Black River – Nomes

The Kingdom stretches from the Southern end of the Black River, at the foot of the mountains from which it comes, all the way North, to its mouth where it joins with the Green Sea, a distance greater than 4000 miles.

The great floods happen all along the length of the Black River, making both sides all along the river’s length productive for growing the crops that support the people of the Kingdom. Cities, towns and villages exist all along the 4000 miles length of the river, on both sides.

This makes it difficult for a central government to directly rule the entirety of the Kingdom. Long ago, one of the first God-Empresses, with the wisdom of the gods, formed Nomes, or districts, and placed over each a local ruler, called a Nomarch. These Nomarchs have absolute control over their Nome and are responsible for collecting the taxes for the God-Empress and getting them to the capital.

The position of Nomarch is generally a hereditary office, though the God-Empress may remove a Nomarch and bestow the office on another should she feel the present Nomarch has failed her and the gods in some way or that a situation demands different leadership. A Nomarch may even name a successor should they be left without a worthy heir to the Nomarchy.

There are currently 40 Nomes organized in the Kingdom. The Southern Nomes, where the population is more rural, stretch over larger distances than the Northern Nomes, where the population is more condensed and urban. Each Nome sends its taxes to the capital once per year. The taxes are twenty percent of the goods produced in the Nome. A scribe from the Nome accompanies the tax shipment with the Nome’s books to show the total amount of goods produced in the Nome for the year and to show that the tax is sufficient. Once every five years or so, the God-Empress sends out her own scribes to do an audit in each Nome to verify the taxes paid.

The Nomarchs gather local leadership to help them govern the Nome. The leadership always includes priests from the temples inside the Nome’s boundaries, guild leaders and scribes.

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Spark of Ra #10 – Assassination

Scene Setup: After giving the piece to Rakunapten, I meet with the assassins and we have a mission! We are intercepting a caravan from the East and assassinating the leader of the caravan as elves don’t take kindly to Anubis and death.
Die of Fate: 1, nothing interrupts the scene.
Scene Goal: Kill the leader of the elven diplomatic group.

I look at the group of assassins as they explain to me the mission we have received. A caravan from the East. A diplomatic envoy from the Immortals, abominations to the Priesthood of Anubis and the god himself. The High Priest of Anubis wishes the negotiations between the God-Empress and the Immortals to fail. And we are to help that along by killing the leader of the envoy.

As the new guy, I don’t have much say in the planning of the hit, but it all looks like what I might have expected, if I knew what to expect at all. My training as a soldier applies in general strokes to this operation, but the details are all different to what I would have planned. Observing the caravan, identifying the target, getting close to them and terminating. Then escape with no one the wiser. Looks good on the sand table.

We leave and arrive at the ambush site in about two hours. I give the place a once over, looking for the best approaches to the road.

Going to make a Tactics test, which I don’t have, to identify the best approach. I want to make this a Linked test to get an advantage on the upcoming Stealth test. I’ll call it Ob 2, 4 since it’s doubled. I’ll be rolling Perception B4 for it. Roll: 3, 3, 3, 6. Well, that’s a failure. That’ll give me a +1 Ob to the Stealth test as I chose the wrong site.

All the members of the group find sites with good approaches and hunker down to wait for the caravan. It’s a long wait and my eyes get heavy from being up all day and this late into the night.

Make a Forte test to see if I fall asleep while waiting! Ob 3. I was busy today. Forte B5, failure means that I am awakened by yells from the caravan as one of the assassins is discovered before completing the mission. Roll: 3, 4, 4, 5, 6. Success!

Several hours pass by but I’m able to keep alert and my eyes on the road. Soon, we hear the quiet rumble of elven wheels rolling over the road and strange animals pulling them. The Immortals are here.

I slide out of my hiding spot, hugging the ground, trying to reach the wagon that’s supposed to have the envoy leader in it. The tall grass helps to hide me even as the full moon shines down on us.

Rolling Stealth B4 v. their Observation B3. I have a +1 Ob penalty and I’ll take an Advantage die for the tall grass. My roll: 1, 2, 4, 4, 5. Their roll: 1, 1, 5. I got three successes and they got 1 + the 1 Ob penalty. I succeed!

I reach the side of the wagon and carefully climb up the tailgate, rolling into the box without a sound.

I expect it to be pitch black inside here, but I think the elves might have some kind of magical light going. 50/50 odds? Roll: 60, so no light.

The inside of this covered wagon is pitch black. I blink my eyes, trying to focus and see something in the dark.

Perception B4 v. Ob 3 for the darkness. Failure means that the leader is awake and aware of me. Roll: 3, 3, 3, 5. Ouch.

