Annaudia, First City of the Plains of Lochuum

I am Olach, and I tell the stories of the Lochuum Ushen. My life was, is, and always will be lived in these oceans of grass that are called the Lochuum Plains. I listen to the sounds of the many winds that live with us on these lands. I listen to the grasses and land itself as they speak, without words. And I listen to my kin, the ushen who live alongside me in this place.

I know many stories. Today I will tell one. It is the story of Annaudia. You who come from other places call it a city. We call it by the brutach1 word, habach, meaning a place where many live.

Habach Annaudia is very old. As time is measured on Tamarra it began in the year SP~524, very early in the years of our current era of the world. Now our time is the year SP~5,018, so you can see we ushen have lived in this place for thousands of years. For several hundred years now, a very short time, two or three thousand ushen souls live in this place, with some several hundred brethren of other races. There are no other habach on the Lochuum Plains. All other places where ushen live together are small, only several hundred people or fewer, and remain where they are for only a few years.

Habach Annaudia is centered on the top of the Estherauch Hills, dozens of which run for over a hundred miles west to east across the middle of the Lochuum Plains. The Estherauch are the tallest hills of the Lochuum Plains, and Annaudia is on the westernmost, Estheria Hill, which rises almost 700 yards above the plains.

Habach Annaudia was formed when the ushen sisters Annak and Chaudia and their small tribe of ushen came to the top of Estheria Hill and felt it to be their home. They decided it must be their home forever, and so they gave the place a name. The name of the habach came from the names of the two sisters. The name they chose was Annaudia.

Habach Annaudia, is where we, the ushen people, come to celebrate that which makes us ushen. Every year thousands and tens of thousands of ushen come to Annaudia for festivals and celebrations. At these times Annaudia grows in size to cover Estheria Hill and the hills and plains surrounding it. Every four or five years comes the festival called Achantoch, which means the Harmony of Every Ushen. During this time the Habach Annaudia reaches a size of many more than 100,000 folk.

When standing on the Plains a few miles from Estheria Hill, Habach Annaudia appears to be a yellow grassy covering that surrounds and caps the upper parts of the hill. But Habach Annaudia is made up of many dwellings, almost all of which are dommach. The dommach are made by the ushen craft of weaving together the tall grasses of the Lochuum Plains into domes of many shapes and sizes. Some of the dommach are fortified by those who wield Spirit Energy to make them most sturdy. With this blessing, these dommach may endure even the harshest winds of Lochuum.

As folk get closer, and walk through the Habach, those who are not ushen are surprised that it is actually a “city” with no streets. Their eyes do not detect the worn paths that cross the hill and wind through the grasses that cover it. These paths mark the frequently traveled routes through Annaudia, which change as the traffic of the city changes.

Annak and Chaudia, with their long, beautiful, shimmering red hair, are a part of ushen legend, and their story is its own telling. It is a long telling, with many trials, but with an ending of great joy. This story will be told elsewhere and not here. Because of their lives, Habach Annaudia has prevailed in this place and has endured as the heart of ushen life on the Tamarran Continent.

— Olach, Elder of Stories of the Ushen People

1 Brutach is the ushen language.

The Society of the Hammool

— Herrar Orren, First Order Naturalist and Head of the Guild Department of the Natural Creatures of Tamarran Continent, Naldrin City University, Harmon 28, SP~5,018

Of the and most easily recognizable creatures of the Tamarran Continent, hammool are some.  They are truly gigantic; adults are about 30 feet tall and as much as 20 feet sideways, and stand on eight sturdy legs that give them enormous strength and speed in open spaces.  A ubiquitous presence on the streets of our cities, hammool carry passengers from far-flung areas of the continent and haul great masses of materials on their mighty backs.  They are frequently found on the Great Roads of Tamarra, as well as on the highways and local roads that bind together our cities, our communities, and the great regions of the continent.

The common traveler’s understanding of hammool rarely goes beyond their tremendous size and strength.  This is a great loss, for they are beings of great subtlety and complexity. They are some of the great communicators of the continent, although they choose carefully when to communicate.  This short article will attempt to provide the reader with a deeper understanding of this wonderful fellow traveler in our rich land.

