Human Kings in Tarnath:  Falfosta

NOTE: The following history is a modified excerpt from a GERC researcher (see Legends of Tamarra, the upcoming game module from Flying NightBear Games).

Falfosta: The Absent King, or The King Who Watched. Born in the year SP˜2,740 and coronated SP˜2,764. Falfosta was known as one of the great rulers of Tarnath; he brought peace and prosperity to the city, kept it free from war for his reign, and was instrumental in the founding of the GERC.

Falfosta was also one of the last human kings in Tarnath. Until his rule, humans enjoyed a kind of passive privilege over other races. Humans were the primary movers in constructing multi-race cities millennia ago – sometimes building cities from the ground up, as they did with Tarnath, and sometimes simply occupying and diversifying a city built by other races (this is precisely what they did with Naldrin, which used to be almost one hundred percent dwarven). Now, this diversity was a great thing in principle, but in practice it was not instrumented terribly well. Humans brought in other races with promises of jobs according to their perceived specialties: they hired dwarves and ishiris almost exclusively as stoneworkers, ushens as gardeners, wellyns as tinkerers and repairmen.

Many of the stereotypes the humans based their hiring on were accurate to an extent; of course ishiris are creatures of stone, and of course ushens have a natural bond with the earth and its flora. But these are not the only things each race can do; to say that ishiris are only ever stonemasons is ridiculous. How would ishiris eat if they had no farmers, no cooks? How would kamaris build houses without architects and laborers? Thousands of members of the Ten Races were brought into booming cities only to be categorized exclusively by their race.

Over the centuries, by virtue of the demand for these skills, each of the Ten Races was pigeonholed into stereotypical jobs, whereas humans were free to occupy most any profession or caste.  Most notably, the realm of politics was almost exclusively theirs. This system of privilege continued for millennia, becoming more and more deeply ingrained in societal perceptions until most people thought an ishiri gardener was simply ridiculous, or an ushen magistrate was a fish out of water. Er. A… bull out of pasture? I suppose that’s more of a zweyjen phrase, come to think of it. Anyway. Hm. So the most pernicious part of this system was that most people were convinced it didn’t exist: ask someone and they would tell you, “Well, dwaheelies do have some public offices! And one of my best friends is a zweyjen carpenter!” – and the system kept on its merry way.

And then, well, Falfosta came along.

Falfosta was the first king to actively hire against these norms: he employed ushen advisors, wellyn cooks, zweyjen scholars. While he didn’t create any legal requirement to go against the norm, he subverted it through his actions. Some scholars argue – and I must admit, I did touch on this in my thesis graduating from Naldrin’s First – that Falfosta set the stage for the first non-human ruler of the city, the kamari queen Lemesta, who took the throne in SP˜2,876. Lemesta was extraordinary. She was the first… well. Yes. I can get into her later.

GERC: Resource Dispersal and Governance & Wyrd Division

The Guild Energetic Research Coalition, commonly known as GERC (that’s GURK, not JERK), is the largest research organization on the Tamarra Continent, as we discussed in an earlier blog.  In this blog, and following blogs, we will discuss some of the various parts of this vast organization.

Resource Dispersal and Governance

While this division might have the most boring name of any GERC division, it is in fact the main governing authority for the Coalition. Overall, the main mission of the RDG is to temper the individual passions of division heads in favor of a more balanced, “big picture” view of the research the GERC should be doing.

To be clear, the power in the GERC is decentralized; each division has its own directors who can make many decisions without ever consulting the RDG, and who can even overturn some of the latter groups’ decisions for their own division (see Division Head Council below; there are checks and balances in place to prevent particularly egregious corruption). The RDG does, however, set policy for the GERC as a whole, and they control the allocation of funds within the Coalition; while division heads can overturn many decisions, this tends to boil down to politics. Each division has a minimum funding requirement that depends upon their size, average materials costs, and so on, and is quite hard to change; it takes a 3/4 majority vote of the RDG to change established funding minimums. Even so, the minimums usually come out to around 60% of a given division’s necessary costs in actual terms – so it is in most divisions’ best interest to find a halfway point between the RDG’s requests and their own planned projects if they want enough funding to keep all their members happy.

