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Turakian Age Cities Poll -- What Would You Most Like Steve To Consider Working On?


Turakian Age Cities: Which To Focus On?  

27 members have voted

  1. 1. If Steve decided to work on a city book for the Turakian Age setting, which city would you most like to see him work on? (No promises that anything will result; this is a sort of exploratory poll inspired by recent thread-reading. ;) )

    • Aarn (TA 56) — a free city and the largest city in the world
    • Ashkhenda (TA 82) — the capital of Ingushel, on the Sea of Mhorec, small but beautiful
    • Devyldra (TA 111) — a Vornakkian city-state, aggressive and powerful
      0
    • Eltirian (TA 112) — the “City of Seven Gates” in Vornakkia, a prosperous but dangerous place
    • Gorgashtar (TA 158) — one of Kal-Turak’s cities, ruled by a lich
    • Halathaloorm (TA 115) — a Vornakkian city-state with an unusual religion
    • Kurum-Sathiri (TA 116) — a Vornakkian city-state ruled by wizards
    • Orasamn (TA 141) — the capital of Dragosani, a kingdom ruled by a vampire lord
      0
    • Talarshand (TA 117) — a Vornakkian city-state feared for its serpent god and skilled assassins
    • Tatha Gorel (TA 78) — a city-state ruled by a dragon
      0
    • Tavrosel (TA 85) — a free city on the Sea of Mhorec, a “melange of cultures and religions”
    • Tor Vilos (TA 84) — capital of a mighty empire, wealthy, proud, on the Sea of Mhorec
      0
    • Trisadion (TA 90) — the City of Sorcerers, with many magical wonders
    • Zhor Cacimar (TA 119) — a Vornakkian city-state renowned for its “blue steel” and smiths
      0
    • An as-yet unnamed, new, city at the Ettinstone in the central Westerlands (TA 71)
    • An as-yet unnamed city in the Sunless Realms (which would of course have to include a general look at those Realms)
    • Other (please specify in comments)

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  • Poll closes on 04/30/2021 at 10:00 PM

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I voted for Aarn, and while I understand some of the points others have made as why not to do that city, my counter to that would be that:

 

a) for many new players having a book for the largest/main city in the setting might be expected/welcomed as it could be considered the "heart" of Amberthal. 

b) for some of us long-time Turakian Age GM's/players who were really looking forward to getting the Aarn book back in the day it would be a dream come true!

c) A city as big and important as Aarn would have some connection to almost every other area/city/kingdom and/or major organization in the setting. So while being a "city setting book", it could still add lots of new and additional details/plot points to the rest of Amberthal in a way some of the other cities wouldn't be able to provide. 

d) the book could also (if Steve wanted) cover the near by areas surrounding Aarn, like the Bandit Lands & Whispering Waste and possibly deal with trade routes and such things. 

 

As for what could help make it unique, well some ideas off the top of my head:

 

a) how did/has it remained a free city for so long? Is there some secret mystical pact or deal that protects the city and makes it prosperous? What would happen if that pact or deal was broken by some sinister force?

b) Kal-Turak agents or cults (or Hargeshite Empire agents and spies) could be working to destabilize the city. As the major economic center of Ambrethal if it collapsed economies across the Westerlands would suffer making the kingdoms weaker and easier to either conquer or influence. Same goes for its cultural and intellectual influence and what would happen tot he Westerlands if those collapsed. 

c) what would happen if the King of Aarn got ambitious/greedy, decided he wanted an actual kingdom? So began sending troops out far beyond the city walls to claim those lands as Aarn's own. What would the surrounding Kingdoms think and do about that? Especially the Drakine of Vendrigal, or the people of Verlichten who already feel oppressed by Thurgandia? As populous and powerful Aarn is, could it fight and win a war or defend against one?

 

Anyway, I would love to see any city source book for The Turakian Age be released (or any other source book!!) but for this poll, this is why I voted for Aarn, but as I said, would be happy with anything.  

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21 hours ago, Steve Long said:

 

 Heck, maybe we could even publish it like the old SF two-story paperbacks where the front and back covers both have illos but the back cover and second story are "upside down." (Kidding! Just kidding!

 

That's how White Wolf published The Black and White Treatises, the 2nd ed Exalted supplement on Sorcery and Necromancy. Plus with manga pages at the start of each chapter of each half, the storylines intersecting in a two-page splash in the middle.

 

Dean Shomshak

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Hm. Spence makes some cogent points, though I think they apply more to how a citybook should be written more than which city should be chosen. In that vein, it might be a good idea to provide indices for what can be used for which purposes: like, if a GM needs someone to hire the PCs for a job, here's a list of NPCs who might do so, and what pages they're on. And the descriptions don't need to be long; better if they are not, to make them easier to slot in where needed, with just a few sentences about their motivations to help GMs pick which one to use.

