GERC: Acquisitions and Archival (A&A)

by Dorromee Ado, Grand Scholar, the Central Guilds, Tarnath

Dorromee Ado, Grand Scholar, the Central Guilds, Tarnath

Kalkix 53, SP~5,021

Acquisitions and Archival is one department that every GERC division consults regularly. A&A gathers and catalogues everything from rare materials for imbuing Energetic objects (and for using Spells, in the case of the Non-Guild Energetic Division) to historical Guild documents, to unexplained Energetic objects found in the world. A&A is also the division that maintains the GERC libraries spread throughout the continent; while there are smaller libraries at almost any GERC research outpost, each of these borrows their books from the massive central library located in Naldrin City. Referred to simply as “The Vault,” this library contains approximately 800,000 texts that are maintained by a small army of archivists.

A&A is unique among GERC divisions in that, because of the sheer number of workers employed, the majority of its active members are not Channels. While members of every Guild are a part of A&A – Mentarchs, Mystics, and Evokers are especially useful, the former for library and information-related tasks and the latter two for analysis of Energetic artifacts – the Vault is staffed by over 100 members who maintain order in the library at all costs. These archivists are highly trained and highly knowledgeable – and given the reverence of most GERC members for knowledge in general and books in particular, they are treated with deference by even the highest-ranking GERC members.

One of the treasures stored in the deeper vaults of the A&A’s archive are some of the original texts from Lissalana, a Zweyjen sorcerer who founded the semi-religious, semi-scientific sect known as “Wholewalkers.” After Lissalana encountered a rather unusual daemon who showed her Ethem in Its entirety, as if viewed from miles and miles above Its surface, she reported that it was possible to walk north through the icy wastes of Tamarra and reach a kind of hub. This hub connects to other continents, she says, and you can reach them all on foot. These documents, of course, are kept under close guard. It’s not known whether they’re true, but they have intrigued researchers and browsers alike.

The current division head of A&A is Mevvar Akcher, a low-Barrier dwarven Mentarch who nevertheless has an astounding breadth of knowledge across a variety of academic fields. Mevvar, at 34 years old, is quite young for a division head, but has proven himself to be an outstandingly competent administrator.

The Ten Races: An Introduction to the Ishiri

Ishiris are a tall and imposing race, with an intimate understanding of all things made of stone and a strong affinity with Physic Energy.  They resemble the rock of the world around them, with skin most often gray, with a rough texture — like running a hand over a mountain boulder.  Ishiri have hair in various shades of gray and silver, sometimes with sprinkles of black and white.  They tend to be between five and seven feet, with a broad, solid build made for living around, and ishiri_illo15+copyworking with, stone.  Their height no doubt comes, at least in part, from their Elzheni ancestors. Some rare ishiri have hair with streaks of color reminiscent of the brilliance of gemstones; there can also be traces of these colors on ears, fingers, and other extremities.  Family lineage can often be traced by specific coloration. Although it’s attractive, there is no correlation between this and their innate abilities.

Temperamentally, ishiris tend to be serious and practical.  Although they are unafraid of strangers and at home in any part of the Tamarran Continent, they are typically very reserved.  It takes a long time for them to fully trust strangers, and some may never reach that point.

The heart of ishiri society is the family. As circumspect as they are with strangers, the opposite is true with their loved ones: families are open and intimate and often live in compounds that can include several generations.  Since ishiris can live to be one hundred years old, some family enclaves can have as many as five generations. Ties are also strong among the families that comprise an ishiri clan.

Although ishiris live throughout the Tamarran Continent, their preferred home is in the mountains formed of the stone they hold dear.  Unlike their dwarf cousins, who also have a love of stone, ishiri prefer to live on top of mountains rather than under them.  It is unusual to find a mountain range or peak with no trace of ishiri.

One of the best known ishiri settlements is in Naldrin City, a center of cosmopolitan activity on the Tamarran Continent. The city is located in north central Tamarra, at the southern end of the Nashem Mountains close to Port Naldrin.  It is a seat of law (and bureaucracy), and home to the Council of Drawnwyn, the de facto center of politics and governance for the many nations of the continent.  Naldrin City is quite old: it was founded by both ishiris and dwarves in the year SP~2,559.  The dwarves built the city that exists under the mountain, and the ishiris built the city on the top.  

The buildings, roadways, walls, and other features of the tiered city of Naldrin are one of the wonders to behold.  The styles vary from one ishiri architect to the next, but a distinct ishiri architectural style combines the sturdy quality of large blocks of smooth stone, often built quite high or wide, with ornamentation surrounding doors or other openings in the walls.  There are often long historical reliefs in the walls’ stone.  This definitely should not be missed by anyone who travels the Tamarran Continent.

We will talk more about these wonders, and others, in blogs to come.

The Ten Races: An Introduction to the Zweyjen

Zweyjen love the seas and oceans of the world, and their homes are typically found near the shores of these great bodies of water.  Their smooth, sleek skin is made up of thousands of very fine scales that protect them from variations of heat and cold in water and provides a buffer against the harsh climes at the water edge. They have short bristles and occasional long whiskers across their bodies.  Their fins, whose configuration varies greatly, share common patterns within families.  

