Who wants to be an ulfire Mamluk? Toxic Tartary by post
Is anyone interested in a pbp flailsnails game set in Toxic Tartary (previously Baikonur*)? Updates would be every few days and it wouldn’t stop you flailsnailing elsewhere (dimensional gates are a feature, not a bug). No G+ or other special accounts necessary: I’d set up a blog for it and update there, you can enter your actions in comments or email me if they’re secret.
The setting is like Girl Genius played absolutely straight, with industrialized magic in place of steampunk, and golden-domed Samarkand and doomed, brooding Tashkent in place of pseudo-Germany. You don’t play sparks – they plot from their guild-halls in the citadels – but otherwise the power level is wide open: it’s the sort of game where you might become Khan of all the Uighurs or Rajah of Shangri-La, only to have it all taken away the next week by giant brass Timurid mecha-tigers. System is ODnD-compatible, hot-rodded down to the bone, Searchers of the Unknown-style.
Character classes (hewing close to Jeff’s Platonic model); everyone’s built off a fighting man template, plus:
Nomad: whether you’re a man-stealing Turcoman, a Uighur hill-pirate or a Mongolian hordesman it’s all about three things – honour, horses (or camels or ponies) and really bad Arrak. You herd sheep, raid towns for slaves and scavenge rocket parts from the desert. You live by wits and cunning, and spurn dentistry and plumbing. Think barbarian and ranger skills plus horse archery. You have a big fractious clan full of unreliable allies and rivals, all hoping to become the man who hands out the jezzails when it’s time to sack civilisation, again.
Soldier: if you’re a mamluk then you’re a cleaned-up version of the Nomad – literate, presentable and with a promotion ladder that runs all the way up to provincial governor. If you’re a free lance you could be mafia, religious warrior or pilgrim guide, protecting caravans from the desert pirates, or a test pilot or marine on the War Machines. You fight with discipline, know your artillery and get wary respect from the townsfolk. People won’t assume you’re a murderhobo – even when your sort periodically rise up and kill the caliph, it’s generally to replace him with someone better organized and/or more ambitious. Think pilot/driver/camel-jockey skills, plus field-stripping cannonry, some strategy and tactics, organizing locals…
Thaumatechnobricoleur: they said you were mad at the Academy – but not quite mad enough for promotion, so you’re out getting experience in the field. Any sort of experience that glows in the dark and isn’t bolted down too securely. Sure, your core competencies are all occult-technical mumbo-jumbo, but you’re learning the vital supplementary skills of espionage, larceny and extortion. Don’t think Magic User/Thief; more like alchemist/researcher/spy. You know your ancient languages but your education can seem distressingly tightly focused to scholars of a more ethical-social bent, like the…
Lawgiver: right across the Abode of Peace, from sea to shining mountains, there is One Law… which nobody around here understands. So they get you in to advise them with your Opinions (although they reserve the right to ignore you if they think you’re full of it). They also press you for stories and news of the wider world, open their libraries so you can enrich the mind of man by adding your experience, and bring you those transparent blue tablets with the worrisome inscriptions to interpret. Think part priest, part detective, part Cthulhu bookworm, part judge. Comes in avuncular mentor, wild-eyed poetry-spewing mystic and saint/fakir/mountebank flavours.
Merchant, or smuggler or ambassador: you work for one of the noble merchant houses of Cairo, or you’re a cog in the great transcontinental Armenian Karimi trading machine, pushing pepper and potash to the petty princelings out Beyond The River, or you’re an emissary of the Khwarezmshah, bargaining under the table during the annual tribute drive. Whoever the boss is, they’re far away and you’re the man on the ground. Your most important trade item is information and you live and die by your mouth – from bribing port officials to politely threatening bandit lords in their throne-yurts, it’s all about judging how far you can push, what you need to know, and who wants to change the status quo.
Carcosan: deep in the badlands, out beyond the Plain of Glass and the Sinking Pits, there are great tracts of land where nothing makes sense any more, where the men come colour-coded and everyone’s in the slave lottery and they don’t ride camels but something… else. Is Carcosa in Khazakhstan? Or is it some other place altogether, just loosely connected by magical gates? Even the Carcosans don’t seem to know. Use Jeff’s chargen as is.
Green Man of Barsoom: 12 feet tall, four arms, tusks and intolerance for weakness. Their gate opened ages ago and they rushed in on Red Man promises of easy plunder and a retirement plan involving Jasoomian head-polo and iced sherbets. Then the gate closed. In some sense they’re all searching for a way back home, but in another they’ve actually become quite good at extorting protection money and securing the borders of petty baronies and magico-military installations. Racial advantages mostly obvious – these guys are the most focused on STR and CON out of everyone.
Entertainer: in a world where nomads and settlers eye each other with suspicion, where every city guards its secrets, where the men of Samarkand say “if you meet a snake and a Bukhariot, kill the Bukhariot” and those of Bukhara say the same of the Samarkandis, where every tribe of nomads thinks itself the only rightful owner of the desert, what does it take to become the most denigrated, the most shunned, the least respectable of all who drift their short span beneath the sun?
Mime. Or juggling, or tumbling, or play-acting or music or any other kind of entertaining-for-hire.
But it pays well. And it gets you access to all the richest houses and caravanserais, and if you’re a lissome young dancer with your wits about you, it can propel you up the social ladder like no other job on earth. And although everyone from preacher to warlord to witch-king may denounce you, they’ll generally spare you when they torch the city – because you’re not dangerous, right? You don’t care about politics, right? At least they can stay your execution for just one more night of storytelling.
Payoff for getting this far: Toynbee’s Tale of The Airman and the Nomad, just the sort of encounter I’d love to have in Toxic Tartary, which it’s hard to imagine having in Carcosa.
* part of my reason for wanting to do this is to nail the setting down. Like, deciding on a name and sticking to it would be a start. If you play, you’ll be helping to do that.