Fanseeth: Knife Fighting

There have been a lot of diffusion of knifefighting styles among the Fanseeth over the ages, so you’ll find every style among every group in different degrees. These usually also involve arguments about what each version does or does not show, or how much it represents reality, or how it isn’t supposed to represent reality, whether and to what degree it can be used to settle disputes, whether it is a reasonable way to spend one’s time, or any number of heated debates on the dueling traditions (and if it gets heated enough, the debate itself can lead to a duel).

Most children among the Fanseeth grow up with a least a passive knowledge of knifework, though how much they’ve actually practiced varies widely.

Thrusting is usually frowned upon for these styles, since it is so often highly lethal when done with an actual knife.

There are four primary arts used in duels, but each has a lot of individual variations: Gisal, Takni, Jasha, and Bowwi.

(Note to players: These are starting places only. Feel free to add, subtract, multiply, or divide as needed for your play preferences. If you want to engage in knife-fighting at the upcoming Fanseeth event, please review the knifefighting mechanics for The Darkest Space.)

Gisal — The Tournament

This style is popular for entertainment and for betting. It originated as a spectator sport for the Vordur, but now all of the cultures enjoy a good Gisal match. It is among the oldest arts found among the Fanseeth, but has evolved significantly over time.

An area is cordoned off on the floor, stepping outside of that area is a loss of the round. All cuts to critical spots (defined as inside of the arms or legs—but not the outside—along with any cuts to the torso) are considered “points” and after each point the participants reset to opposite sides of the field.

Usually done to a best-of-n-rounds, though sometimes different values of points are awarded for each area, and instead of stopping to reset, they continue fighting until that number of points is reached.

Betting is frowned upon in polite company but is perfectly legal and very, very commonly practiced.

Takni — The Academic Art

A common sport among young, educated Vordur that have a lot of money and not a lot of sense, the goal of this fighting is to lay a small, shallow cut with a specially modified knife along the deltoid (most commonly) of the other person. It is widely practiced in schools, sometimes with official sanction (the Fanseeth equivalent of a gym class). In this style it is very common to use a cloak or half-cape in one’s other hand, which is used to bind the opponents knife for a more effective cut.

This cut will sometimes be encouraged by the recipient to scar over, resulting in what is called a “smite” which may be displayed. These are often considered a mark of honor, at least among participants.

The art is studied heavily and treatise on the proper way to engage in it have been evaluated in depth.

Jasha — The Dance

In the early days of Fanseeth, knives were forbidden to prisoners. Additionally, before the advent of safer blades and more sport-like versions, fighting in general was considered a waste of resources.

In this style two opponents move at a roughly equivalent speed, working to match speeds with one another while they make cuts and thrusts at the other person, never actually landing the blow.

The goal is to make an attack on the other person that the person acknowledges as having gotten past their guard.

Almost never done for tournaments, this form is almost exclusively practiced by the Hakal and in mining-focused clades.

Bowwi — Settling Disputes

Based on an old legend from the origins of the Fanseeth, this is a form of duel that arose as a way to rapidly settle disputes between clades and is still widely used for dispute arrangements, especially friendly ones. It’s also frequently used as a legal resolution to difficult problems between clades that don’t want to get a higher level of government involved.

Two fighters either clasp hands or hold on to a piece of cloth and then attempt to land a designated number of cuts (or touches, or whatever equivalent) on the opponent.

These cuts are usually limited in where they can be landed—never on the arms that are bound, nor on the leg on that side—and is often fought with each fighter’s primary hands being so bound, leaving the blade in their off hands.

The Darkest Space: Knife Fighting Mechanics

For today’s #MechanicsMonday, let’s talk about what knife fighting will look like in the upcoming Fanseeth game!

See, knife fighting is sort of a thing among the Fanseeth. Actual dueling with actual knives was outlawed in the early days, but there remain multiple competitions and sports that involve it, as well as duels to settle issues—especially between young people and between clades. These duels are seldom done with real knives, and even when they are the consequences are rarely directly fatal. Often ways of simply marking the opponent are used, with some agreed-upon bet set ahead of time.

We’ll talk more about the hows and whys of these fights in an upcoming #WorldbuildingWednesday, but for now: let’s talk about the out-of-game mechanics of knife fighting for the upcoming game, The Darkest Space.

For the purposes of the game there are four guiding principles:

  • No real weapons. None. Zip. Zero. Zilch. No real injuries. Weapon approximations should also total less than one foot (12 inches) in length (pommel to tip).
  • All fights *must* be with “lightest possible touch” as the guiding principle, and no thrusting with weapons is allowed (this is cultural as well, more on that later). No cuts to the head, hands, or neck either.
  • Any contest has to be agreed to by both parties, and the blades or blade facsimiles you are using must be both inspected by the opposing party and approved of. You assume all risks (we as the LARP organizers don’t assume them), so make extra sure that you are comfortable with the person you are fighting, the rules of the engagement, and the weapons being used.
  • Any fight needs to have at least one volunteer stand by as safety marshal who is briefed on the engagement, consenting, who has inspected the “weapons” and consented to their use as well, and who can be trusted to keep people out of the engagement (if you negotiate a party barging in that’s another matter, but they should be apprised of it). IG they can have a role as a second, a marshal (so they are a marshal both IG and OOG), or even as a bet taker, just so long as their focus is on the fight while the fight is taking place.

Basically: the emphasis is on small, light cuts. Frequently to called targets and/or at reduced speed and/or with other restrictions that are more IG than OOG.

We’ll talk more about the IG culture and rules in a later post, but for the purpose of this post: Before you challenge someone, make sure you have an out-of-game consent negotiation as to what you are going for. What the rules of your contest are, what the potential outcomes are, and what you are going to be using.