ZweyjenReworkForpost+copyKnown for their vivid hues, zweyjen display the greatest assortment of colors of all the Ten Races. This often hereditary coloring usually includes sea-blue, but they can also have beautiful purples and oranges, shimmering greens and yellows, and everything in between. They have a set of vestigial gills, which are not as functional as those of fish, but do have sufficient capacity to allow them to survive under the water for much longer than any of the other of the Ten Races.

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of the zweyjen race is their wanderlust.  In spite of their affinity to water they are able travelers, and can be found in most areas of the continent (although the desert poses a significant challenge). They are always interested in new places and new people, and although they generally find it hard to be confined to a single place for any length of time.  The zweyjen who live in the coastal cities will usually take a “leave” of sorts every 2-3 years to travel.  It is of course, quite typical for this travel to be on the oceans, and zweyjen serve as the largest contingent of merchant sailors on the continent.  However, they also strongly desire to see how others live, and so are found in the mountains, forests, and non-coastal cities of the continent.

As perhaps the greatest travelers of the Ten, the zweyjen have a comprehensive knowledge of the Tamarran Continent, and many turn to them for this knowledge.  Zweyjen have strong language skills that derive from their affinity to Mental Energy, and they emphasize languages in their education. This allows them to establish personal relationships with many different races and creatures they meet, including creatures of the sea, such as marblins and spallith, whose kingdoms are very wide and deep.  They have also formed fast friendships with the martles, whom they consider to be fellow travelers of the world.

Their relationships with other zweyjen are often strong and long-lasting. Many have heard the tales of the abiding love between the zweyjen seafarer Kwuemwan and his partner Imbelnhi, intrepid naturalist and author of Imbelnhi’s Bestiary: Being a Traveler’s Account of our Continent and her Creatures.  Imbelnhi mentions Kwuemwan many times in his writings, and included his discoveries in his research for the Bestiary.

There is more to zweyjen culture than can be covered here.  Subsequent blog entries will talk about the Zeshar, a society of explorers of the very deepest parts of the oceans of the world (which connect Ethem’s many oceans), and the Tzhemmenshall, who are masters of the craft of building sea vessels.

GERC: The Interdivisional Council

The IC is exactly what it sounds like: it comprises several members from each major GERC division. The IC serves two primary purposes: first, to encourage constant cross-disciplinary communication within the GERC. That is the purpose of the Coalition, after all – to unite researchers from all Guilds, races, and disciplines. Second, the IC serves as a balance to the Resource Dispersal and Governance’s (RDG) executive power.

If the IC decides that one of the RDG’s rulings is unjust or, in more extreme circumstances, that an RDG member is corrupt or incapable of performing their duties, they can vote to overturn the decision or oust that member from governance. The former takes a 2/3 majority vote, while the latter takes a 3/4 vote. The former is not common but certainly not unheard of; the IC veto is usually just a bargaining chip in the pocket of the GERC division heads, but if there are substantial disagreements between the two groups it can come into play. The latter, ousting a Governance member, has only happened a handful of times in the last several centuries. Perhaps the most notable was in SP~4,909 – which astute readers may recognize as the beginning of the Wars of Sorcery, the beginning of the Guild’s formal outlawing of the practice of sorcery. Sorrel Kehn, a human Mentarch, swayed the council to eject Nahru Urua, a heolas Mystic who was staunchly opposed to what hsu* described as “nothing short of genocide.” Urua’s ejection from the council was the tipping point in favor of the Wars’ inception.

There is no “head” of the Interdivision Council, but a Speaker (who has equal power with every other member) moderates meetings, and is elected annually from among the division heads. The current speaker is Lihanu, head of the Sojourners. The head of each GERC division is automatically included in the IC; each then receives up to five additional representatives (voted in every two years by the division in question), based on the number of members they have and their seniority.  

*The gender-neutral pronoun used for heola.

Customizing Your Character: Stunts

One of the main goals of Beyonder’s system mechanics is to allow for maximum customizability.  We want you, our players, to be able to tell whatever story you want within the world of Beyonder and to have the mechanics support it.  We have allowed for many possibilities, but we know that you are going to come up with your own, and we want the system to allow for these things to happen.  Your character has Talents, which encompass a large scope of actions, and Proficiencies within those Talents, representing specific areas of expertise, but Stunts allow you to go beyond them.  

Stunts are a way for your character to perform whatever actions you can dream up, in a controlled manner.  They are a basic set of rules that apply to an endless number of actions that you may think up.  The most common Stunts are related to combat:  for example, you don’t just want to damage your target, you also want them to knock into the creature next to them.  You don’t just want to shoot your target with an arrow, you want to pin them to the wall.  You can’t see your target, but you want to bounce your arrow off a wall to shoot around a corner.  The more complex the action, the more difficult the Stunt.

