game without miniatures. I don't use minis at all. I have a big pad of blotter paper and I may scribble some sketches of a room or corridor, but nothing with enough detail that a player begins to study the scale of the drawing and start to argue exact distances. If the action moves from the mental landscape to the real world, it's not fun for me anymore. It's a personal preference, not a criticism. Many of my gaming friends love minis and tactical planning, etc. If I had the money, I'd be painting them and building huge armies to display in my basement.

I don't have to change much about Shayakand to conform to these rules, but I am hopeful that it can help me figure out the system of psionic magic called Shaping.

Lastly, a link I keep forgetting to make permanent on my site, the list of retro-clones, some not related to D&D.

Anyway, that's what is percolating here. Next post really should be the Azamar review. I am testing it to see if I understand some of the finer points so that I can sound half-way intelligent in my review.

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