A dark shadow leans forward from the wall of the wagon and grabs my wrist. “Who are you? Why have you come?” a musical voice asks.

I’m very surprised, so it’s time for a Steel test! B5, Hesitation is 5 as it’s reduced by one for Cool Headed. Roll: 2, 3, 3, 5, 5. No sixes so I’m Hesitating. I will Stand and Drool.

As I fumble for words, the grip on my wrist tightens and a lithe hand darts to my belt and removes my knife and holds it up. “I presume you were here to use this on me?” The voice sounds sad at that and with a flash, the blade of my own knife is at my throat. “Someone sent you, yes? I wonder who it could be.” There is a short pause and then the voice continues, “I suppose we’ll see when we arrive at your capital. Together.”

I can’t let that happen. Without a word, I jerk away, my hand trying to wrest my knife free of this Immortal’s hand.

My Brawling B3 v. their Speed B5. I’ll ForRK in my Knives and Stealthy to use my fighting knowledge and to catch them off guard. So 5v5. Failure means that I’m restrained and will arrive in the capital as their captive. My roll: 1, 2, 2, 2, 6. Spending a Fate to open end that 6. 4. Two successes. 1, 3, 3, 3, 5. Oh, thank the gods!

My hand darts out and grabs the thin wrist, twisting it around while my other hand punches out, hitting a nerve. The fingers spring open with a gasp of pain. My knife is back in my hand, the blade thirsty for the blood of this elf. I grab the front of their clothes, yanking them towards me as I thrust into them with my blade, trying to accomplish my mission.

Knives B3 v. their Speed B5. My intent is to kill. If I fail, they will cry out and I’ll have failed. FoRKing in Brawling and I’ll take an advantage die for my knife. My roll: 2, 4, 5, 5, 6. Fate to open end that 6, roll: 5. Five successes! Their roll: 2, 2, 3, 4, 6. Yes!

The blade bites deep into the Immortal’s throat and their words are choked off in a gurgle of blood. Thin fingers grasp at my upper arms and shoulders for a second or two, then nothing. Then, their thin hand pats my cheek before the fingers slip from my face and fall lightly to the padded floor of the wagon. I check for a pulse and find nothing.

I quietly slip out of the wagon and roll off the side of the road. The caravan continues on, the rumble dying slowly into the dawn.

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Spark of Ra #9 – Ra’s Statue

Scene Setup: Arriving at Canrito’s house some time later to confront him. He heard about someone asking for him and has two guards.
Die of Fate: 1. Nothing odd happens.
Scene Goal: Leave Canrito’s house with the art piece.

A servant leads me through a garden inside the walls of Canrito’s home. Tall plants block my view of the large house I know we’re walking towards. The servant, a slight boy, tells me of the different plants and the places they come from. Quite a few are imported and all are well cared for.

I don’t care. It’s all I can do to keep from growling at him. “I have business to attend to with your master. Please, take me to him,” I say through gritted teeth.

He smiles and bows to me, never meeting my eyes. “Of course!” Turning, he motions to another flowering shrub and starts to tell me how his master came to receive it as a small seedling from from a trader who came South from across the Green Sea. I clench my fist in frustration.

It takes 15 minutes to get through the garden, but we finally do, entering Canrito’s large home. It is made from stone, carefully cut so each one fits perfectly to the next. It’s wonderful and speaks to how rich his work has made him.

“Please, wait for my master here. He will be with you shortly,” the young servant says, with another bow. He exits the room through a side door and just as quickly, two burly guards enter from another door, taking up positions to flank it. In less than a minute, a tall, lean man enters from that same door.

Some quick stats for these guys: Canrito Physical B3 Mental B5, Sculpting B6, Negotiating B4, Priest-wise B2. Guards B4.

“Ah!” He opens his arms with a smile as he sees me. “So, this is the temple guard who is so interested in me!” He gives me a half bow, dropping his gaze from mine. “Canrito, your humble servant. What can I do for you?”

I pause, my heart falling into my stomach. Of course he heard about me, after the scene I made with his ex-servant. I smile back at him.

“Greetings, Canrito. My name is Tekrinto and I am a temple guard of the Priesthood of Ra.” I bow back to him, lower than he bowed to me.

He smiles at me, saying nothing.

After a few moments hesitation, I continue, “My master Rakunapten has sent me to collect the piece you made for Ra’s Priesthood.”

“Of course! Of course!” He calls for a servant, this one an older man, and tells him to fetch the piece for Ra. “Tell me, Tekrinto, where is the Priesthood of Ra, these days?”

