Saturday, September 15, 2012

More talk about Quintessence Poisoning

obviously am mired in Thesis-land, but in browsing other people's feeds found an interesting Thingy that I'm going to note here where I will immediately forget about it ever having existed:

Table of Terrible Shit to happen to spellcasters at various levels for being spellcasters

Obviously, this is 1. level-based and 2. more flavored for a classic Howard-style Sword and Sorcery style game. It wouldn't really work for Vesh at all, but I wanted to keep it in mind anyway just for mechanical stuff (I'm really bad at mechanical stuff)

The idea behind the corruption in Vesh is... well, like I said, I was inspired partially by Bioshock, where the use of plasmids gives you Phenomenal Cosmic Powers at the expense of sanity and health, and paired with nasty addiction. I also look at the Jokers in George R. R. Martin's "Wild Cards," where people in a superhero world might have an interesting or even useful mutation, but where it's marred by either a grotesque physical deformity or nasty limitations on its use. I think my favorite examples of this were a woman who gained pyrokinesis but no resistance to fire, so she burned to death, the woman who ended up with invisible skin but not invisible organs, and another woman who gained super-sensitivity but to the point that even the lightest of touches was excruciatingly painful. Pyrokinesis, invisibility, and super-senses seem to be useful powers, but if you don't have the mitigating factors they're both useless and dangerous to the user.

As such, maybe not all Quintessence poisoning kills you. Excessive use will cause the mutations to pile up and eventually take you out, but some people just end up with stupid or debilitating mutations. An elephant's trunk for a nose might make it hard for your puny human lungs to breathe, though you could find ways around it.  Also, most Quintessence mutations develop slowly: an elephant trunk would grow out over the course of what might be years. ... now I think there may be an NPC in Whatever Holding Is The Trite And Stereotyped Fantasy East Asia might have one.
See also: for good examples. Someone might get invulnerable skin! And no disease resistance or impact resistance and invulnerable hair and fingernails oops. What happens when that person ends up with blunt force trauma but can't get surgery? I think this world (which... I don't have a name for the world as a whole. Oops. Or much concept of geography. Or knowledge of what's outside the main three countries, or the way the Underdark works -- yes, there is one, it's known just as the Underground Kingdom, and they hate everyone, but like all of this world everyone down there is a normal human, the only fantasy races are the result of Quintessence manipulation and therefore Fakey Fake.)
(That was a long parenthetical)
So part of me wants it to be that yeah, spellcasters might start getting useful things, that also slowly kill them. Congrats, you have Force related powers! You can cast Magic Missile at will! Your skin starts turning into a Wall of Force! ... GOOD LUCK WHEN YOU ENCOUNTER THE ANTI-QUINTESSENCE SECURITY FIELDS IN SOME OF THE HOLDINGS.
ramble ramble.
I do think it should also trigger when prepping or casting spells, and it varies based on the spell type. Interestingly, Wizards and Bards are ever so slightly more resistant, because technically they do work through a medium, they have to memorize those spells from schemas, or use music to channel the power which indicates some degree of control. They'll get poisoned at a slightly faster rate than average Quintessence Engineer if they take the proper precautions, which is to say, they'll get it, but slowly.  3.5 style Sorcerers and Warlocks, however, are channeling raw willpower, so they'd be poisoned very quickly. Weeks, rather than months. And whatever they catch might be more deadly. As for divine spellcasters? Man don't even get me started. There are NO gods in this universe, or demons, or really any native magical life beyond fae mushrooms, which aren't even fae, they're just called that. I'll... explain this in another post, probably. Point being: demons, angels, gods, all that is the invention of quintessence or the misinterpretation of it. Clerics, druids, whatever, they're in the same boat as Sorcerers and Warlocks. They're using their pure will, probably even (somehow) burning through the quintessence in their own bodies (which people native to Vesh can't do, I might add; they need fae mushrooms and schema to do that).
It's bad shit, is what I'm saying.
The nice thing about this ("nice") is that if you were to run this using 3.5 (why???) you would end up with a nice way to put a clamp on CoDzilla and to let non-spellcasting classes take the fore. Shame the non-spellcasters in that system are a pain in the butt and frankly boring to play. So, back to 2e and its modern clones.
Also no, this actually doesn't mean that people hate the religious, or are afraid of them! A lot of people in Vesh ARE very religious. They just don't try to cast spells on the faith of their gods, because what are you, an idiot? Besides, it's on the individual if they cast spells. It's kind of like smoking, really. Don't do it in buildings!
THAT SAID... at the same time, I don't want to punish spellcasting players too much, or overly punish divine casters over arcane casters in a way that isn't fun. I need to balance flavor and mechanics. And I need to find some way to restrict Raise Dead since I doubt it'd work in this universe... hrm. UNLESS IT DOES AND THAT'S PART OF THE OFFERINgS OF SOME OF THESE PLACES???