Examples of good choices for weapon facsimiles, depending on what you are doing and who you are fighting:

  • Padded boffer daggers from basically any of the local boffer LARPs. This is probably the best choice for the majority of our players.
  • Rubber, plastic, or even wood practice blades (talk to the LARP organizers if you want recommendations).
  • Sidewalk chalk! This is extremely effective for showing “cuts” and works exceptionally well if you think of it as “showcasing a duel of skill” rather than “representing a cut with a real weapon.”
  • Latex daggers, of the style you see in basically any local boffer LARP tend to not be great choices for this style of fighting, but you can use them if both parties are comfortable.

You may want to bring multiple types, so that if someone isn’t comfortable with one type you can use a different type.

If you are looking to duel, depending on the style that interests you (or that is used in your clade), you may also want to bring:

  • A piece of cloth for both parties to hold in their primary hand (while trying to cut with a blade in their offhand).
  • A few lengths of rope (I like P.O.S.H. rope for this purpose, but any rope will work) or other form of marker to designate an area that the fight has to stay within.
  • Marker flags for “keeping score.”

Poor choices of weapon facsimiles (consider these banned):

  • Metal practice blades or SCA-style metal daggers.
  • PVC with no padding or just wrapped in tape.
  • Permanent marker, since it tends to get into people’s clothing.

Hopefully this gives you some ideas for the upcoming game! Let us know if you have any questions.

Fanseeth: Religion

The Fanseeth’s religion is tied very much to the place and the people. It is tied heavily into the moons they inhabit and to the history of the Fanseeth. They also have a lot of rituals, usually administered by a lay-priest (someone who is a member of the population at large who has chosen to administer the rituals) but sometimes by people for whom that is their full profession. This collection of beliefs, rituals, and practices is called Vaettirveg by non-Fanseeth scholars, but for the Fanseeth, it’s just the way things are.

Every individual clade and moon will have their own specific regional spirits and structure. Everything is viewed to have a spirit, called a vaettir: every ship (skipvaettir), every station (starvaettir), every moon (tangvaettir), every mountain on that moon (landvaettir). Some of those vaettir are called Light or Dark, but in truth all of them are viewed to be entities with their own agendas, and none can be considered wholly good or wholly evil. Many are also thought to have both Light and Dark aspects: what they give in one hand, they take away in the other, for good or for ill.

Each clade or group will give offerings to the vaettir in their own way, with the most common offerings being of cool, clean water. They are most frequently offered to the vaettir—who then consumes the essence of the thing—and then consumed by the offering parties (assuming that the thing being offered is something that can be eaten), who partake of the physical essence of the thing. Nothing is wasted, nothing is lost.

Vaettir

Vaettir—no matter their aspects—should not be viewed as wholly light or wholly dark, but rather as beings of varying complexity with agendas of their own. They are often said to embody the spirit of whatever it is they represent, which may be very simple or very complex in its nature.

It isn’t entirely certain to any observer or practitioner whether the vaetter actually exist in a literal, tangible sense, but they are widely accepted to exist in some psychic or spiritual form, and rituals to honor and placate are deeply woven into the Fanseeth culture. For example:

  • Offerings and prayers are given before an expedition is undertaken and again when it comes to a conclusion.
  • Public ceremonies mark events of public importance (everything from elections to births) and also mark out the Fanseeth concept of a year, providing a shared community and continuity of culture.
  • It is generally viewed that the Vaettir will hear statements and may take them as a challenge, and so better to soothe things over with offerings (the way in United States culture we “knock on wood”).

Light and Dark

Light and Dark are important aspects to the Vaettir. A Light Vaettir embodies the principles of light, heat, and warmth. A Dark vaettir is associated with cold, darkness, and death. Most vaettir are categorized into one or the other, but some—especially greater vaettir (more on that in a moment)—may embody both principles in what are called “aspects.”

While in general life is associated with life and darkness with death, it is important to remember that heat can kill. Light can sear. Coolness and even death can be a blessing. To the Fanseeth, these are inherent traits rather than moral judgements.

While these forces work against each other and the Light vaettir tend to be more friendly to the survival of the Fanseeth people than the Dark vaettir, balance is always necessary and both aspects are necessary.

Ancestor Veneration

The Fanseeth do not practice ancestor veneration in the same way as, say, the Children of Earth do, and there is nothing in Fanseeth practice that would be considered in the same genre.

Pantheon

There are a few vaettir who could be thought of as deities to the Fanseeth. These can be thought of as the vaettir of concepts and are referred to as Greater Vaettir.

Some of the major and widely recognized ones are:

Kanshar, Lady of the Rulers

Lady of the Rulers. Guider of the Wardens. Protector of the People. She is considered to be a severe deity who is called upon in times of hard decisions. When survival is on the line and each decision may be life or death, she is frequently given offerings. She is also the one called upon in the election of a new Warden. Offerings are usually purified water and the meals eaten before decisions are made.

Her light and dark aspects are extreme, but she is generally portrayed as being between the light and the darkness.

Feix, Keeper of Spaces

Keeper of Spaces. Ey guard hearth and home, providing shelter and refuge for those who are accused or those who are hard on their luck. Ey watch over births and deaths and all familial or in-clade disputes. Ey also are said to protect the doors of the clades, keeping out unwelcome elements and influences. Eir domain also extends to sex, protecting children, and are said to love music and dance.

Ey are usually portrayed in their light aspect; eir dark aspect is about barricaded doors, protective shields, and keeping out undesireable elements. The dark aspect is usually only taught as part of an esoteric tradition that few practice.

Shenwa, Guide of the Dead

Ruler of the Passage, Devourer of Corpses. He takes as an offering the essence of bodies before they are reprocessed. Said to love the scent of tree resin, he is particularly drawn to the smell of myrrh. Also the Lord of the Outcasts, he ensures those who are lost to the community are not wasted and is called upon for guidance by those who have been outcast from their clade.

Usually portrayed in a dark aspect, his light aspect focuses on new growth from decay from the recycling of the physical body and its spirit.