The hammool are, at their core, a highly social creature.  From an early age, they are educated by their parents to know the history and genealogy of their immediate family as well as their entire species.  The bonds to their family, tribe, and species are very strong, and their loyalty to fellow hammool leads them to do almost anything to protect their brethren when they find them in harm’s way.

Given this interest in genealogy, it is a great gift that hammool are born with a considerable faculty of memory.  They can quickly retain an enormous number of facts in great detail.  When hammool encounter others they’ve never met, they are very soon able to place each other in the grander scheme of the hammool tribes that live on Tamarra.  As the saying goes,  “hammool know no strangers.”  In addition to family history, hammool retain a considerable amount of information about non-hammool creatures and events that they have collectively witnessed over many years.  Our colleagues who are scholars of history have spent considerable time with hammool families to piece together their version of historical events.  I will leave that for a separate telling, however 1.

I will conclude this all too brief introduction to the hammool with a comment on their ability to communicate with each other from a great distance.  It is common knowledge among those who ride the hammool 2 or work closely with them that they seem to be able to communicate with each other with remarkable clarity even when they are hundreds of miles apart.  From a pragmatic viewpoint, this allows hammool to be aware of events that may be taking place many miles away on the Great Roads or in the fields and farmlands.  They seem to know, as a species, what is going on across the continent.  

The source of this ability is not understood, although there is no shortage of speculation.  One theory put forth by our cousins in the Mentarch’s Guild is that the hammool have a powerful natural connection with Mental Energy.  Investigations by members of the Guild Department of the Natural Creatures of Tamarran Continent have had mixed results in verifying this.  The more credible, though still unproven, theory is that the hammool have great sensitivity to the vibrations of the earth, and that they are able to communicate with each other by pounding the land in particular rhythms using their great bulk.  There is no doubt that their great weight combined with their amazing speed and agility create a thunderous noise as they move across the continent.  Many scholars and naturalists believe that this seemingly random pounding is not so random after all and is actually a “language” that can be heard (or felt?) by their brethren many miles away.   Some scholars go so far as to conjecture that the hammool’s sensitivity to vibrations in the earth gives them the ability to find locations of geoanatomical mouths of the continent 3.

As the reader can see, there is still much we do not know about these magnificent creatures.  If I may, I note that this author is currently working on a publication that will go into a full and complete story of the Hammool of the Tamarran Continent.

1  I would recommend “The History of the Middle Years of the Third Age of the Tamarran Continent” by the contemporary historian Belwith Nodwink, who has worked closely with a number hammoolites, those non-hammool beings who speak the hammool language.

2  This includes the well-known hammool rider ushen, who probably know hammool better than any other living being on Tamarra.

3  The Guild’s Division of Geographic and Fexoanatomical Surveys and Research (the DGFSR, or just “Geo”) can provide more information on these “mouths’ of the continent.

Tones and Vvo: The Astounding Intricacy of Dwarven Language

– Excerpt from A Floating Mountain: The Rise and Fall of the Gguro Dwarven Navy, by Ruvinyu Niaeo, Professor of Linguistics, Naldrin’s First University

The savvy reader may notice a number of instances in which Dwarven words are transliterated using double consonants – the most common being “kk” or “vv.” This notation is part of the Barlant transliteration system, far and away the most common style of Dwarven language transliteration in Tamarra. The double letters are what we call “intoned letters,” and they are but the tip of the iceberg in what many linguists consider the most complex language widely spoken on Tamarra.

The evolution of dwarven language is wrapped up inextricably in the long history of dwarven singing. This singing, as readers no doubt know, is known for its characteristic, shudderingly deep bass notes. Now, these sounds are used not only in song, but as part of the dwarven language; consonants can be pronounced either with or without an accompanying deep hum (the vvo) in a dwarf’s chest, changing the meaning of the letter as completely as if a human pronounced “p” instead of “m.” The word “kkanif,” for instance, denotes a certain type of metal-studded shield, while “kanif” denotes a particularly aggressive cat.