 

I'll still say that originality matters a lot, though. Any FANTASY HERO supplement is likely to stay niche just for being FANTASY HERO. So you might as well swing for the fences and try giving gamers something they can't get from yet another D&D/Pathfinder supplement... and that is *not* just, "See, you can do it with Hero System."

 

Dean Shomshak

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On 3/28/2021 at 8:43 PM, DShomshak said:

All this will take some thinking before I cast a vote -- including the standards by which I choose. But one criterion I think worth considering is "What have I not seen before?" And this makes the three cited cities viable candidates,m because I don't recall a Fantasy setting guide built on the premise that the setting is about to self-destruct. (Maybe Exalted, but only in some senses, and there the button to detonate has already been pushed.)

 

So yeah. Players will want to kill the dragon, lich, or vampire lord. Make it hard -- the Big Guy wouldn't still be in charge if it were easy. Give fair warning that it's hard, such as background about the previous assassination attempts that failed, and the horrible death meted out to the would-be assassins. But make it possible. Then build the setting around what happens when the Big Guy is gone. Do the players think their PCs are just going to take over HAHAHA, no. They've just started a civil war. I heard one Pathfinder module described as Fantasy F***ing Vietnam. This is Fantasy Beirut, or Fantasy Post-Saddam Baghdad. It would also give Steve a chance to apply his Dark Champions chops, making him peculiarly well suited to design such a setting. (I certainly couldn't.)

 

Dean Shomshak

Interesting Idea, but I would see that as a second product, rather than the first. It’s more of a contrast, with Aarn  or Tevrosel, and would be more a collection of adventures than a “map and places” sort of book, though maps would be very important. Would be interesting to see a fantasy civil war. 

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I think it's possible to find a compromise between the "major city" idea, and the "two opposed cities" idea. Eltirian is supposed to be one of Ambrethel's largest cities, typical of the fantasy urban trade center in many ways, but with some unique features, and a big mystery beneath it ripe for expansion. Talarshand could be developed as a sequel and companion to Eltirian's book. It has more than enough stuff going on to justify its own separate source-book treatment. Eltirian also has both extensive trade relations and potential conflicts with Kurum-Sathiri, which is in turn concerned over potential aggression from Talarshand; so if those first two books were successful that third unique city could also be explored, creating a large linked urban adventure zone.

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On 3/31/2021 at 11:08 AM, DShomshak said:

more than which city should be chosen.

 

That is because I really have no clue about what the cities are.  I mean I have TA that I read 20 (?) years ago?  Maybe?  I can't remember. 

But I never circled back. To this day I cannot tell you what real world culture each "nation" is near to. 

All I can say is I have had far too much "mega-urban zone inflicted with political intrigue" inflicted on me to look for more.  I have yet to see a smaller city get a high production product treatment.   By high production I mean that the maps need to be better than what I produce for myself.   

 

But to my point. TA, just like many Hero products was not written from the "let's make this a easy for entry as possible where a GM can begin play within hours and then add more detail as they have time" perspective but from the "all real gamers will be able to dedicate as much time as as necessary to learn this because they are all either independently wealthy or have no other lives than gaming". 

 

For large fantasy cities I have a couple versions of Citystate of the Invincible Overlord and Waterdeep.  I pretty much ignore the "official" political and guild information, but the versions them I own made that pretty easy as separate chapters that can be ignored.  The big draw for me was the maps, enough detail to be useful, both to players and GM's, while not so detailed as to cage people in.  I have the old 1e (maybe 2e??) giant wall map of Waterdeep.  The one that looked great, not the newer bland all browns one.

 

I would love a smaller frontier town with the same level of production.  One that looks good on the table or wall and can get the players going. 

 

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Well, more than half the people polled here are in favor of a major city, with both Aarn and Tavrosel well ahead of the other choices. OTOH only 22 people have responded, which is not a statistically significant sample. So we may still be in best-guess territory.

 

In relation to the Eltirian-Talarshand linked concept, one thing is worth pointing out: nearly every city on the Vornakkian Peninsula is "frontier" to some extent. They're pretty widely scattered, most only controlling nearby territory. The peninsula is broken up by mountains and jungles, and home to hostile humanoids, barbarians, bandits and pirates. There's more than enough trouble for adventurers to get into not far from their city's walls.