Written by: David H. Clements

Navigating Consent-Based Play

Temet Nosce is a consent-based larp where we strive for collaborative story built out of mutual trust. The design emphasizes the principle that players are more important than games: the emotional safety of players is more important than story, plot, or consequence. At all four prequel events, we will workshop consent mechanics which are used to pre-negotiate interpersonal conflicts, romantic interaction, and other intense scenes.

One question that we hear from larpers with a traditional U.S. boffer larp background about consent-based design is this: “How do you make someone fight with you?” The answer is: you don’t. You ask or negotiate it, and they can say no. Then you get to choose some other approach.

In traditional U.S. boffer larp, sometimes it feels like “staff versus player”; in many U.S. parlor larps, it can feel like “player versus player”. Staff is out to kill your character and you’re trying to survive the game world; even if that isn’t actually staff’s intent, it’s often player perception. Players are out to get their character to become more powerful, often at the expense of other characters – even if, again, that isn’t the design or intent. This competitive style of play can be exciting, satisfying, and enjoyable for many people. But this is not the design of Temet Nosce.

In consent-based larp design, staff and players are working together to maximize play and story. The focus is on the story, character development, character relationships, and the emotional experience. No one is killing your character without your permission. So what do you want to happen to your character, and how can you collaborate with others to achieve that? What experiences do you want to have, and how do you make that happen? If you didn’t get the experience you wanted or it wasn’t what you expected, how do you handle that?

Player-staff responsibility

Staff responsibilities in Temet Nosce involve providing workshops to facilitate character development and story negotiation, as well as to train players in safety and consent mechanics. Staff also facilitate debriefs after the event to process the game experience.  Beyond that, staff are there to mediate out-of-game disputes, hold players to the code of conduct, and provide non-player characters, props, setting material, and player character information.

Player responsibilities are being aware of their personal boundaries, needs, and wants to the best of their ability, and communicating these as needed in a clear, direct way. Players are expected to use and respect safety mechanics. in order to participate actively in the game, players have the responsibility to initiate story interactions with the game environment and other characters. In other words, players are as much responsible for their game experience as the staff are, if not more so.

Limits of consent-based play

Obviously no one can control everything that happens in the game environment. We cannot create a safe space, only a safer space. You can only allow or deny consent for what happens directly to your character – so you can choose for your character to survive the whole game, but another player might choose for their character to die halfway through, which might impact you or your character emotionally. Two characters might get into a heated argument in your presence when you didn’t want to be around an argument. These are limits to consent-based play.

What you do have power over is how you choose to engage. If two people are arguing, you can find an in-game reason to leave the room – or you can simply use “lookdown” to remove yourself from the room. If a character died and you aren’t up for engaging with that, you can choose for your character to not care much about it, or to avoid dealing with the death – even if what you think your character would be most likely to do is cry over the body.

Any person has multiple ways they can respond to a stimulus. Even as a simulationist player who plays as close to your character’s essence as possible, there is more than one option for how your character would realistically respond. You can steer towards what is most interesting for you, for the story, and/or what is most enjoyable (or least stressful) for you as a player.

Making the most of your game

If you get to choose whether your character lives or dies, and the major things they succeed or fail at… then how do you make the most of your story?

  • Know what’s fun for you, and play towards it.
  • Know what you don’t enjoy, and steer away from that.
  • Play generously. Learn what other players want and look for opportunities to help them with that. Invite people into your story, and be interested in theirs, too.
  • “Play to lose”, or at least play to maximize story. Play for drama. Failing at things, struggling with goals, falling down before you reach the metaphorical finish line… all of this makes for way more interesting story and roleplay than succeeding easily at everything.
  • Ask yourself: What do I want from this scene or interaction? Ask that of others if you feel stuck, too. If you make a scene request, it’s also the first thing staff will ask you. You can say “surprise me”, or something vague like “emotional intensity”, or something specific like “I want to find out more about the creepy artifact”. You might not always get exactly what you want, but you’ll get closer to it than if you don’t ask at all.

Play the game you signed up for

The game is designed to evoke a certain mood, theme, and experience; this is spelled out in the event sign-up page and the design document. By playing the game, you are opting into those themes. Play the game you signed up for; help enrich the experience of everyone around you by staying in-genre and playing up the game’s themes with your character. Characters were written to evoke the game’s stated themes, and the events of the setting add to that.

If you want a cyberpunk revolution sort of adventure, play Operation: ReForge, the Etamui event in March. Don’t expect the horror/mystery game The Darkest Space (which you can register for now!), set in the Fanseeth system, to fit that desire.

In summary…

  • Players are more important than games.
  • Know your limits and don’t ignore them.
  • Communicate your needs, wants, and boundaries.
  • Absolute safety cannot be guaranteed, but we can collaborate to  create as safe an environment of trust and consent as possible.
  • Collaboration over competition.
  • Play generously.
  • Play the game you signed up for.
  • Embrace ambiguity and uncertainty.
  • Play to lose, or at least play for drama.
  • Players are more important than games.

Temet Nosce Prequels: The Pilot Episode

One of our priorities at Temet Nosce Larp is providing strong expectation management. We do better at this in some areas than others, and the feedback after our first prequel, Children of Earth: Grand Assembly illustrated where we needed to expand our expectation management and communication.

We are running four prequel events, each centering on a different primary world in the Temet Nosce universe. The first, Grand Assembly, focused on the Children of Earth. The second event is January 27, 2018 and centers around the Fanseeth; registration for The Darkest Space is open now. Operation: ReForge, all about the Etamui, is scheduled for March 31, 2018; the as-yet unnamed Nurani game is planned for sometime in summer 2018.