Responding, I tell him, “We are in a small compound outside the center of the city. It serves us, for now.” I’m not happy about the acomodations and I make that known in my tone of voice.

He nods and waits for the servant to return. The sculpture in the servant’s hands is exquisite, the form and detail of Ra’s image give the god majesty. I reach out for it but I am stopped by Canrito.

“No, no. Tell me, Tekrinto, does a piece such as this belong in a small compound?” he asks.

I pause. “It does if the Priesthood of Ra occupies the compound. They paid for the piece.” I don’t have the patience for this.

“Paid?” He scoffs. “This is the image of Ra, the most perfect of any I have seen, of any I have created. It deserves, no, it demands, to be placed in only the finest of places!” His voice raises as he speaks. “I cannot allow it to reside in the hovel your Priesthood occupies right now.”

I nod to him. “Of course, I suppose I can understand that.” I pause. “But, you did accept money for the creation of this piece, did you not?”

He nods. “Of course, that was when the Priesthood still occupied the Palace. I’m afraid the contract since Ra’s Priesthood has been… dethroned?” He smiles at me. If I am reading him right, he’s aching to make a deal.

I nod in return. “Of course. Of course. What if I were to tell you that we will be returning to the Palace very soon?” I take a step closer and lower my voice. “The Priesthood of Anubis has a slippery hold on power. They will be ousted…” I trail off, leaving him to create a timeframe in his own mind.

Ok, obviously a Falsehood test. I’ve got it at B3. The Ob is his Will exponent, 5. I’d like to make a Linked Priesthood-wise test to declare that the Priesthood of Anubis are not very good at maintaining a position of power. I think that’s Ob 1, doubled to 2. Rolling Perception B4: 1, 3, 6, 6. Fate to open-end: 3, 5. Exceeded the Ob, so I get +1D to my roll!
Rolling 4D v. Ob 5. I’ll spend a Persona point to add another die. 4, 5, 5, 6, 6! Nice. Success.

He stares at me for a few seconds, then a grin slowly grows on his hawkish face. “In that case, please, take the piece. And I hope that your master will call on me for more work in the very near future.” He gestures to his servant, who hands over the statue.

The stone is warm in my hands, and heavy. He heft it with a smile of my own. “Oh, you can count on it, Canrito.” I give him a small bow. “It was a pleasure.”

“All mine,” he says with a smile and another expansive opening of his arms. He returns my bow and exits the room.

I breathe a sigh of relief and then turn and walk back out the way I came.

Of course, I get lost in the garden and it takes me 10 minutes to find my way out to the street in front.

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Spark of Ra #8 – Enemy Market

Scene Setup: I need to understand a little more about this artisan before I confront him. So, I’ll go to the market and ask around about him.
Die of Fate: 6! So some random event happens. GM’s Apprentice card gives me “Abjur, Intact, Servant”. I think Abjur might be mispelled… Abjure. I think a sober ex-servant of the artisan is going around trying to convince all the merchants to swear off his ex-master.
Scene Goal: Get some dirt on Canrito, the artisan, that I can use in my future negotiations with him.

The market is busy with the late crowd. Priests, merchants, farmers, anyone who is busy with work during the day comes to the market in the evening and early night.

Is it, though? Sounds like might need a Market-wise roll. Anything of interested on a failure? … No, not really. I’ll roll with it.

I look around, dejectedly. This is not what I was hoping to do tonight. I’ve made so much progress with the group. I know learning their art is going to help me take vengeance on those who ordered the hit against my family and the priesthood that is my charge. I’m excited to get back to it, but, for some reason, I can’t tell Rakunapten. Not yet. Maybe not ever. I don’t think he’d understand.

I sigh in frustration, shaking my head and returning to the here and now. I’ve got to get this over with and get back to my training. It’s important.

Stepping up to a stall, I start asking around for those who do business with Canrito. I need to find someone who knows him and knows him well so I can figure out what makes him tick. I’d really rather not have to take the… whatever it is, by force.

Definitely a Circles roll. Ob 1, +1 for lower social class. That looks like all the modifiers. Rolling my B2 Circles v. Ob 2. Roll: 1, 2. Failure! I’m invoking the Enmity Clause!

I ask around for about twenty minutes before a voice calls out over my shoulder, “You’re looking for information on Canrito?”

I turn around and nod to the person, a small woman wearing course, but well kept garments. “Yes, I am. Do you know him?” I ask.

She snorts. “Oh, yes, I do know him. He is trash! Utter trash.” Her eyes narrow as she glances at the blades on my belt. “What do you want with him?”