The RDG is composed of fourteen members: two members of each Guild (who cannot be full GERC members, but have usually been with the GERC in some capacity before election), plus two non-Channels. These last two places were controversial when they were first added in SP~4,864, but the RDG at the time had just recovered from a period of bureaucratically crippling internal division. The DHC convened an emergency council and cast a rare unanimous ballot to add two members of Governance who were completely unaffiliated not just with the Guilds, but with any solidarity at all around Energetic channeling. In the century and a half since they were added, the two non-channels have grown to be valued additions to the RDG – even if there are still some members who grumble about them behind closed doors.

The current president of the RDG is Amovar Kagu, a human Charismatic who was raised by an ishiri family in Naldrin. Kagu is generally respected as a skilled administrator and mediator, able to piece together the various requests and demands of each division to make everyone, if not ecstatic, at least content. She is a veteran politician, having served time on several of Naldrin’s many legal councils, and it shows; while she has not crossed the line into outright corruption, she does not hesitate to roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty when necessary. Given that she tends to use her maneuvering for results that are beneficial overall, most GERC members turn a blind eye to it.

Wyrd (WEErd) Division

Most GERC members agree that the Wyrd Division is a little… off. Almost every member of the Division has transcended at least one Barrier in Shadow. They study Wyrd energy, a corrupted version of one or more of the fundamental Six Energies that make up the world.  They also examine more practical, applied areas like automaton development.

The current head of the Division is Kemmfaut Lap-Kep, a wellyn who has achieved the remarkable feat of transcending two Barriers in each of the six Energies. One of her eyes has a bright purple iris, while the other is completely white, with no iris or pupil at all. She has no tongue – she speaks in Quen sign language – and scars cover her face and body. Stories abound throughout the GERC of how she came to be this way: was she born with those eyes, or were they the result of some strange ritual? Did she remove her own tongue, or was it taken from her?

The Ten Races: An Introduction to the Humans

Humans are, well, just what you would think.  For the most part.

Physically, humans in Tamarra look the way you would expect.  They stand anywhere from four to seven feet tall, though most are in the center of that range.  They have the usual two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears, one nose, and one mouth.  They are not the strongest or fastest of the Ten Races, nor are they the largest or the smallest.  

Human_Rework_021813There is one notable difference between human physiology in the Beyonder world and humans in our world.  In the Beyonder world humans are able to exhibit a wide range of hair and eye colors.  When they are young, humans have the ability to change their hair and eye colors at will, which is a source of great fun.  There are frequent schoolyard contests to see who can produce the most outrageous colors in the shortest amount of time.

As humans reach adulthood, their ability to change hair or eye color is much reduced, as is the range of colors.  It usually happens when Emotion Energy runs high.  Sometimes this is involuntary, when the human (the Player Character, or PC) temporarily loses control.  Suffice it to say that when a human becomes an adult they will choose an eye color that will become, for the most part, permanent.  This is an important decision, and usually involves a great deal of discussion among family members and close friends.  Their adult eye color becomes part of a coming of age ceremony that introduces a human child into the adult world.  This, along with the presentation of their adult name, is the core of most human ceremonies of the rite of passage.  We’ll talk in more detail about this ceremony, typically referred to as the Alinsan Ahtifal, in a later blog.

Humans are good at noticing social interactions, and they are often highly skilled Charismatics. Because of their strong affinity with Emotion Energy, they have outstanding social skills, and are best known across the continent for their excellence at working in groups. They are excellent collaborators on a small team, and can contribute just as meaningfully to a large social organization such as a city government or the far-reaching interpersonal networks of kingdom or nation.  

Given how socially adept they are, it will come as no surprise that humans are at ease in any place across the Tamarran Continent.  More than any of the Ten Races, they will be found almost everyone you travel.  They are similarly adaptable in the kinds of homes they inhabit: they tend to live in whatever housing is standard for a given area.  

We have only skimmed the surface of what there is to know about humans and their societies. Although they blend in with most any social network or community, there are some organizations that are created solely by, and for, humans.  We will talk about these secret organizations, and more about humans, in blogs yet to come.

The Ten Races: An Introduction to the Kamari

The kamari are often referred to by the other Ten Races (and other sentient creatures of the Tamarran Continent) as the greenskeepers. They have a deep love of forests and all the flora that inhabit them. They are a free-spirited people who prize life and laughter, and they value their independence.

Kamari_Finish_3Kamari love for the natural world, and the woodlands in particular, is a part of their ancient lineage: they are one of the Ten Races descended from the ancient Elzheni race.  The Elzheni lived during the Second Era of the current Fifth Age of the World (we currently live in the Third Era of that same Age of the World).  Each race descended from the Elzheni (the kamari, heola, ishiri, and zweyjen) inherited some unique quality from their Elzheni ancestors.  We’ll talk more about the ancient Elzheni in a separate blog post.