The purpose of the prequel games is multi-fold:

  1. Set up the story for the main event: a short series of beta events in 2018, and then the official opening of Temet Nosce after the beta events are complete.
  2. Establish player culture through workshops, debriefs, and story-intensive events.
  3. Provide an opportunity for players to have an in-depth experience with all four worlds so as to better understand the setting and get a feel for what they want to play long-term.
  4. Elaborate on and worldbuild the four different worlds, and provide an opportunity for players to invest in and contribute to the worldbuilding.

In this post, I’m going to elaborate on the first point: setting up the story.

A player commented that Grand Assembly felt much like the pilot episode of a sci-fi television series: setting the stage for future episodes, providing glimpses of a greater threat, revealing the presence of mysteries but not solving them. This is a perfect metaphor for exactly what the prequel events are intended to be.

The four prequels can be seen as a four-part pilot episode for Temet Nosce.

“Television networks use pilots to discover whether an entertaining concept can be successfully realized. After seeing this sample of the proposed product, networks will then determine whether the expense of additional episodes is justified. They are best thought of as prototypes of the show that is to follow, because elements often change from pilot to series.” –Wikipedia

The prequels are both episodic (fully closed stories with their own arc) and serial (setting up an overarching story). You should be able to complete your character’s story arc within the single episode of the prequel, as these are not designed to be repeatable characters, but the arc of the setting will not be closed in the prequel.

As an example: in Grand Assembly, the gathered Children of Earth from three different ships and factions arrived, met each other, traded stories along with futures, options, and stocks, developed romances, and arranged transfers between ships.Two characters died during the Grand Assembly and a memorial service was held for them. The Assembly ended with an announcement of the new trade routes for each ship. The episode arc was the Grand Assembly itself.

However, mysteries were building in the background. Reports trickled in of ships lost in space: missing ships, or ships that showed up with their entire crew missing, or ships with their entire crew braindead and comatose, all across the outskirts of the major star systems. There was no resolution to this in the episode itself, and there was no way to figure out what was behind these strange tragic events. That was intentional; this creeping mystery is a setup for future games.

In The Darkest Space, expect there to be both an episode arc and the setup for the serial arc. There will be mysteries you can’t solve neatly in a single episode, and there will be problems you can solve within the episode. Look, however, to your character’s arc, as you have the power to choose much of what that single-episode character story entails. What do you want to accomplish in that time? What experiences do you want to have? Work with your fellow players to work towards those goals. Or, if you’re more of a seat-of-your-pants sort of player, just play with what comes up in the moment of the game, though we strongly recommend at least planning some character dynamics with your fellow players ahead of time!

Fanseeth: Moons and Settlements

With a few important exceptions, the Fanseeth live on a variety of small moons orbiting a gas giant.

There are numerous such moons and some of them are only barely inhabitable, requiring planetside stations to render them at all livable. Some of the larger moons maintain a thin but breathable atmosphere. Their environments are all rather hostile to human life. Most have a population ranging between a few thousand (though smaller “enclaves” do exist, they are generally not permanent settlements) to—in the case of the Nijan Hala—roughly 200 million (with tens of millions more in the station around it).

Following are some of the major or more important settlements.

The Nijan Hala (“Nijan”)

The largest moon and the primary Fanseeth settlement is called the Nijan Hala. Surrounded by a habitable ring station and protected by a magnetic field from the moon’s metal core, it provides a relatively stable surface environment (by Fanseeth standards).

It is from here that the Vordur oversee the remainder of the Fanseeth. This is the seat of the Warden and is also by far the most populous of the Fanseeth’s moons.

The population on the moon is divided into a series of clades—all relatively small (the largest is a few million people, and most are under ten thousand). While they are ostensibly allowed to elect their own leaders, most are functionally overseen by a member of the Vordur.

Life has a tendency to be rather political on Nijan Hala’s surface, and as a result of violent Fanseeth politics, lifespans tend to be shorter than they might be otherwise.

The ring station, known as Omnira Prime, is almost entirely populated by Hakal, Kappi, and Bondi who do not like the deeply political nature of living down below or who have jobs that routinely take them away from The Nijan Hala. It is a working station, with ships routinely docking and leaving to the other moons. When the Children of Earth visit, this is where they tend to focus their trade.

Aiye Titun

The first home of the Fanseeth, before they were the Fanseeth. This is where they settled before staging off to the other, more habitable, more hospitable moons.

Aiye Titun is a barren, volcanically active moon whose atmosphere contains significant amounts and carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. There were stations on the surface left behind that have largely rotted away with time and lack of maintenance. There are also some underground habitats that have long since been broken open to the elements.

It is now uninhabited.

Mostly.

Veen

Veen is an icy moon dotted with cryovolcanos. There are habitable stations covering the the surface, each with a small population and connected to the others largely through subterranean tunnels. Most of the population here are members of the Hakal, though the Kappi also have a significant presence.

They mostly harvest resources from their own moon and send it on to the rest of the Fanseeth, producing a non-insignificant amount of the fuel used by the Kappi’s ships among the rest of the Fanseeth.

Veen maintains a semi-autonomous government from the rest of the Fanseeth, established in their Charter. While still falling under the auspices of the Warden, they answer first to an elected member of their own referred to as The Watchkeeper. Each individual clade on the moon sends a representative who then collectively vote on the Watchkeeper, who remains until the representatives come together in a vote-of-no-confidence. They also may not serve longer than 20 years.

Coincidentally, they are also the only group of the Fanseeth outside of the main government to maintain an organized military (mostly in the form of a navy). Just to maintain tradition, of course.

Kala Station

One of the only permanently inhabited space stations of the Fanseeth, Kala Station orbits the Fanseeth gas giant in a high polar orbit. It has a lot of room but a low permanent population (mostly of Bondi), serving mainly as a rendezvous point for Hakal miners on their way to an uninhabited moon or asteroid for a multi-month stint. They travel out to where they will be doing their mining—carried by Kappi pilots—and come back to here before returning to their home moons.