Shrugging, I respond, “My master has seen some of his work and wants to know more about him. He is considering contacting him for some work in the future.”

Apparently, this is the wrong thing to say, as she steps forward, her face going red with anger. “He should do no such thing!” she spits. “And you, surely you’ve heard his reputation, why would you not counsel your master against working with Canrito, that dog?!”

I spread my hands out in an attempt to calm her down, taking a half step back. I can feel the eyes of other merchants and market-goers watching us, giving us room for whatever might happen.

I need to calm her down. That sounds like a Soothing Platitudes roll, which I don’t have. Beginner’s Luck with my Will of B4. Her will is going to be a 3, +2 Ob for Enmity. But, I double the base Ob, so it’s Ob 6+2, Ob 8. Oy. Roll: 2, 3, 3, 5.

“Of course I’ve heard the rumors, but when you have a master as powerful as mine, you do as you’re told. I’m sure you can understand that.” I look her in the face, trying to look as kind and understanding as I can.

It fails. Greatly. With a roar, she throws herself at me, screaming at the top of her lungs, “I will never serve that man again! He is the lowest of the low, no matter his station!” Her fists flail, batting at my chest and the sides of my head. I raise my arms, trying to ward off her blows.

I am a soldier and she is a servant. I don’t feel the need to roll dice here, as I would beat her easily.

I grab her wrists and glance around. Everyone is looking at us and rumor of someone being attacked while asking about him is sure to reach Canrito. I have to hurry. I yank her arms and pull her to a dark corner cast by the fabric stretched over an empty booth.

Pulling her close, I stare into her eyes, even as she struggles against me. “Canrito was your master? Tell me about him! What are his weaknesses, how can I get to him? You’ll tell me, or I’ll take you back to him in chains!”

Going for Intimidation here. I don’t have it, so I BL it to Will B4. Her Will is the Ob, 3. I also have a double Ob penalty, so it’s Ob 6. I’ll spend a Persona to add 1D. 1, 1, 3, 4, 6. I’ll spend a Fate to open end the 6 for giggles. Rolls a 1.

She laughs in my face. “He wouldn’t take me back, even if you did!” Her knee slams into my groin and I grunt, letting go of her. She kicks dust onto my feet before turning and disappearing into the crowd. I glance up to find her, but only see passersby grinning at me and my predicament.

I cough and shake my head. “What a day.”

I need to name that servant and keep her as an enemy. She’ll come back to haunt me in the future. I’ll name her Osrina.

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Spark of Ra #7 – New Mission

Scene Setup: A week has passed and I’ve been doing some training with the assassins. I return one morning, a little late, and Rakunapten corners me and demands to know what I’ve been doing to restore the Priesthood to the palace.
Die of Fate: Possible random event happens on roll of 6: 3. Scene proceeds as planned.
Scene Goal: Convince Rakunapten that I’m still working towards restoring the Priesthood without revealing that I joined the assassins that put his son in a coma.

To start, I’ve got a week of practice. I’ve been practicing Knives with the assassins, as that’s their weapon of choice. I’ll go for a Challenging test, 8hrs / day. Practiced one week. I’ll need three more weeks to gain that test.

I enter the compound quietly, moving with a purpose, but not so much that I attract attention. Looking around, I see more people walking around than I’d anticipated. It seems that I stayed out longer than I wanted so I could get back without anyone noticing.

As I’m about to turn into the building that leads to my room, I hear a very familiar voice scream out at me. The voice is red with anger, dripping with derision. “Tekrinto!” With a sigh, I stop.

I turn around with a small smile, “Yes, uncle, what can I do do you this fine morning?”

He snarls in reply as he strides jerkily across the compound’s courtyard, his muscles tense with his anger. “Do?!” he screams, “I’ll tell you what you can do! You can do your job!” He screams louder the closer he gets to me. I try to hide my wince but I’m not very successful.

“Uncle, I have been doing my job. I am here during the day to protect the Priesthood.” I look back at him, my small smile feeling more pained than anything else.

He scoffs in reply. “Yes, you are here during the day. Sleeping! What good is a guard if he’s not aware?” My uncle speaks with his hands with lots of waving and pointing. “You’re useless during the day. Besides, you’re not supposed to be here protecting the Priesthood. You have a different job. You know that!” He lowers his voice at the end as if trying to protect some secret. I’m sure that everyone within this compound knows that I’m working on getting revenge on those who put us out of our rightful place.

I sigh. “Uncle, I swear to you, I am doing my job. Please, just take my word for it.” I know what his response is going to be before he gives it. His guffaws echo on the stone walls of the small compound drawing the eye of everyone around.