As if this weren’t enough, dwarven is also a tonal language (yes, “intoned” means something entirely different from “tonal.” Take it up with Barlant). There are four different tones with which any given syllable can be pronounced regardless of whether its letters are intoned (it shares this with the dwaheely language, which has six different tones). That is, the transliteration “kánif“ means that kan is pronounced in a rising tone, while if is in a neutral tone. This particular tonality denotes the aggressive cat we’ve mentioned before, but “käníf“ (kän in flat, low tone followed by íf in rising tone) is a type of ladle. “Kkánif“ (notice that we’ve now included the vvo!) is a meaningless nonsense word.

Any letter in Dwarven could technically be intoned, but some intonations are found only in antiquated texts written in First Dwarven or Middle Dwarven[1]. For instance, Modern Dwarven contains no instances of the intoned pp, gg, or hh (among others); the most common intonations by far are kk and vv. Contrast this with First Dwarven, when the intoned hh was not only a common consonant, but also used as a vowel. Nowadays the vvo has also taken on a significant slang usage; introducing a vvo in antiquated letters like hh has become quite fashionable among the youth, perhaps denoting a kind of disdain for historically proper speech.

The particularly tricky thing for non-dwarves learning Dwarven, aside from the tonality and its exceedingly complex grammar (the topic for another book entirely, let me tell you) and mastering the connotations of intoning some letters over others, is that no other races can truly pronounce the vvo. This is on a simple biological level; dwarves appear to have some adjunctive laryngeal structures that allow for the possibility of the vvo’s pronunciation. Some ushens and ishiris – even some humans – can imitate the sound passably enough that a dwarf would know they were trying to intone their letters, but this is far from the real thing. The major dwarven cities these days are quite cosmopolitan, and thus many dwarves have learned to accept the un-intoned dialect that foreigners are forced to speak – but any rural dwarven population will find mistakes like “kkanif”/”kanif” absolutely hilarious.

It is worth noting that there is an exception to this: Soman training has been shown to allow true pronunciation of the vvo. Indeed, there is a specialized subset of translators within the GERC. The Voices, as they are called, have all transcended Barriers in both Mental and Body; the former allows for fluency in a simply tremendous number of languages, while the latter allows them to modify their body to accurately pronounce race-specific sounds: the Dwarven vvo, the four sibilances of the Crawn language Szastak, and many more.

Character Generation

“I made my first Beyonder character in fifth grade.  I had no idea what an RPG was.  I didn’t know that the choices I made on that first day would have lasting effects for decades to come.  I chose to be a human, since I knew what that was — I wasn’t so sure about the other options.  I made him a warrior, because I had no idea what mentarchs or charismatics were.  I named him Ordanjay, because in fifth grade pig Latin is cool.  In college some friends invited me to play D&D, and even though by then I had years more gaming experience, had read tons of fantasy novels, and was over the whole pig Latin thing, I felt equally unprepared when I sat down to make my first character.”   — Jordan

When we were designing the modern incarnation of Beyonder (probably the fourth complete rehaul of the system) we wanted to avoid putting our players in the position of having to  make random choices for their first character.  On the other hand, we wanted seasoned players to be able to make characters quickly, based on their more complete knowledge of the system and setting.  Here is what we came up with to accommodate everyone.

We have four ways to create a character; MYCA and CYC are available in our Rulebook Beyonder: Science of the Six, and all four are available on our website (you will need to create a free account to access them all):

  1. Make Your Character with an Adventure (MYCA)
  2. Custom-make Your Character (CYC)
  3. Quick Choice
  4. Off the Rack

MYCA is a “choose your own adventure” story.  Your character wakes up on the first day out of the Guild Academy looking forward to their first assignment.  The choices you make for them as you guide them through the story will determine their race, Guild, Powers, Talents, and Organization.  Then you add a few finishing touches, such as choosing their homeland (gives bonuses to Talents) and their first assignment (determines their starting gear).  In about five minutes you have a complete character that fits your vision, since it is based on your choices.