What Kala exceeds at is processing. They have extremely efficient processing facilities to refine and store the elements brought back by the Fanseeth, and manufacturing facilities for turning the raw materials into resources suitable for transport to moonside, along with the magnetic catapults necessary to send those resources near enough to the moons to be picked up by the Kappi.

Others

Many of the moons of the Fanseeth have some presence—be it small or large, permanent or transient—but for the majority of them that presence is entirely transient, miners whoa re cycled in and out for short stints.

Above are just some of the more major settlements, but it certainly isn’t an exhaustive list. Some of the major features of Fanseeth settlements tend to be:

  • A mixture of Hakal, Kappi, and Bondi groups with a few members of the Vordur.
  • Population is divided into a series of smaller clades which live together. These are not split along family lines, but frequently do fall largely along cultural lines.
  • Usually a Vordur leader, but when that leader is not Vordur they are almost invariably a member of the Bondi. Veen is a notable exception in this regard.
  • Clade decisions are kept local to the clade. Moon decisions are kept local to the moon. Decisions are usually handled as locally as is feasible and bringing in outsiders to a dispute is frowned upon. Periodically different clades in one region (up to the size of the entire moon) will come together to discuss some situation or to trade, swap news, or otherwise make routine decisions.
Written by David H. Clements

Children of Earth: Economy

Today’s post is both about the commerce and economy of the Children of Earth, and also about mechanics for the prequel game, Grand Assembly.

Before we get too far into this, keep in mind that these things are here to enhance your play. If something seems like it will get in the way of that—breathe, and then figure out what will work for you. You won’t break the game by changing things around to make them simpler if it adds to your enjoyment.

Economy

Each of the four primary cultures have a slightly different take on the matter of currency and money. The Children of Earth have to be able to not only navigate between these different systems, but do so in a way that maintains their autonomy and that allows for exceedingly long delays between transactions.

Thus, for the Children, they predominantly operate with three general types of transactions, which they buy and sell both to the cultures that they interact with and amongst each other. They have three devices that they use to negotiate this:

  • Stock
  • Futures
  • Options

The Children are traders first and foremost. They do not use a standardized representational currency, but instead talk in terms of trading goods and services both in the present and in the future.

To discuss each of these in turn, at a very high level:

Stock represents a unit of ownership in a ship or a fleet. No stocks pay dividends and most are passed down generation to generation within a single family. It is considered a great loss of face to sell stock you may own outside of the family, but it does happen when families or individuals run too hard down on their luck.

By way of example, you may own one (or many) unit(s) of stock which represents a unit of interest—ownership—in a ship. You may also have gambled that away because you were down on your luck… with the option to buy it back at a later date (more on that in a moment).

Futures represent an agreement to buy or sell something on a given date. So by way of example, you may have a Future that agrees to sell 100 gross of self-sealing stem bolts for a given amount of gold in 30 years (at the next grand assembly) to another family of Children. Now in 30 years they have to make sure that they have 100 gross of self sealing stem bolts and the other family has to make sure that they have enough gold to cover the deal.

These, of course, can be traded. So if I happen to have a good price on self-sealing stem-bolts, I might buy your Future by giving you 50 gallons of Nurani Drinking Vinegar which I don’t have another good way to get rid of. You, however, are on your way to one of the worlds around the Nurani, so you can make a tidy and quick profit off of it.

Futures may have penalties written into them or violation of them may involve being brought up for violation of the Merchant Law.

Finally, there are Options. Options represent the right to purchase (or sell) something on a given date for a certain amount, and if you don’t exercise it then it simply expires. So I may have the option to sell 100 gross of self-sealing stem bolts to a group of Fanseeth for a given amount of gold 30 years from now, but if I don’t exercise it then it simply expires, which means I have suffered a financial loss but at least I have not reneged on my agreement.

There are, of course, more complex versions of all of these, but that’s the high level version of them.

Note: If you are familiar with these devices in the real world be advised that I don’t want to be calculating Black-Scholes mid-game, so we are dramatically simplifying things and abusing the terminology slightly, e.g., our Futures are closer to Forwards, we’re avoiding the words ‘call’ and ‘put’, etc.

In-Game Mechanics

So what does this translate to in-game?

First, we will be giving each group and/or individual in-game a certain set of basic stock, options, and futures to play with that you picked up on your last trade route, which we’ll also be giving to you. None of these will be especially complex, but will give you a basic template to work with.

Second, we are emphasizing this as a Progressive style game in this regard. If you don’t like the hand you’ve been dealt, make something else up! If you want to play with being an unsuccessful trader who has bargained away some of their family stock, then don’t let the fact that we gave you a great set of options and futures and stock deter you! If you think you should be playing a well-to-do trader then by all means, add more stock, options, and futures. Make it up and have fun with it. You don’t need our permission. You won’t break the game.

If you want reassurances on this point, by all means come talk to us.

Third, on that note, make it as simple or as complex as you can have fun with. If you really, really want to play with complex options that follow a Bermuda option model and have futures that trade based on the average price of a commodity over time—go for it! If you want everything to be utterly simple, you can do that too.

If you want to consult either direction, please feel free to ping us.

Trade Routes

As to trade routes. Part of the goal of this assembly is establish who has what trade routes for the next cycle. You have what happened last time, but will that be what things look like next time?

The different parties will draw lots at the start of the game to determine the order of who chooses the trade routes. You can trade your place in line—so if you are 2nd and you want to sell your right to select your trade route to the person/group who is 4th (how else are you going to get 100 gross of self-sealing stem bolts?), then by all means do so. Everything is tradeable.

You can of course vary your route, make up an entirely new one, or whatever else strikes your fancy, but we’ll provide some basic defaults to make life easy if that’s not your sort of game.

Let us know if you have any questions!