Just as Beyonder is so much more than just a game of killing monsters and collecting fat l3wtz, Stunts do not just apply to combat situations.  You can perform a Stunt based on any Talent.  The possibilities are endless, limited only by your imagination. Here are some examples:

  • A standard use of the Stealth Talent would be to cover your tracks as you escape your enemies along a forest path, but you could use a Stunt to pick a path that lets you do so without slowing your progress.  
  • A standard use of the Athletics Talent would be win a weightlifting competition; to do so without seeming to struggle, thus intimidating your opponent, would be a Stunt.  
  • A standard use of the Luck Talent would be to win a game of dice, but you could use a Stunt to allow your Luck roll to influence someone else’s game.   

Without going into too much detail about how Stunts work (you can read the full explanation on p. 126 in Beyonder: The Science of the Six), Stunts are similar to most actions in the Beyonder system in having the following Degrees of Success:

Minor/Moderate/Major/Complete.  The more extreme the Stunt, the greater the Degree of Success needed for it to succeed and the more difficult it is to perform.  For instance, knocking the sword out of your enemy’s hand is a lot easier than slicing the small buckles off their armor, which would be incredibly difficult.  However, there are times when you can take advantage of your character’s particular gifts to succeed at these unlikely outcomes.  That’s where Proficiencies come into play!

Proficiencies. In addition to their standard +2 bonus, when applied to a Stunt each extra Proficiency gives a bonus to your Degree of Success.  For example, Ordon of the Whirling Blades has Proficiencies in the use of blades and in fighting multiple enemies from the Melee Combat Talent; moving in mountain terrain from the Athletics Talent; and knowledge of Crawn military tactics from the Scholarship Talent. He finds himself fighting three crawns on some rocky ground with a longsword in hand; he can easily show off with a ton of Stunts.  

Here’s an example based on the above: As the crawns begin circling, Ordon sees that they are forming the standard Hissrak formation, so he gets a bonus to defending against their attacks.  He steps back toward a rocky wall and waits for them to strike. As they do, he uses his sword to redirect the first two into each other, totally disrupting the formation, which distracts the third one long enough for him to position himself to throw his enemy onto a sharp, rocky protrusion.  Normally this would be nearly impossible, but since he had three “extra” Proficiencies he can automatically upgrade a Minor Success into a Complete Success.  

This just scratches the surface of the vast array of possibilities available to you with Stunts.  Enemies can have their own Proficiencies that they use to counter yours.  Complex actions might require two different successes at the same time, one for damage and another for the Stunt.  For example, lopping off an enemy’s arm while targeting the gap in their armor might be a Complete Success in Damage as well as a Moderate Success in a Stunt.  No easy task, but with the right combination of Proficiencies and circumstances it might be doable.

As the game creators, we have come up with a list of Proficiencies and Stunts (available on our website) as examples to get your creative juices flowing.  Now we leave it to you, the players, to go out and explore Beyonder on your own.  We hope you come back to us with epic tales of how you used Stunts to great success (or hilariously tragic failure) and hopefully help populate the lists of Stunts for others to use.  Maybe some day your name will be known throughout the Beyonderverse as the creator of your own maneuver, which has become standard practice in all the regions of Tamarra.

The Ten Races: An Introduction to the Heola

Although heola* tend to be tall and thin, they are far from fragile: their stamina and physical endurance, especially in the hottest regions of the Tamarran Continent, are legendary.  Because of their ability to withstand extremely hot, dry climates, they often make their home in the deep desert, where not even crawn can comfortably survive.  The ability to survive such extreme conditions is due, at least in part, to their strong affinity with Spirit Energy.  Like the ishiri, the kamari, and the zweyjen, they are descendants of the ancient Elzheni race, powerful beings that lived in the Second Era of the current age of the world, the Fifth Age.  (We’ll discuss the Elzheni in future blogs.)

HeolasHeolas skin is usually a subtle brown or gray, like the colors of the desert, with a smooth texture akin to rubbing your hand over a fine soft sand.  During extreme exertion, a heolas may exhale small bits of sand.  Heola are without biological sex: they are neither male nor female.  They give birth through a process closely connected to the stars that they love and often worship.

Heola, who are known for their quiet demeanor and thoughtful ways, are often hard to read.  Unlike most other creatures, they have no real interest in geographical or political conquest.  They are usually guided by the stars, with which they have a strong connection.  They maintain deep bonds, particularly with their extended family, and many live in communities with other heola. Those who live in a larger community with a variety of Races keep close ties to other heola within that community.  There are, though, heola who are wanderers —  as some would say, “seekers of the truth” — in keeping with the inquisitive minds characteristic of the Race.

A complex set of relationships within heolas society provides them with support throughout their long lives — heola often live to be 180 years old.  Each newborn is immediately provided with a set of caretakers who will look after them and teach them as they grow.  When they reach adulthood at the age of 50, every heolas passes through an elaborate ceremony inducting them into the adult community and introducing them to a set of adults, called their star-kin tribe, who will act as their companions and guides in life.  At least one of the star-kin tribe will be an elder heolas, who are expected to provide wisdom to those they protect.  There is great reverence for heola elders, and disobedience to their guidance is met with strong disapproval.

There is much more to tell of heola society, including the “White Heola” who live in the Icy Wastes in the very northern parts of the continent.  These tales will have to wait for future blogs.

*Editor’s note: The singular form is heolas; the plural is heola.