He draws in closer and I can smell the fish from his breakfast on his breath. “It’s been two weeks since I’ve seen you do anything to further your task. Two weeks with no results. I am not impressed. I am not satisfied. Tell me exactly what you’ve been doing with your time! If you’ve not been on task, I swear to you, nephew, you will regret it.”

My Instinct of “Never tell the truth when a lie will do” is very applicable here. I don’t want him to know I’m in with the assassins. I can’t tell him that I killed the assassin as that would be too close to the truth and might lead to that reveal. Time for a bald-faced lie. If I fail, I think he’s going to give me some shit job to accomplish for him.

I move in even closer to him, turning to present more of my back to our observers, facing one of the stone walls. “Uncle, I have been out watching the priests of Anubis. I’m sure they are plotting against the God-Empress herself. I tracked two of the priests to the river bank and overheard them discussing some dark ritual to bring back her father and place him back on he throne!”

Rolling Falsehood. I’m going to take an Advantage die because the Priesthood Anubis is always about raising people from the dead, right? … Probably going to have to roll Priesthood-wise to establish that. That’s definitely an interesting fact, Ob 2. I don’t have that Wise, so I’m at double Ob for a total of 4. Rolling my Perception of B4. 1, 1, 4, 5. 4v4 is a Difficult test so counts for Perception and that is not true. So, no Advantage die. Rolling my B3 Falsehood v. his Will of B6. Joy… 2, 5, 6. I’ll save my Fate and take the failure.

After I finish speaking, he looks at me, straight in the eye, breathing heavily. Suddenly, his hand flashes out and slaps my cheek. “Lazy and a liar! Fine. I’ll find someone else to take on your task.” With that, he stomps away.

Ok, is he going to send me away? Odds are very good, 75%. Rolling d100: 96. So, he’s not. I’m going to get a task to stay here in the capital.

Rubbing my cheek, I avoid everyone else’s gaze and walk to my room, my eyes cast down to the ground.

I don’t see my uncle again until the sun goes down. I get cleaned up and get some sleep and dinner after I get up. Just as I’m getting ready to head out for the night, I hear him clear his throat in my doorway.

“Heading out for another night of carousing, then?” I look over my shoulder and just shake my head. There’s nothing to say. He snorts. “You’ll have to cancel your planned activities. I’ve got a job for you.”

He tells me that the Priesthood had commissioned a work of art from a local artisan but now that the Priesthood of Ra has been removed from the Palace, the artisan doesn’t want to give them the piece. I am to go and retrieve the piece from Canrito, the artisan, by whatever means necessary. Without another word, he turns and walks off.

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Spark of Ra #6 – End of Session Artha

The end of the last scene felt like a great end for a “session”, so I’m going to look at awarding Artha. I’m also going to look at the way I setup the scenes and sessions and see if I can make it better since I felt a little aimless during this “session”. I know the Beliefs are supposed to help with that, but I think I need to plan a little more on the GM side of this.

Earning Artha. I’m just going through the section in the book starting on p. 63 to get my Artha awards. I’ve got three Beliefs: “The palace is the right place for the Priesthood of Ra. I’ll do what I must to restore them.” I’m not sure I manifested that one in a meaningful way. No Fate. Second: “My uncle is a foul man, I will see him fall before I’m done.” I channeled that when I got into a fight with him, so I’ll take a Fate for that. Third: “I am a slave in all but name. I will find my fortune and freedom.” Yeah, definitely worked on that one. Another Fate.

Instincts. “Always have my knife on me,” didn’t get me into trouble. “Never reveal the truth when a lie will do,” got me into trouble at the beginning. Fate. “If civilians are in danger in a fight, draw it away from them,” got me wounded. Fate.

Traits: I don’t think they changed the direction of the story. Humor, just me, I don’t remember laughing too hard at anything I did. Right Skill, Right Time: I don’t think I used anything in an off the wall way. Nope.

Persona, Embodiment. I’m gonna take it for brutally murdering that assassin to gain entry. Moldbreaker doesn’t seem like a fit. I didn’t accomplish any personal goals. Workhorse doesn’t seem to fit. MVP doesn’t seem to fit.

Deeds. Nope. I think that does it for Artha. I’m going into the next “session” with 5 Fate, 2 Persona & 0 Deeds.

Now for plans for next session. I’m going to keep the same Beliefs because Tekrinto is still working towards them. As a GM, I need to have someone concrete to push towards, even though it feels weird to know what I’m pushing towards, in an exact way, as the player.

So, the exact goal that I want to see worked towards, as the GM, is to drive out the Priesthood of Anubis from the Palace. That is the most pressing. I think that, knowing that, I can let the dice rolls guide it from here. At least, I hope so.