Written by David H. Clements

Children of Earth: Angry Ghosts

An angry ghost is what happens when an ancestor is forgotten, dishonored, or angry for some reason. Among the Children of Earth, angry ghosts are believed to be the causes of many physical and psychological illnesses, ship malfunctions, and streaks of bad luck, among other ailments and unfortunate events.

Causes

The Children of Earth believe there are any number of reasons an ancestor might become an angry ghost.

Perhaps their family line died out so they are no longer receiving proper attention; to prevent this, families without children will sometimes adopt a child from a family with plenty of children, or become godparents, so that the roll of names in their ancestor shrine can be added to the ancestor shrine of their godchildren or adopted children and tended properly. Emergency adoption of ancestors also happens on existing Children of Earth ships when a ship is lost, as sometimes happens, because no one wants an entire ship full of angry ghosts finding their way to your fleet.

Perhaps the person died under suspicious or especially painful means. Maybe they died while trading on a planet, in which case they weren’t on the ship when they passed, and thus their spirit got confused and upset in trying to find its way to the ancestor shrine. Maybe they were murdered; it’s a rare thing among the Children, but not unheard of. Maybe they died of a terrible injury or illness, lingering on their deathbed for a long time before passing away, their spirit wracked with pain and confusion.

Perhaps – and this is the most commonly cited reason for an angry ghost – they are upset about something one of their descendents has done. Maybe the family has fallen out of prosperity or political favor, when it was powerful in the ancestor’s time. Maybe someone accidentally defiled the shrine. Maybe they disapprove of a descendant’s conduct, behavior, marriage, or choice of occupations.

Diagnosis

When someone suspects they are being haunted by an angry ghost, they call in an elder. Elders have lived long enough to know many of the ancestors when they were alive, and are believed to be closer to the ancestors due to their proximity to the end of their own lives. An elder will use a divination system of some kind: perhaps throwing dice, or reading with conquian cards, or entering a trance. They will interpret the meaning of their divination as indicating the presence or absence of an angry ghost, and no one dares seek a second opinion if they don’t like the results, because that would be incredibly disrespectful to the elder.

If the divination points to the absence of an angry ghost, the inquirer is told to take responsibility for their own mistakes or bad luck and not bother the elder about it. (If the story of the supposed haunting is clearly a case of someone making a mistake and wanting to pass it off on being plagued by a ghost, the elder might not even bother with a divination at all, and may tell the inquirer to stop wasting their time.) If the divination points to the presence of an angry ghost, then the elder strives to figure out what the ghost needs in order to be calmed and become a beneficent ancestor spirit again.

Remedies

If the elder can get information about what the angry ghost needs or wants, the remedy is pretty simple. Often, though, the solution is simply to try a variety of remedies. These vary wildly by ship and fleet, but some common ones are as follows.

  • Funeral: The deceased’s name is removed from the ancestor shrine. A second funeral ritual is performed with the haunted people and anyone available who knew or was related to the deceased. Their name and deeds are read aloud, everyone shares stories and memories of the deceased, offerings are given, and the deceased’s name is added back onto the ancestor shrine. This is the funerary practice of most Children of Earth ships; it’s done again to remind the ancestor that they are dead, they are honored, and they should join the ancestors in peaceful rest at the ancestor shrine.

  • Feast of the Dead: If the identity of the angry ghost (or ghosts) is unknown, the Children might hold a feast of the dead. In this case, they are making offerings to the unknown and forgotten ancestors. Most ships have a shrine to these unknown ancestors, just to cover their bases, and the shrine is tended by the elders, the captain, and anyone else who wants to do so for the possible luck or favor. At a feast of the dead, everyone on the ship makes offerings to the unknown ancestors, and there is much merrymaking, music, performance, and storytelling to try to earn the favor of the unknown ones.

  • Purification: Anyone plagued by an angry ghost may try purification and misdirection to rid themselves of the ghost. This is best done in conjunction with placation attempts like offerings, a funeral, or a feast of the dead. Different ships have their own purification rituals, but this may include wearing your formal clothing while your usual everyday clothing is thoroughly cleaned, or it may mean transferring to another ship for a while, or fasting and meditating in front of the ancestor shrine for a time. Perhaps the person wears their clothing inside-out to confuse the angry ghost, or disguises their face with nanocosmetics, or takes on a different name.

  • Substitution: Sometimes, the Children of Earth believe, the ghost wants to be in a body again. This is often believed to be the case when someone seems to be possessed. The ghost is invited into the body of a catten, which is especially fortunate when a family needs a fourth family member in order to have children (or if the ghost is upset because a family has had children without having a full family unit); the ancestor-possessed catten can stand in for a fourth family member until such time as the family finds someone living. Even if a ghost marriage is not feasible, the catten is treated as if it were the ancestor in truth, and welcomed as an elder.

Ghost stories

Every ship has its ghost story, and often multiple stories. Some examples follow below.

  • The crew of the Armis Intrepid fills the stories of the Great Fleets. When the Children of Earth were newly among the stars, the Great Fleets sometimes commandeered ships that flew alone. The Armis Intrepid was one of those that the Mercatalin Fleet commandeered via deception, with broken promises of protection and trade. Back in those days, mercantile law hadn’t yet been established, and the Great Fleets were more cutthroat and intolerant of competition; the captain of the Intrepid objected when she found out that Mercatalin wasn’t ever planning on helping them but was instead going to replace her with their own crew. Her Mercatalin replacement killed her, and her crew fought for her and were slain in turn. The Armis Intrepid then suffered every possible malady in spacefaring history: illness, accidents, getting lost, lurching too soon out of relativistic speed, injury, and so on. It was eventually scrapped for its parts, which were incorporated into many of the different Great Fleets ships… and the restless, angry spirits of the Intrepid linger with those parts, still trying to get their revenge, spreading illness and misery wherever they can. Great Fleets members sometimes report seeing faceless figures in the mirror, or strangers standing in one particular spot on the ship while watching them expressionlessly, gone when the member takes a second look.