The physical makeup of kamari closely resembles the forests that they love so much.  They are tall and lanky, with skin and hair the texture of small roots and branches or tree bark.  Their coloring is a mix of many hues of brown and green.  All of this combines to give kamari a natural camouflage in their forest surroundings.  When you add to this their extraordinary quickness and skill with weapons of all kinds (they are without parallel among the Ten Races for their use of ranged weapons, such as a bow), they are a formidable foe to any who might make the mistake of invading their lands.

Perhaps the most distinctive physical characteristic of the kamari is that, unlike any of the other Ten Races, they have three genders; male, female, and tree.  These trees, while conscious and sentient, appear ordinary to anyone who is not able to speak with plants. Tree offspring are created when male and female kamari pollinate the tree; months later, their “child” sprouts from the ground.  (We recommend that you do not create a character that is a tree kamari, unless your idea of an exciting adventure is having birds make nests in your hair!)

It is not surprising that kamari make their homes in forests throughout the Tamarran Continent.  It is estimated that there are hundreds of kamari tribes in the vast reaches of the Great Western Forests alone.  Although they love wooded lands, kamari can also be found in every major city.  Even in urban settings their houses are often filled with plants, and the outside of their homes may have trees or vines growing up the sides.

The kamari have a strong tribal structure.  This is most pronounced in the forests, where the territories of different kamari tribes are clearly demarcated and infringements of those boundaries are met with fast opposition.  In the cities of the continent, where they live within a more informal community with their fellow kamari, those tribal structures often break down.

There are many tales to tell of kamari tribes, of exploits comedic, deadly serious, and brave.  We will cover those in upcoming blogs.

Customizing Your Character: Barrier Abilities

This blog will focus on Barrier Abilities, another way to customize your characters by increasing their strength in areas that you choose. As mentioned in prior posts, all of your characters are Channels, who can control one or more of The Six Energies — this is what allows them to use Powers.  Characters are born with the innate talent to do this, but it is not until they are trained by a Guild member that they can truly control their abilities.  As they grow in strength, they overcome Barriers (levels of achievement that measure how much control a character has over channeling Powers). As they overcome these barriers, they have access to increased strengths, called Barrier Abilities.  

Each of the Six Energies has three different paths to choose from. The first two allow you to accentuate one of the aspects of the Energy, and the third lets you improve Power use.  For example, the three choices for overcoming Barriers in Emotion Energy are Negotiator, Leader, and Power.  Within each category there are progressively stronger abilities corresponding to how many Barriers you have overcome.  Each time your character overcomes another Barrier, they can choose a Barrier Ability from any of the three categories at any level less than or equal to their Barrier.  At Barrier 3 in the Negotiator path. For instance, you can gain +1 to Powers that have a single Target; in Leadership you gain a Minion who will be permanently devoted to you; and in Power all of your Powers have their Target automatically increased by 1 step.  

In addition to the standard Barrier Abilities, there are special bonus abilities for overcoming Barriers in two Opposed Energies (Body/Physic, Emotion/Mental, or Spirit/Shadow).  These tend to be slightly more general abilities, but they are also more potent.  Again, there are three paths for each; when you overcome a Barrier that brings your Barriers in both Energies to a new Level, then you gain a new Ability.  For example, if you overcome Barrier 1 in both Body and Physic you can choose to get +1 to Reaction Time and Base Speed in the Fighter path; +1 to OD in the Form path; or +1 ED in the Power path.  

There is another path altogether: you have more options available if your character is a Jack-of-all-Trades.  If instead of allocating all of your Essence to overcoming Barriers in just one Energy, or even two Opposed Energies, you decide to overcome a Barrier in all of the Six Energies, you gain access to a whole other tier of Barrier Abilities.  These are extraordinarily potent abilities that require a long-term commitment to diversifying over specializing.  If your character is able to overcome 2 Barriers in each of the 6 Energies, she can choose from the following abilities: +1 to all Attributes in the Character path +2 to all Talents in the Talents path; or all fatigue taken from using Powers is decreased by one step in the Power path.