CYC is for the player who who really wants to dive into the nitty-gritty of the mechanics.  You make individual choices about every aspect of your character including race, size, gender, Energy Affinities, Defense Ratings, Guild, Talents, Proficiencies, Powers, Barrier Abilities, organization, homeland, and equipment.  This one takes a bit more time, but sometimes you just want that level of control. NOTE:  If you choose the CYC option and work directly from the rulebook, you have to keep track of each step on your own.  You can also do this on our website, where we have automated this process, tracking your decisions and calculating all the values for you.

Quick Choice is a nice balance between MYCA and CYC.  Instead of asking you to pick every aspect of your character as you do in CYC, we have packaged some of those attributes together to make things faster.  For example, instead of picking your Affinity Scores, Guild, each individual Power, and your Barrier Ability, we have created “schools” within each Guild that include a well balanced grouping of those four attributes.  So rather than choosing each individual piece you choose to be part of the Mentach School of Sages or the Mystic Healing School or Charismatic Arbitration School and that fills in the details for you.  This takes about as much time as the MYCA, but gives you more direct control.  

Off the Rack provides a number of premade characters that you can plug right into your game.  This is especially useful for Moderators who don’t want to hand-craft every NPC.

We are currently in the early phase of designing our newest CharGen option, “Master Builder,” presently available only to a small group of testers. This is going to be really exciting, allowing you to go beyond the basics and even beyond the rules of normal CharGen; for example,making a Wellyn as tall as an Ushen or an Affinity Score beyond the usual allowed values. If you are interested in joining the test group, please email with the subject “Master Builder Testing.”

You can explore all of these options using your FNB Games login here.  Interested in delving a little deeper into each type of CharGen?  Look out for more to come on each method.  Until then, Ordanjay ayssay oodgay ucklay!

The Festival of Shoalla

The greatest and most jubilant celebration on the Tamarran Continent is the annual Festival of Shoalla, which occurs during the final five days of the year and celebrates the Six Energies of the world.  It is named after Shoalla Palkonna, the great Energetic Philosopher who was the first advocate for a purely scientific examination of the Six Energies.  Since each of the six Tamarran months is 60 days long and the year is 365 days, the final five days are dedicated to Shoall. This holiday is known simply “the Festival” or “Shoalla”; however, in the Guilds the more formal title is the Close of the Tamarran Pulse, or simply, “The Close.”²

Preparation for the Festival begins weeks and sometimes months ahead of time, and during the days prior the roadways of the continent are packed with travellers making their way to their favorite spot to celebrate.  Hotels in the major cities are packed with visitors from the countryside, and often people’s homes become temporary boarding houses for friends or family.

Shoalla officially begins at sunrise on the first day with thanks for the year that has just passed.  Many people pray to the gods or goddesses of their chosen religion; others give thanks to their ancestors or to their family and close friends.  The tradition within the Guilds is to pay proper respect to the Science of the Six with readings from Guild texts.  After thanks have been properly given, all good folk set out to meet and greet the many others they find in the streets and cafes.  It is a time when the more formal social norms are set aside, in keeping with the notion that all races and creatures are composed of the same Six Energies.  Commonalities are brought to the fore and differences are set aside so that all may enjoy themselves.

The two greatest challenges each person takes on during the Festival of Shoalla are to eat as much as they possibly can, and to commit as many acts of kindness and generosity as possible.  In the last few years, many people have begun collecting small coins called Tokens of Shoalla, which are used to track exactly how many good deeds they have accomplished.

Individual celebrations across the Continent are too numerous to list.  The Colossal Puppet Walk and the Great Gate Race stand out as two of the oldest and most ubiquitous. The Colossal Puppet Walk, which takes place in each of the major cities of Tamarra, is a day-long affair.  Puppets as tall as fifty feet, and as small as a sock on a puppeteer’s hand, are paraded through the streets of the city.  These magnificent creations are devised in the image of local political figures, legends of the past (such as Emperor Samron, or Shoalla herself), as well as creatures whose images arise solely from the fertile imagination of the greatest puppet-makers on the Continent.  Musicians join in the fun as the puppets make their way throughout the streets, until everyone gets caught up, spontaneously falling into line behind their favorite puppets.