    The Sponsored also tell the tales of the Armis Intrepid but believe them to be sympathetic figures. Some even include the Intrepid in their ancestor shrines as cultural ancestors, and encourage them to make trouble for the Great Fleets.

  • Then there’s the United Fleets tale of the Ghost Mechanic, believed to be a mechanic who died horribly of mysterious means while working in the engine room. He haunts the engines of ships, still trying to do his job, trying to fix whatever problem he was working on when he died. Unfortunately, that often means he creates the problem in the engine first. Many engine problems are blamed on the Ghost Mechanic, as well as any mysterious noises in the ship’s inner workings. Living mechanics sometimes offer additional incense in the engine room, or keep a small shrine to the Ghost Mechanic to try to placate him.
  • There’s also the story of Fractured Sesha, particularly common in Elder Caravans stories. She appears in the transitions from ordinary speed to relativistic speed and back again, her mouth open in a scream, her body strangely proportioned and moving irregularly. If you meet her eyes, it’s said, she’ll try to possess you in her attempt to escape from the disjointed space between relativistic and ordinary time. If you’re possessed, you will fall ill and you’ll be prone to shakiness and even seizures; only by purifying yourself during the next transition will you be able to get free of Fractured Sesha. Some people of the Elder Caravans put gauze or dark glasses over their eyes during transition to protect themselves from possession.

Children of Earth: Style and Costuming

General Children of Earth styles

Rich colors and textures are preferred over plain elegance among the Children of Earth; the vastness of space is stark and silent enough as it is. All genders wear accessories and adornments, and every adult wears a sash or scarf tied to indicate their gender.

Weight matters on the constrained space of a ship. Possessions eat up space that could have been cargo. Nobody owns more clothes than they wear on a regular basis. As a rule, a person will wear the entirety of their wardrobe during the course of any given week. Temperature from one area of the ship to another depends heavily on which equipment is there, though, so for anyone who moves around the ship, layers are key. A light, breathing bottom layer forms the base, and protects the middle garments, so that as little laundry as possible needs done on a regular basis. Layers of varying weight and shape are added and subtracted on top. Layers should not be flowing. That’s impractical around heavy machinery and in tight spaces.

Long travel-times between trade destination means plenty of time to develop and practice handicrafts. Everyone develops an artistic skill, whether that be entertaining your shipmates with storytelling or music, or in creating something beautiful and unique out of available materials. As such, there’s a strong tendency towards embroidery, beadwork, and other embellishment of clothing. Garments quickly become heirlooms.

As such, if your mother’s father put hundreds of hours into embellishing a garment, you’re not throwing it away. Refitting, repurposing, cutting the beadwork off of one garment to sew it onto another are all typical and traditional. It would not be unusual for a Child of Earth, when complimented on a garment, to regale you with the tales of the three different relatives whose work adorns the cuffs, the hem, and the collar.

Heavy jewelry, on the other hand is unusual, and largely frowned upon as vainglorious and impractical. Plenty of stories circulating about that neutrois the one time who lost their finger because their ring got crushed, or great uncle so-and-so whose necklace got caught in the equipment and almost did him in.

Common motifs

  • Geometric shapes
  • Representations of ancestral trade routes
  • Chemical compositions or representations of goods the family takes pride in or specializes in
  • Planetary systems of significance, either sentimental or commercial.

Different color schemes, trends, patterns, and themes are observable within individual ships, in part due to the passing down of garments. A trend can span generations, as the fruits of a particularly fruitful indigo shipment or an ancestor’s love of metallic embroidery threads saturates pieces that are handed down and assimilated over decades or centuries.

Formal wear

Formal clothing exists, but is a great extravagance. Since it’s not going to be worn often or regularly, here the prohibition against weight and bulk shows the clearest. Silk and extremely lightweight synthetics that wouldn’t be durable enough for daily life come out only for festivals, trademeets, and planetside visits. These are all things that can pack down very small.

Hair, scent, and cosmetics

Elaborately braided and out-of-the-face hairstyles are popular, comfortable, and practical. A style can be left in sometimes for weeks with minimal ongoing care. Shaved styles, by the same token, are out of the way and require very little upkeep. 

This isn’t to say that hygiene isn’t critical; it’s an enclosed space full of humanity and recycled air, personal odors are not tolerated. Communal bathing is common on many ships – if you’re going to heat up all that water anyway, you might as well scrub everyone and make efficient use of the water.

On a related note, perfume is verboten. The air is circulated, and all it takes is one person with an allergy or a sensitive nose for it to be incredibly rude for anyone to be wearing strong perfume or cologne anywhere on the ship. You’ll rarely see a Child of Earth using anything heavier than a mildly scented soap.

The use of cosmetics is variable by ship. Since heavy jewelry can be an impediment, cosmetics are a good alternative for adornment, but are in limited supply. High-tech nanocosmetics from the Etamui are popular as they can be reused almost indefinitely, whereas low-tech mineral and plant based cosmetics are only used for special occasions.

The Children of Earth are intent on preserving the traditions of Earth and remaining human, however, so you won’t see significant cosmetic biomodifications or cybermodifications among the Children – no cat ears or blue skin as might be seen among the transhumanist Etamui. Decorative, meaningful tattoos on any part of the body are commonplace, though, and don’t need much replenishing, unlike many cosmetics.

  • Costuming hints: Using scented oils or perfumes to try to convey a character is of course not a problem! Incense is in common use for ancestor shrines, and the choice of incense depends greatly on what is non-offensive for everyone on the ship. Your character might be accidentally or purposefully perfumed with the incense smoke from their ancestor shrine. Alternatively, perhaps your character is a mechanic stained by ship oils and the tang of metal; maybe your operations officer smells of the cargo they oversee.