 

The text for Eltirian also points out that the city suffers from the lack of an accessible port, requiring merchant ships to dock at smaller towns on the Vornakkian Gulf coast. There's justification for Eltirian to attempt to build its own small port city there, which could become a home base for adventurers. In a variation on that idea, on the Turakian Age thread which spawned this discussion, I described an additional city-state at that location which I invented for my own games, Sargyllium. Perhaps elements of that could be adapted to a new city.

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1 hour ago, Spence said:

But to my point. TA, just like many Hero products was not written from the "let's make this a easy for entry as possible where a GM can begin play within hours and then add more detail as they have time" perspective but from the "all real gamers will be able to dedicate as much time as as necessary to learn this because they are all either independently wealthy or have no other lives than gaming". 

 

Fair enough, but I'm not sure a city book is that product. "Read it in a few hours, start playing" sounds to me more like an "adventure path" (or "module," for old fogies like me). For instance, Rise of the Runelords (Pathfinder) starts in the small town of Sandpoint, with intensive development of the town and surrounding area. Fairly pretty maps, too. Moves on to a bigger c, Magnimarity, with the info needed. People who want to continue adventuring in Magnimar can buy a citybook. And it's all in region called Varisia, which might have its own sourcebook.

 

Lately I've been less sure that the approach of building an entire world, then developing it in greater local detail, is even the right publishing model. After all, Varisia in part of the Pathfinder world of Golarion, but playing through Rise of the Runelords and then Ironfang Invasion did not inspire in me, as a player, a desire to know anything more about the world as a whole.

 

For my last two D&D campaigns, I limited myself to fairly small regions, leaving most of the world ill-defined or utterly unknown. No detailed timelines, because nobody ever reads them anyway: just the few past events that are relevant to the current situation. Players haven't complained.

 

Dean Shomshak

Oh, another reason to pick a Vornakkian city: It's an opportunity to develop the Seshurma and perhaps other TA-specific species.

 

How about it, Steve? Wouldn't you like to reveal, oh, say, spitballing here... Why it's dangerous to take tea with a Seshurma, but why you might want to do it anyway? Or even better, why you'd want to play one?

 

Dean Shomshak

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On 4/4/2021 at 6:31 PM, Spence said:

 

For large fantasy cities I have a couple versions of Citystate of the Invincible Overlord and Waterdeep.  I pretty much ignore the "official" political and guild information, but the versions them I own made that pretty easy as separate chapters that can be ignored.  The big draw for me was the maps, enough detail to be useful, both to players and GM's, while not so detailed as to cage people in.  I have the old 1e (maybe 2e??) giant wall map of Waterdeep.  The one that looked great, not the newer bland all browns one.

 

 

I would love a smaller frontier town with the same level of production.  One that looks good on the table or wall and can get the players going. 

 

 

  

On 3/29/2021 at 1:48 PM, Steve Long said:

TA references a merchants' semi-permanent meeting place at the Ettinstone. I could certainly see Aarn establishing an outpost there, or a would-be king seizing land and setting up his own city. Or possibly Aarn (or some other government) could establish some (massive and probably at least partly built by magic) bridges so that caravans can easily cross the Loskell and Ordring at nearby convenient points.

 

 

I think Aarn having established some permanent settlement near the Ettinstone to transfer cargo between vessels on the Ordring and Loskell rivers, could give us the best of both worlds in one book. We can have Aarn for everyone wanting big-city adventure, but we can also have the smaller border town that Spence has ably defined the usefulness for. And if the Ordring-Loskell system is a major trade and transportation route, that would also have the story advantage I postulated for Ishthac on the Shaanda River, of people from many lands passing through the town. The border the Ettinstone is on is between Szarvasia and Thurgandia, specifically Thurgandia's problem child, Verlichten. That has to lead to trans-national complications.

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On 4/4/2021 at 5:31 PM, Spence said:

 

That is because I really have no clue about what the cities are.  I mean I have TA that I read 20 (?) years ago?  Maybe?  I can't remember. 

But I never circled back. To this day I cannot tell you what real world culture each "nation" is near to. 

 

 

That's why I picked "An as-yet unnamed, new, city at the Ettinstone in the central Westerlands". That sounds exciting plus I don't have to be confused about barely remembered details.

 

On 3/31/2021 at 12:08 PM, DShomshak said:
On 3/31/2021 at 8:20 AM, Lord Liaden said:

Despite experience and research, it's often pure guesswork as to what's a good idea in game writing in theory, versus what a profitable number of gamers will actually buy. One can only hope for the best while awaiting the actual sales.

I'll still say that originality matters a lot, though. Any FANTASY HERO supplement is likely to stay niche just for being FANTASY HERO. So you might as well swing for the fences and try giving gamers something they can't get from yet another D&D/Pathfinder supplement... and that is *not* just, "See, you can do it with Hero System."