Perhaps the greatest of the many challenges set forth during the Festival of Shoalla is the Great Gate Race.  Several hundred Tamarrans start this race, which begins on the very southernmost part of the continent and traces a circuitous path until it ends on the Second Tier of Naldrin City in the northern part of the continent.  The race takes the full five or six days of the Festival to run, and the runners must navigate over one hundred dimensional gates to complete the course.  Officially, the race is restricted to channels, because of the danger to the untrained.  However, it is well known that sorcerers and other non-Energy wielders break the rules and participate unofficially in the contest.  The tricks used to navigate the dimensional gates, by those who cannot naturally wield Physic or Shadow Energy, are many and varied.  It is quite common, though, to use blink bats as guides and to buy stones imbued with Energetic Powers or spells.

Even with extra help, the gates are difficult and dangerous.  Some are unsteady and can blink in and out of existence, so the contestant requires great skill to coax the gate into compliance with their needs.  Other gates are deliberately set to appear and then go away at particular times during the competition.  It is not unusual for one or two of the less-skilled contestants to meet an untimely demise or go permanently missing each year.  In those years, the sweetness of the victory is tinged by a sadness that not all those who started the race made it to the end.

This is only a tiny sampling of the variety of what takes place each year across the continent.  There are many other contests, parties, and pleasures during the Festival of Shoalla, which Tamarrans spend a lifetime exploring.

¹ It should be noted that every four years, the Festival is six days long (since the year is 366 days and not 365), and is even more splendid and raucous.

² However, that title is used only by the more bureaucratic elements of the Guild and the Council of Drawnwyn.

What is Wyrd Energy?

Lecture excerpt from “The Six Energies and their Uses for Non-channels,” by Mekkreen Dronaal (Adjunct Professor, Naldrin’s First University)

Wyrd energy? Yes, it’s pronounced WEERD, Quite useful. It powers automata, makes those Wyrd devices work – brings in quite a bit of business for non-channel craftsmen – you can even find it in some of the more luxurious homes on Tamarra. I know a Zweyjen down in the Third Tier who had a Wyrd-powered bedwarmer. Poor fellow never quite got over that move up from the South.

I’m afraid I can’t tell you much about what Wyrd Energy actually IS. We know how it behaves in certain situations, yes. We know it can be used to power automata, and give them at least some semblance of… well… understanding. Responsiveness to commands, at least; it’s difficult to judge whether their obedience constitutes true understanding, although, make no mistake, that’s a matter of hot dispute in certain philosophical circles. It can be used to create items that rival Energetic artifacts in terms of power, and as an energy source in more mundane creations. But, when you gets down to it, Wyrd is, well, Wyrd.

The Wyrd Bug

Some of my more… adventurous colleagues have gone so far as to suggest that Wyrd is an Energy, in the same way that The Six are Energies. But our current understanding of the world points to The Six as the solid core of all creation. It is my opinion that Wyrd, like Stillness, is something else, which we do not quite understand. Perhaps it’s an energy, with a small “e.”

[…Unintelligible interjection from the crowd…]

What’s that? Oh yes, well Ms. Lap-Kep does have some…interesting beliefs about The Six. Some theorize that Wyrd is a sort of corrupted mirror Energy, opposed to Physic. Just as Physic creates a logical and consistent set of rules for our material world, Wyrd produces a set of rules that are… coherent, at least. Regular. However, these rules fly in the face of the normal Physical laws that govern our world; it creates motion where things should be still, and stillness where there should be motion. It can transfer momentum with no physical contact of objects, and increment the energy of a system by an amount greater than the amount of Wyrd applied. By all accounts, it does not jibe with The Six.

Wyrd is a very powerful energy, whether it’s spelled with a big or a small “e.” And, if its current applications are any hint as to its future potential, it’s something that we will continue to research for some time to come. Now, where was I? Ah yes, the rise of Energetic commerce in the Jowea Region. You see, it all began with the Quiets..