And now some random musings about Holdings. What I know so far is that almost all of them are themed, and very cheesily themed. The very old ones are sort of like... you know that old school Vegas feel? Bright lights, ladies in feathers, slot machines? It's that, because originally Vesh was pretty much Las Vegas. It was all about the games. These places are often old, run down, and seedy. Quintessense was pretty much used to power the lights, like electricity, but it was self-contained and didn't require a power plant. Though it's still very successful, I think of stuff like the Tropicana when I think of these older places, that sort of "classic" Vegas feel. ... I don't even know if that's strictly accurate, I have only been to Vegas once. And then Vegas historians jumped down my throat? Maybe comparing it to the entirety of Reno would be better.

Then an enterprising fellow figured out that through schema he could cause different effects. Create illusions, make things hot or cold, fool the senses, and so on.

This led to the first boom. Need to figure out how exactly this worked, but I think initially a lot of it was blind hedonism. Palaces made out of diamond, or chocolate, or naked people, or whatever. These places pretty much no longer exist, as people quickly figured out that Quintessence should be used sparingly and in very specifically contained schema to prevent mass poisoning. This was the era of the stage wizards, men and women who would channel the raw stuff on stage to create miracles. These people usually died young and of really awful shit. I imagine a few lucky/unlucky (?) ones are still around, with horrifying but useful and nonlethal mutations. Some might have even become something more/less than human in the process. But there aren't many, and it's sort of an urban legend now. These places are more like the MGM Grand or the Bellagio -- no specific themes, though often inspired by other cities, and always with elegance formost.

Built on top of the ruins of that came the Warlords and their Holdings. After Northreach decided to start conquering the shit out of everything/going nuts with religious dogma bullshit, various gangs and "entrepreneurs" began to gain power in Vesh by offering whatever fantasies anyone desired, some by indulging their deepest desires. They'd build entire fantasy playground landscapes based on mythology, literature, and fiction, designed to cater to everyone's secret fantasies. A lot of these places are laughably stereotyped and thoroughly ridiculous. Think stuff like the Luxor, Excalibur, New York New York, Circus Circus, and so on. The main difference is that these places also act like self-contained city-states, with their own rules and laws, and there are residents who buy in completely to the illusion. These people live and work there in exchange for protection, housing, and the chance to live entirely in a fantasy world.

Some examples:

* Tir Na Nog --  you know how Otherkin Elves are ALWAYS nobility, every last one of them, and have their heads up their asses? Now imagine if those people could actually BE Elves. That's who mostly lives in Tir Na Nog. There's all kinds of fake fairy folk and weird pagentry and lots of renfaire style anachronistic mashup bullshit based possibly on no real history, ever. The Warlord here calls herself Queen Titania (of course) and insists on ridiculously complicated formalities when being addressed. She'll also talk your ear off about how they really ARE elves and fairies on the ~inside~. In truth, the whole place is actually run by her aide, a guy who calls himself Puck, who seems suspiciously like Owen from Gargoyles, only unlike that one he isn't actually Puck, he is just a stoic guy who is making a lot of money by catering to a bunch of crazy people's desires.

* Gothy place -- yeah you'll notice most of these places have no names. This is where the Twilight / Interview with the Vampire fan crowds hang out. Lots of vampire ladies who spend a lot of time swooning in windows and being tragic and terribly gothic. See the Vampire poem generator. The Warlord of this holding is also a woman, the Red Queen, but unlike Titania she doesn't actually buy in to her own image. To be honest this is all one great big trolling attempt to her, one that is making her very wealthy. She really does not get on with Titania.