 

Dean Shomshak

 

I wonder if something weird like "Maps of the Cities of the Turakian Age" might sell better than a detailed single city book and generate more interest in the setting?

 

Do a short overview of what the city is. Do a map of the city with map points showing points of major interest with intriguing names but no explanation. Add anything else which tantalizes without giving away too much. Repeat that for each city on the list. 

 

That'd let the book be easily used for any game setting which might increase sales because it wouldn't be just for the hardcore HERO fanatics. And the book would increase interest in the setting so that existing TA books might be sold to the curious and future books set in the TA could fill in what all those wonderful intriguing names mean.

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On 3/31/2021 at 2:08 PM, DShomshak said:

I'll still say that originality matters a lot, though. Any FANTASY HERO supplement is likely to stay niche just for being FANTASY HERO. So you might as well swing for the fences and try giving gamers something they can't get from yet another D&D/Pathfinder supplement... and that is *not* just, "See, you can do it with Hero System."

 

Dean Shomshak

 

Even the history of Dungeons and Dragons, biggest gorilla in the zoo, is littered with original, quality settings which fell by the wayside. Al-Qadim. Birthright. Dark Sun. Eberron. Hollow World. Planescape. Ravenloft. Spelljammer. It's not unusual for originality to work against you.

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OTOH Exalted did very well by trying not to be Generic Fantasy Warehouse D&D. And some of these D&D settings listed had pretty good runs; some are being updated and re-published for 5e.

 

Of course, Exalted came from White Wolf, which had a pre-existing customer base somewhat larger than Hero, and its designers had the sense to latch onto anime as an alternate pop culture framework. That's no help for TA products, but it shows that one doesn't *have* to stick to "like D&D, but different system."

 

(Okay, so "Tekumel HERO" might be a hard lift. But I'd buy it.)

 

Dean Shomshak

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With Halathaloorm being one of the choices in the poll, and much of the discussion on this thread stressing making a city distinctive from all the other fantasy cities, I wanted to share some thoughts about this one. For one thing, the Oormali's unusual polytheism intrigues me. As I've mentioned before, I'm rarely satisfied with statements that a certain place/people simply are unusual in some way -- I always want to figure out how they got that way, and what the implications of that are for them.

 

The first settlers of Halathaloorm were refugees from the tyrannical Fire-King of Zhor Cacimar, and the lives of the early generations of Oormali were reportedly very difficult. My rationale is that they supplicated to any gods they'd heard of -- foreign, barbarian, non-human -- to aid them to survive, and even invented some inspired by their new environment. Even when their situation improved, their exploration of other religions became a habit. As a result the Oormali have developed a notable body of theological and philosophical thought, and discussion and debate on those topics is endemic at every level of their society. Practitioners of theurgy, the art of "stealing" magic from the gods to power spells, are more common in Halathaloorm than anywhere else in the world, and include some of the most accomplished theurgists.

 

Another thing I was struck by is the distinctive Oormali language, exemplified by their names for themselves and their city, and their unique name for the god of rivers and lakes, known in the Westerlands as Bandaro, and whom they call Waheshwool. Halathaloorm is built on the shore of Lake Sahaliir, which has a substantial population of merfolk; and these words sound to me like flowing water, and appropriate sounds to be made by humanoid mouths speaking in water. My conclusion is that due to extensive interaction with the merfolk, their language influenced the Oormali's. As Halathaloorm is described as a city with numerous canals and extending onto several small islands, I would expect no small number of merfolk to have settled underwater in those areas, as full citizens of the city. They help with fishing, repairing boats and docks and the like, escorting trade vessels up and down the South Chekuru River, and protecting the city from raids by hostile merfolk tribes.

 

Zhor Cacimar, the city on the opposite side of the dangerous Greenmaw jungle from Halatharloom, is noted as having a class of merchant-ranger known as Goldwalkers who are adept at traversing the Greenmaw. It would seem a little unreasonable to me that the merchants of Halatharloom wouldn't have also adopted the Goldwalker caste. If they haven't, though, their population demographic includes 4% Seshurma (lizard-man), so perhaps they're the ones who guide Oormali traders through the Greenmaw.

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On 3/30/2021 at 4:12 PM, Steve Long said:

 

While I wouldn't mind delving into Aarn at all, I agree that it's similar to a lot of other major Fantasy cities (all of them ultimately inspired by Lankhmar, I imagine ;) ) -- that's part of why it's there, some gamers want/need a place like that. But really setting Aarn apart in that department would be tricky.

 

 

I developed several concepts along those lines, but as Aarn is currently well in the lead in the poll, I probably should keep them to myself until Steve decides on a city.

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