As far as changes being made, I think I’d like to add a goal to each scene. The scene setup generally has an implied goal, but I think it would help me keep on task if I put an explicit one, as well. It will help run the NPCs as well. I think that I like the stability rolling a Die of Fate gives when looking for random events, but I also dig the chance that things are going to go haywire. I’ll keep that.

And, that should do it! Ready to kick off my next session in the future.

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Black River – Kingdom Society

Life in the Kingdom is generally peaceful and calm. Each member performs their duties, which are determined by their social class, to edify the Kingdom as a whole. The People believe that their station in life is chosen by the God-Spirits and mobility between the classes is a rare thing.

The highest social class is that of the God-Empress and her family. The station held by the God-Empress, as ruler of the Kingdom, elevates her to godhood, but the rest of her family are completely mortal. Their proximity and blood relation to a god raises them above the masses.

Just below the God-Empress and her kin are the priests. Each God-Spirit has its own priesthood and priests are generally chosen from the families of the current priests. They owe their position in society to their constant communication with the God-Spirits and the power granted them to speak on behalf of them.

Below the priests are the scribes. They are really much more than simple scribes as they are charged by the God-Empress with the day to day operations that permit the Kingdom’s society to run. Scribes are educated from a young age to prepare for the position. As such, a child from any social class can become a scribe if their parents can afford to send them to school.

After the scribes come the soldiers. Soldiers in the Kingdom are professionals. Their days are filled with training, planning and the various operations put to them by the scribes, priests or the God-Empress herself. Training to become a soldier starts at a young age.

The artisans sit alongside the soldiers in the class hierarchy of the Kingdom. They are not craftspeople, but create for the beauty of creating. Their works of art can be found in the many temples dotting the land, the houses of rich merchants, soldiers and scribes and may even be found adorning the walls of the palace itself.

Then come the merchants. The merchants are the craftspeople and store managers that create the many goods the Kingdom needs to flourish and move the food and goods used throughout the land. Merchants are usually good with numbers but are not very literate, if at all.

Farmers occupy the second to last rung in the class hierarchy. Farming is a noble profession, one that commands respect from those above, but farmers are often dirty and uneducated. Because of this, most in the classes above view them as unintelligent and uncouth.

The lowest class is the slaves. They do a majority of the hard labor. All the beauties of the Kingdom, the buildings, palaces, temples and monuments, are constructed by slave labor. Slaves can be war captives, abandoned children or people from higher classes who have displeased a scribe, priest or the God-Empress and found themselves forced into servitude.

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Black River – A Primer

The mountains to the South birthed the Black River. The rains fell on their smooth faces and rushed down in a mighty torrent, splashing down through the valleys and cuts, flowing towards the Green Sea. As the river traveled, it swallowed up the land, gorging itself with soil, sating its hunger. But it was not enough. It continued to devour, swallowing more and more as it traveled, until it could hold no more. As its journey brought it to the edge of the Green Sea, it opened its mouth and vomited up all the land it swallowed, staining its banks a deep black.

The river forgets its past and every year it gorges itself only to vomit up the soil upon meeting the Green Sea. It is here at its mouth that the People, make their life. The River’s gluttony feeds the plants that feed them. Its path moves their ships, food and goods. Its waters sustain their life.

Here, they plant their crops, harvest their grains, make and sell their wares, fight and love and kill and protect, all under the watchful eye of their God-Empress Nirtani. She walks with the God-Spirits as they counsel her in the care of their people. Some of the God-Spirits are her allies and others are her enemies. Despite it all, she manages to protect them each and every day from the many enemies that threaten the Kingdom of the Black River.

To the East, a small land-bridge leads to the realm of the Elves. They are a proud and hauty people who claim that the mouth of the Black River belongs to them. They bide their time, looking for weaknesses in the Kingdom and their God-Empress that they can exploit to ruin the Kingdom’s way of life.

Journeying to the West, one leaves the Kingdom and enters the Red Desert. These are the lands of the Orcs, a hateful race of nomads who roam the scorching sands, eeking out the meagerest of existences. They hate the People and no on is sure why. Every Orc anyone speaks with, should they survive the initial encounter, will cite some slight against the Orcish people as the root of the hate and no two stories will ever be the same.

To the South, into the rolling mountains which is the birth place of the Black River, no one journeys. All manner of monsters inhabit that land and none return who venture there.

Across the Green Sea, to the North, the Dwarves rule a land with all manner of strange and wonderful material and workings. They are masters of trade and shrewd negotiators.