* Cyberpunk place -- Every single person is a dashing rebel hacker who is fighting The Man in this gleaming dystopia. Every last one. No one actually works for The Man. Somehow, The Man stays in power because if they ever actually "won" what would be the point? No one actually knows who the Warlord of this place is. Some suspect he/she is in fact ACTUALLY a machine intelligence, but that would be incredibly silly.

* The High Court -- This place gets into weird LARP with Tir Na Nog all the time. Think all the fake ideas of Medieval Europe, with dragons and courtly love and all that. The Warlord here has used a lot of Quintessence so that he seems to, in fact, be an actual Dragon. He also had a bad case of poisoning that his doctors work very hard to keep in check -- luckily for him, it's mostly nonlethal, in that it just makes him disgustingly overweight, covered in scale-like protuberances, and causes his skin to constantly secrete a vile-smelling oil. This is all covered by the huge amount of Quintessence schema used to keep his dragon form.

* Gansta's Paradise -- every last stereotype of rap music videos come to life, plus real life Grand Theft Auto. This place holds a LOT of power and influence, and it is always really loud. The streets are filled with gang wars and bullets, only of course no one ever dies because they're Quintessence powered guns and ho ho it's all fun and games sort of. The Warlord here is actually a very refined gentleman who, much like the Red Queen, doesn't give a shit about the theme and is just happy to be making shittons of money. Needs a name that is not a ripoff of a song.

* Bella -- This, much like the real life Bellagio, is an ostentatious re-imagining of a real city, in this case the city of Belagael, a port city far to the south, once the jewel of the country of Myshtar, now under Northreach control. it's one of the more "normal" holdings. Sort of. interestingly, almost no Myshtaran refugees are here, because they find it insulting, and also because a lot of them are wondering where the hell the seedy dockside curry bars are ("BUT OBVIOUSLY NO PLACE AS ELEGANT AS BELAGAEL HAS SEEDY DOCKSIDE CURRY BARS!?")

* INCREDIBLY METAL PLACE -- this is actually a very small holding that is every metal album cover ever meets Robert E. Howard. Actually has REAL internal factioning problems between a bunch of Gorean types and a bunch of types who really are just here to have bullshit sword and sorcery adventures. one faction also has a problem with randomly breaking into people's houses and taking their stuff, and coming up with bizarrely complicated solutions to problems for a bunch of supposed barbarians. Has a level system. The Warlord actually thinks the genuine and for real deaths and fighting are fucking hilarious and does nothing to stop them, and some people actually come in and pay him for the privilege.

* Extremely stereotypical Orientalist place -- I dunno what the real Far East is actually like in this world (hell, I dunno if they ever actually had ANY of these myths... hmmmm) but this place is all about ridiculous Chinese dragons in the same place as Japanese samurai and Indian minarets. Because.

* Equally stereotypical Arabian Nights place -- Probably run by the same warlord as above. Equally "oh come on."

* Circus Circus type place

* I need to come up with more

* Hypothetically I could come up with Holdings on the fly, there are a LOT of them of varying sizes

There's an entire underground under all of this that consists of maintenance tunnels, the remains of Old Vesh (from before even the first casinos sprung up), which has been pretty thoroughly drained for Quintessence, and a lot of homeless camps of people with bad poisoning and who can't get jobs in any of the Holdings. This is also where a lot of the Rifts open up, because a lot of the Holdings vent steam from their Quintessence engines down here. Dangerous stuff. Lots of mutants. There's also some holes into the Underground Empire, but unless you want to get brainscrewed and then shot, it is inadvisable to go down there.

The streets between the Holdings are similarly weird; they're very empty, and you can actually see cracks of the natural gray sky between them. You can walk from holding to holding through ther,e but it's a bad idea as the place is lousy with thieves and bandits waiting for dumb tourists to do just that. Most people take the skybridges. Also, the streets are where most of the nastier fights between rival Holdings take place.

uhh more later, I should Thesis.