Gender markers

When a Child of Earth comes of age and chooses a gender, they acquire a scarf (which may be more like a sash or a shawl, depending on the person). They might make it themselves in preparation for adulthood, they might be gifted a plain and unadorned scarf that they will embellish over time, or they might trade for an unadorned scarf to add to over the course of their travels. How they wear the scarf indicates their gender: around the waist for women, around the neck for men, worn across the chest from hip to shoulder for androgynes, and around the head (or not worn at all) for neutrois.

Scarves and sashes are deeply personal forms of expression. They do not get passed down or reused, nor do they incorporate anyone else’s work; it is an opportunity to showcase your own skills. In addition to clearly communicating your gender, the scarf expresses personal taste and personal embellishment style. If you want to know someone’s favorite color, personal wardrobe specialties, or most meaningful motifs, look to their scarf. Trading or gifting a scarf is nearly unheard of. It would be like giving a part of yourself away. Not just out of sentimentality, but also because that is a very personal expression. What is someone else going to do with it?

Costuming suggestions: Secondhand stores have plenty of unusual scarves and shawls. If you want to splurge a little on something fancy, dupatta are pre-decorated and have a lot of fabric to work with, and are especially useful for the shoulder-to-hip androgyne-gendered sash. A male-gendered character could get away with using a cravat, and a female-gendered character could also wear an obi sash or a wrap skirt.

Faction-specific styles

The exact style for any Child of Earth depends greatly on the fleet, the ship, and the trade route, as cloth and clothing pieces are often acquired in trade from the various systems on the ship’s trade route. Different factions also have different style tendencies and preferences.

Great Fleets

They were the first of the Children of Earth and (in many ways) the founders – and they won’t let anyone forget it. Order and organization are the cornerstones of the Great Fleets, and the Fleet comes first in identity and loyalty: before the individual, the family, or the ship. This shows in their clothing, as well: clean military and corporate lines, unified themes of style and color within a ship’s population, sometimes even insignia denoting their occupation or ship or fleet.

Elder Caravans

The diplomatic Elder Caravans value patience, diligence, and work that will last. Many of the CoE’s finest crafters will be found among them, exercising the same focus in their needlework and hand-beading as they do in their statecraft. Attention to detail and simpler garments that place an emphasis on hand-embellishment is the earmark of an Elder Caravan garment. In keeping with their oral tradition, EC embellishments contain motifs and threads from caravan tales, creating garments that share their stories with future generations.

Sponsored Fleets

Bucking tradition, the Sponsored laugh at the wide near-prohibition of excess possessions, and indulge their love of novelty. Life is for living, money is for spending, and it’s your damn ship; you can afford to carry around some extra clothes. Their outfits are more varied, with less reliance on rotation and layering, and they’re the most likely to be spotted in heavier jewelry and statement pieces. Even this varies by ship, though, as the Sponsored cling to the traditions of their half-forgotten cultural origins that are unique from the Elder Fleets or Great Caravans.

United Fleets

The strong-willed United Fleets are a crowd of loud voices, each wanting to make itself heard and leave its mark. Expect to see a lot of bright colors, possibly nearly clashing, as forging a wardrobe from the family’s hand-me-downs means finding a way to bring Great-great-great Auncle Estin’s signature crimson into harmony with mother’s personal saffron blend and the chartreuse that everyone knows is your hallmark. The United mean to leave their mark on the world, and that starts with making an impression that nobody will forget.

Writing credit: Dia Campbell and Lia Lilley

Children of Earth: Fleet and Ship Positions

The Children of Earth originated as businesses and corporations, and that remains visible in their job titles. Rather than admirals, they have directors; the captain of a ship is also called the CEO, or chief executive officer; and so on.

Faction Leadership

  • Great Fleets leader: Chair Myra Florez
  • Elder Caravans leader: President Shann Kecoa
  • Sponsored leader: Speaker Fara Shathar
  • United Fleets leader: Representative Sun Garchia

Fleet Positions

  • Director: The leader of a Fleet, generally the Captain of the fleet’s flagship.
  • Board of Elders: A group of elders who either inherit the role along family lines (as with the Elder Caravans or Great Fleets) or are elected to that role by the elders of their fleet. They advise the Director and can even counter the Director’s decisions if they strongly disagree. There’s a Board of Elders for each fleet or caravan, and some individual ships also treat their elders as a Board for the ship.

Ship Positions

Very small ships such as some Sponsored ships only have these positions, and sometimes an individual will hold multiple positions. Larger ships have individual roles for the many duties required on board. Many of the day-to-day duties are handled by all inhabitants (cleaning, cooking, cargo loading/unloading/organization), but individuals are often in charge of coordinating and managing those duties to ensure it all gets done.

  • Captain or CEO (Chief Executive Officer): Usually referred to as “Captain”. The captain or CEO is the face of the ship and manages the overall function of the ship as a whole. In some ships, zir duties are primarily to handle communications with other ships and represent the ship to others. In other ships, zie is much more involved with regular operations. Zie is in charge of intrafleet relations and interfleet relations especially.
  • COO (Chief Operations Officer): Usually referred to as “Chief”. She manages the business side of the ship: trade negotiation and agreements, finalizing deals with system-bound trade partners, and inter-system relations.
  • Treasurer or CFO (Chief Financial Officer): Usually referred to as “Treasurer”. He handles accounting, financial planning, risk management, and risk assessment.
  • HR (Human Resources): They are responsible for maintaining ship morale, happiness, and harmony. They organize festivals, fun, matchmaking, social events with other ships, childrearing, meals, and education.
    • On larger ships, the roles of childrearing/education, meal organization and preparation, and festival planning is handled by separate individuals woring under HR.
  • CTO (Chief Technical Officer): Usually referred to as “C.T.” The CTO is in charge of engineering, mechanics, the technical health of the ship, maintenance, and upgrades.
    • On larger ships, engineering, maintenance, communications, and mechanics are handled by several individuals working under the CTO.
Writing credit: Dani Higgins