Within the Kingdom live many beings. All manner of monsters, rat-folk, elves and dwarves are found amongst the numerous humans that form the core of the People. They live their lives in the strata of that society, worshiping the God-Spirits and fulfilling their duty to the God-Empress. It is a good life for most. The rest live and fight in the shadows, hiding from the watchful eyes of deity.

Black River is a fantasy setting I’m working on to take my fantasy gaming farther away that traditional Western fantasy.

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Why #soloRPG?

A number of people (that number being 0) have asked me why I play role-playing games by myself. They are a social activity! Something to do with friends!

Yes, you’re right. They are. But, they are more than that. They are a way to engage the imagination. Playing alone lets you:

  • Occupy a setting or play a game that you love anytime you want.
  • It lets you explore a character you’re already playing to a deeper level.
  • It lets you practice roleplaying and applying the game rules to the action.

I began looking for ways to play role-playing games by myself when I started getting interested in playing games my local friends and gaming group weren’t interested in playing. It’s really hard being super into a brand new game and not being able to play it! Sitting down to create one or more characters for a game like that is something we’ve all done, but is it enough? Does it scratch the horrible itch to play that game? It didn’t for me. The game that started me down this road was Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition. I sat down, read the book at least twice, created a few characters and my mind went spinning around my imagination space, ricocheting off the sides with all the one-shot and campaign ideas I had.

So, I created a character, created the situation and went off on an adventure, all by myself. It was a blast. Initially, keeping my mind in both the GM and Player headspaces felt a little weird, but as I began considering actions and responses by both sides in the scenes, I started to have a lot of fun.

The character I created for the Call of Cthulhu game was not a character I had ever played before. He was created specifically for that solo role-playing game. In the past, I’ve written stories about characters that I was playing in a game with my group to get deeper into their head and enjoy them outside of the game. Now, I think that running a solo scene, or a few, with them would be an even better way to enjoy their company and get to know them better.

This is not something I’ve ever actually done, but it wouldn’t be any more difficult that running a solo role-playing game with a character created specifically for it. Obviously, what happens in those solo games can’t affect the character in the group games the character is played in. At least, not without discussing it with your GM and the other players at the table. But, it’s a fantastic way to build more backstory for the character or participate in some side missions that the group chooses to ignore.

Playing a character from a group game in a solo game is also a great way to learn what their different powers do and how the game rules apply to them. Role-playing games have rules that govern how the world works and how it interacts and reacts to the actions the character attempts. That’s one of the things that I love most about them. But, learning and memorizing the rules can be something that we don’t have time for or are loathe to do. Sitting down with your character, the game book and a side scene to play through alone can really help get those rules down, all while having a super fun time exploring your character.

Another benefit of practicing this way is that no one else is waiting on you to look up that rule when you’re not quite sure how it’s worded. It’s just you. You can take as much time as you need to look up the rule, read it two or three times, look up interpretations on the internet, post a rebuttal to someone’s ignorant remark, check your email and Facebook, giggle at that video of your niece pouring apple juice all down her front. Oh, right, you’re playing a game!

Playing solo role-playing games can be fun and add a lot of benefits to help you as a roleplayer and GM get more comfortable with your character, the setting and the rules of the game. It’s a fantastic way to engage in this wonderful hobby without having to battle your group’s busy lives into submission to find just one night a week where everyone has time to game. It’s just you. You, your character sheet, rulebook and dice. And, whatever else you decide you need.

Now go, go play with yourself! (I’ve been waiting through this whole article to make that joke.)

Here are a couple resources that have been very helpful for me while I play solo games:

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Spark of Ra #5

Scene Setup: In order to push my third belief, “I am a slave in all but name. I will find my fortune and freedom,” they are expecting me and are impressed by my tenacity and resourcefulness. They’ll ask me to join them. For real.
Die of Fate: On a roll of 6, a random even happens to interrupt the scene. Roll: 1. No interruption.

The staircase is dark and the stench of it grows as I go deeper and deeper into the ground beneath the pleasure house. After a certain point, the walls start to weep water and the ground squelches under my feet. Being so close to the river makes this underground haven a very wet place.

Soon, the stairs end and a short hallway leads to a doorway covered with a curtain. I can see light shining through it from the other side. I pause to listen to the activity on the other side, but I hear nothing. That isn’t what I expected, so I quietly push one side of the curtain aside to peer in.

What I see is nothing like what I expected. The “haven” is sparsely decorated with rough wooden furniture. A large table to one side is covered with strips of papyrus. I take this all in quickly because several individuals stand in front of the door, facing it. Facing me.

One smiles and waves me in through the door. “Come in, come in. Don’t be shy.”