IMPORTANT: Clearing it Up

Playtesters of Beyonder were unclear about whether this Barrier Ability was in addition to the normal one or instead of it.  After carefully considering the implications for game balance, we have decided that the Barrier Abilities available for Opposed Energies, as well as those for The Six, give you additional options to choose from, not extra abilities.  This decision was made because these abilities are very potent.  However, to add some extra control, if you do choose one of the Opposed Energy abilities or The Six, you may also switch one of your previously chosen Barrier Abilities for another of equal or lesser Barrier.  This reflects your character’s additional control over the Energies that suffuse their being.  

Here is an example of a character as he gains Barriers.  Ordon starts as the game as a Barrier 1 Soman and chooses the Power path, which gives him +1 to activation time of Powers.  After adventuring for a while he overcomes an Evoker Barrier.  Ordan chooses to get his new Barrier Ability from the Outer Energies list instead of the Evoker list.  He selects the Fighter path, which grants +1 to both Reaction time and Base Speed.  At the same time, considering his character’s evolution over the past several adventures, Ordon decides that he is not as interested in Powers as he first thought. He decides to switch out his first Barrier Ability for the Barrier 1 Evoker ability in the Destroyer path which lets him deal +1 damage to objects.

The Aegis of the Six and The Enforcers

The Aegis of the Six (the Aegis, for short) is an internal security force maintained by all the Guilds collectively. Because the Guilds are neither a political nor a military organization, they do not have any sort of standing army.  However, Guild houses contain many valuable items, and can sometimes be the targets of attacks by Sorcerers, rogue Channels, or anti-Channel groups. That’s where the protection of the Aegis comes in.

The Aegis consists of both Channels and non-Channels. (Channels have an affinity with, and can therefore manipulate and control, at least one of the Six Energies.) There are about 150 Channels and 2,500 Guild Wards (non-Channels who work for the Aegis) spread across the continent of Tamarra. They are trained in the arts of both combat and detection, with the sole purpose of defending the Guild houses from everything from covert infiltration to overt assault.

Command Structure

The Aegis of the Six has adopted a quasi-military hierarchy, with a General in charge of the Aegis as a whole and a Lieutenant overseeing each of the four regions of Tamarra. Interestingly, the Guild Charter stipulates that these positions must be held by Wards, who are not Channels. As strategists, they must be well-versed in the use of every conceivable type of Power, weapon, and mundane tactic that could be used.  These five commanders are said to be among the greatest military minds on the continent (there are some rumors that the Mentarchs Guild has given them enhanced mental prowess for this purpose).

Currently, the Lieutenant overseeing the Southern Region is a dwaheely named Teesu, the Lieutenant overseeing the Northern Region is a crawn named Daz Trakh, the Lieutenant overseeing the Central Region is an ushen named Kholein, and the Lieutenant overseeing the Naldrin Region is a dwarf named Tork, of the Steelsmith Clan. The General is a crawn named Vizzex Rizisz.

The Enforcers

There is one small group within the Aegis dedicated to offensive missions that could best be called “special operations.” This group is known as the Enforcers, and their purpose is to put down rogue Channels who pose a threat too difficult to be dealt with by local governments, to infiltrate and destroy violently anti-Guild organizations, and to hunt down and destroy sorcerers.  (Historically, there has been a long and often violent conflict between Channels, who use scientific methods to control the Six Energies, and Sorcerers, who use non-scientific methods, such as chants or words of power, to manipulate each of the Six Energies.)

The Enforcers are made up of 36 Channels — 6 from each Guild — all of whom must have overcome at least the 12th barrier in their primary Energy, and the 6th barrier in that Energy’s opposing Energy. These Channels are specialized in combat, all have at least some proficiency with weapons and armor, and some are highly talented warriors even without using their Powers. These Channels are joined by 150 Guild Wards, some of the most highly trained (and, it is strongly rumored, Energetically enhanced) warriors in Ethem. They are specifically trained in fighting Energy users and resisting Energetic effects.

The Enforcers are led by a Commander, who answers only to the General of the Aegis. While the Commander takes broad orders from the General, they are generally given great autonomy to deal with situations as they see fit. The current Commander of the Enforcers is known as Ordon of the Whirling Blades.

There are some occasions when The Enforcers are utilized in other ways. Large political entities or organizations will sometimes hire them to deal with other problems  — helping to defend a city from an army of rampaging julkas, for instance. The Guilds do this only rarely, as they try to stay out of politics, and only do so when they feel they are safe from repercussions. Their most extensive involvement in non-Energetic affairs was in The Stillness War, when all the nations of the continent recognized them for their heroic contributions to defeating the undead scourge.