This is definitely a surprise. Let’s roll Steel to see how well I handle it. B5 is my roll and my Hesitation for Surprise is reduced by one. Ob 5. Roll: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6. I hesitate for 2 rounds. Stand and Drool.

I stand there for a couple seconds, my mouth gaping like a landed fish. Getting control of myself, I throw my shoulders back and step through the curtain. Before I can say anything, the man who spoke before speaks again.

“You are rather resourceful, aren’t you, Tekrinto?” He chuckles. “First, you tail two of our number, then escape the temple and manage to stay hidden from us. The, I hear you punished some priests who decided to anger you!”

I blink in amazement, surprised that he knows even that much about me.

He continues, “I’m not sure why you’re here, exactly, but I’m willing to hear you out.”

He smiles expectantly.

Without missing a beat, I answer, “I’m here to exact revenge.” I pause. “My cousin was laid low by a blade borne by one of your number. I’m here to repay that debt.”

He nods reasonably at my words. “I see. That makes complete sense.” He inhales deeply, seemingly lost in thought for a few seconds before exhaling sharply and saying, “I have a better idea. Why don’t you join us? I like a man who is driven and takes risks. I already know you can handle a blade, so you’ve got the makings to become a great member of our ranks.”

Thinking about it, this is actually a great opportunity for my character. Looking at my Beliefs, joining a guild of assassins could actually help me accomplish all three. But, I can’t until I’ve gotten my revenge to show the priests of Anubis that they can’t mess with the Priesthood of Ra!

It’s my turn to nod back to him. “It would be a lie to say that I’m not interested. But, I can’t entertain any such offer before I take my revenge. The scales must be balanced!”

This could go to a Duel of Wits if he doesn’t want to give up the guy, or I could go straight to Fight if he makes the assassin fight me. It’s a big enough beat that I want to use one or the other. You know, for an assassin, Fight seems like the way to go! Needs numbers for the assassin: Stats B4, Knives B4, Brawling B3.

The leader smiles, a very predatory smile, and steps back, waving another member of the group forward with a finger stretched out to his side. “Manis, you’re up. Give him his revenge!”

Manis steps forward, a smallish man with thick arms and black leather cuffs around his wrists. He doesn’t say a word, just pulls out his knife and readies his stance.

I draw my knife and stand in front of him, ready to fight for my life.

We have weapons of the same length, so there’s no need to roll to engage. I have 4 actions, he has 4 actions. I’m going to script: V1: Avoid, Strike V2: Counterstrike V3: Block.
He is going to script: Strike: 9S, Avoid: 9H, Strike: 6D, Counterstrike.
First volley draw: 9S, so it’s a Avoid v. Strike.

He lunges at me with a wheeze and I try to dart out of the path of his knife.

He rolls Knives and I roll my Speed. His roll: 2, 2, 3, 6. My roll: 4, 4, 5, 6.

I dart to the side and roll under his thrusting arm, coming around slightly behind him. “You’ll have to do better than that!” I say to him.

We both have a second action this volley. His action card is: 6D, Counterstrike. I scripted a Strike. I’m rolling my Knives B3 with Brawling FoRK. Roll: 3, 3, 5, 6. He’ll separate his B4 Knives into 2 attack & 2 defense. Roll: a 4, 4, d 1, 1. We both got two successes with attack and no defense. That’ll hit and we’ll both spend the extra to bump it up to a Mark hit. My hit on him is a B6. His hit on me is a B5. That’s a Light wound for both of us.

That requires a Steel test for both of us. I roll B5 v. Ob 6. He rolls B4 v. Ob 6. My roll: 2, 2, 4, 4, 5, 6, 6. His roll: 2, 3, 3, 4, 6. He hesitates for 4 volleys. I hesitate for one action.

He whirls around, slashing across my thighs as he uses his other hand to try and block my knife hand away from him. I bring my knife up underneath his blocking hand and catch him in the armpit. Pain explodes across my thighs as his blade slices through my skin and into the muscle just as I feel the warm flow of blood from my strike under his arm. He lets loose a wheezing cry of pain as he drops his knife, falls to the ground and begins scooting away from me, his healthy arm stretched out towards me.

The pain whites out my vision as I stand, gasping for a moment. Once my eyes clear, my rage burns hot and I step forward, grabbing his hair and driving my knife into the side of his neck repeatedly as the coward cries out, in a garbled wheeze. After the fourth stab, he stops moving. After the sixth, I feel arms grab me from behind and the leader’s voice saying softly into my ear, “It’s over. You’ve got your revenge. Welcome to our guild!”

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